Friday, August 18, 2006

Measuring the Chess Blogosphere III

This is the third installment of my series on Measuring the Chess Blogosphere. In Part 1, I looked at unique visitor stats for chess blogs and in Part 2, Google Page Ranks. In this post, I'll be covering syndication subscriptions.

For those of you unfamiliar with syndication, you might be surprised to learn that many people read blogs without actually visiting them. How? They use something called an RSS reader which aggregates posts from a variety of sources and presents them in a consolidated form. There are many different readers available on the web (see the BCC Weblog sidebar for a list of several of them), and most personalized portal services, e.g., My Yahoo, My MSN, Google Homepage, etc. can aggregate syndicated feeds as well. What this means for the blog publisher is that visits to the site may significantly underestimate the actual number of readers of your blog.

For my purposes, syndication also provides another (imperfect) means of measuring relative reader interest across the chess blogosphere. To do this, I focused on one reader in particular -- Bloglines. When subscribing to a feed in Bloglines, the site shows all the feeds to that blog which are available and how many subscribers there are to each. As such, it is relatively easy to calculate the total number of Bloglines subscribers to each chess blog. Of course, it took a bit of time to do this for several hundred chess blogs, but that's why you read this blog (smile!).
Before looking at the data, a number of caveats are in order:
  • The data below measures Bloglines subscriptions only, not the total number of subscribers to each blog. Bloglines is a very popular reader and therefore probably makes a good proxy for relative subscriber interest across chess blogs. However, if a disproportionate share of your subscribers use a different reader then your ranking in the list below will not be accurate. In particular, you will notice that no non-English chess blogs appear in the list. This could simply indicate that there is not much interest in these blogs among subscribers, or it might mean that another RSS reader is much more popular among these blogs' readers.

  • Subscriptions don't die. Unless one deletes their Bloglines account or a specific subscription, that subscription will continue to be counted. It is certainly possible that some subscribers are no longer reading the blog they subscribed to. Further, there is little incentive to remove a subscription to a blog which has become inactive or posts irregularly. Therefore, a blog will tend to maintain its number of subscribers long after its visitors have moved on to more timely sources of content.

  • Those of you who currently use Bloglines may find that the subscription numbers listed below do not correspond with the numbers you see for the same blog in your Bloglines reader. This is explained by the fact that many blogs have several feeds available within Bloglines. For example when subscribing to BCC Weblog, Bloglines presents you with four options: atom.xml (two different versions), atom.xml? bsuser=, and BCC-Weblog. Once you have subscribed, you see only the number of subscribers to the feed you chose. The numbers below reflect all the feeds combined.

  • Let me reiterate the standard caveat which applies to the entire Measuring the Chess Blogosphere series. None of these measures say anything definitive about the quality or worthiness of any blog. As always, that is a subjective judgment of each individual chess blog reader.
Now, let's move on to the data which was collected on August 16, 2006. I have included all currently active chess blogs with more than ten Bloglines subscribers:

Daily Dirt Chess Blog - 121
About Chess - 58
Susan Polgar Chess Blog - 55
Boylston Chess Club Weblog - 40
The Chess Mind - 40

Blue Devil - 24
Online Chess Blog - 22
J'adoube - 20
The Closet Grandmaster - 20
Temposchlucker - 19

ChessAssistance - 18
The Kenilworthian - 18
DreadPirateJosh - 17
Generalkaia - 17
Pawn Sensei - 17
Sancho Pawnza - 17

King of the Spill - 16
Pale Morning Dun - 16
Patzer's Mind - 16
ChessBase News - 15
Takchess - 15

Montse - 14
Phorku - 14
And Then There Was Chess - 13
Alberto Dominguez - 12
Chess News and Events - 12
Druss - 12
GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's Podcasts - 12
Man de la Maza - 12

Blunder Prone - 11
Chess for Blood - 11
Mousetrapper - 11
Qxh7# - 11

A few noteworthy findings:
  • In Part 1, we didn't have any verifiable visitor stats for the Daily Dirt and had to take Mig at his word that he gets about 5,000 per day. While it is not a surprise, this data certainly confirms the hypothesis that his blog is the most widely read in the chess 'sphere. However, it is interesting to note that his subscriber counts are only 2-3 times as great as the nearest competitors, while the 5,000 visits number was 10-20 times as great as the next best in that category.

  • You will notice that many of the Knights Errant are included in the list above. I believe this reflects the fact that many Knights have adopted Bloglines as an easy means for keeping track of their brethren.

  • As I mentioned above, not one non-English chess blog made the list.

  • I expected Chessbase News to be much higher, though it should be pointed out that they do not publicize the fact that they have a feed.

Please share your thoughts on the data in the comments.

One last item before closing -- As I indicated above, this data is limited to Bloglines subscriptions and does not measure total subscriptions to a blog. However, many bloggers can determine (or at least estimate) their total subscriptions. The group that probably will have the easiest time are those who locally-host their own blogging software or use a web-hosted service which reports subscriptions. My useless advice for you -- look up the number. For the rest of us (i.e., mostly the unwashed Blogger masses), if you use Feedburner then I have a proposed estimation technique that you might find useful:

Step 1: Determine the total number of Bloglines subscriptions to your blog and the number just from the Feedburner feed (40 and 9 - for BCC Weblog).

Step 2: Determine the average number of total Feedburner subscriptions to your blog from the Feedburner site (42 - for BCC Weblog)

Step 3: Estimate total subscribers as follows: Total Feedburner subs x Total Bloglines subs / Bloglines Feedburner subs (42 x 40 / 9 = 187 - for BCC Weblog)

Of course, I have no idea how accurate this estimate is.

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