Tracking the Russia blogosphere

graph.jpgEver wondered what the top English language Russia blogs are, by the numbers? Well, wait no more, for La Russophobe has broken the stats down, ranking blogs by:

  • The number of blogs linking to each
  • The total number of incoming links
  • Overall traffic
  • Net worth

The stats certainly make interesting reading, and provide a pretty good overview of who is who in the English speaking Russia blogosphere. There are a couple of things I’d take issue with, though:

First, the obligatory La Russophobe “Russia is rubbish” sentence. According to LR, the fact that only 1,200 blogs are Technorati tagged Russia is “emphatic evidence” that:

the world wants little to do with Russia. That’s fitting of course, since every day Russians show they want little to do with the world — well, until they start starving, that is.

More likely, I’d imagine, is that Technorati does a generally poor job of indexing non-English language blogs, and an even worse job of indexing blogs that don’t use the latin alphabet. In fact, during 2006, the number of Russian language blogs hosted on LiveJournal sailed past the million mark.

Secondly, La Russophobe draws a comparison between the number of Google hits that Russia Blog and La Russophobe have:

LR currently has over 60,000 Google hits, while “Real Russia Project” has less than 600 (granted, LR has existed longer than RRP, but “Yuri Mamchur” has been the boss of Russia Blog from day 1 and has currently less than 13,000 Google hits. In other words, Russia Blog’s traffic is completely empty, basically a bait-and-switch charade — a classic Russophile illusion (and in that way, quite fitting).

It seems to me (please correct me if I’m wrong) that LR has run a search for “La Russophobe” and “Real Russia Project”. Drawing a comparison based on this is somewhat unfair, in my opinion. “Real Russia Project” is a new (albiet – sorry guys – somewhat dull) name for a blog which is more traditionally called simply “Russia Blog”. Indeed, even now, many people – myself included – still refer to Russia Blog by its old name.

A more useful comparison, I think, would be to run a Google search on the respective web addresses. Running a Google search for “site:russiablog.org” and “site:russophobe.blogspot.com” brings up the following results:

(Update 30/3/07: As La Russophobe has just pointed out to me, the above analysis, based on “site:domainname” is rubbish, as it just counts the number of times google itself has indexed each site, rather than amount of times that other websites link to each site.  A bit of a daft error, for which I apologise.

What I had intended to do was use Google’s “link:” facility. So, an accurate version of the above is:

“A more useful comparison, I think, would be to run a Google search on the respective web addresses. Running a Google search for “link:russiablog.org” and “link:russophobe.blogspot.com” brings up the following results:

Apologies for any confusion caused).

LR also notes that Russia Blog (or, the Real Russia Project, if you will) is:

funded by a large institution […] and which likely engages in commercial traffic generation techniques.

That Russia Blog’s authors use commercial traffic generation techniques is news to me. The use of the word “likely” hints that LR is extrapolating, so I’d be interested to see any evidence of this.

To be honest, though, I’d be somewhat surprised if any paid traffic generation they engage in has a significant affect on the bottom line traffic Russia Blog receives – bringing in paid viewers costs a lot of money, and I can’t really see much value in doing that for what is, to be honest, in the grand scheme of things a pretty small scale blog.

Additionally, regardless of how initial traffic is generated, it’s returning traffic that counts – and people don’t come back to a weblog if it doesn’t add value to their daily lives in some way.

Finally, following LR’s post, I’ve realised that my stat counter is set to keep my stats private. This was an oversight, and I’ve now opened my Sitemeter account up to public viewing for anyone who wants to have a good nose around.

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22 Responses

  1. Hi Andy,

    Thanks for the link!

    Is that your obligatory apology for Russian inadequacy? I don’t see how such apologies will lead to improvement in Russia, more likely to cause Russians to stay lazy and ignored.

    When you say “I’d imagine” that means you’re “extrapolating” too, doesn’t it? I’d be interested to see evidence of Technorati doing a “poor job” as you say. In any case, you are really missing the point here. Of COURSE Technorati leans heavily in English content, THAT’S the POINT. And the English content for other countries (France, China, etc.) is far greater than for Russia, hence other countries are better understood by English speakers than is Russia (because they’ve made themselves more interesting). You’re also ignoring the fact that, at an average income of $2.50 per hour very few Russians can access Russian-language blog content, and very few foreigners can read it. That’s why it’s so sad that so few blogs (including yours) fail to exert themselves to translate the Russian blogosphere. Global Voices deserves great kudos for its yeoman work in in this regard.

    I think you’ve also missed the point of a Google search, which is to find TEXT references to the blogs not links. Technorati already provides the link data, and since it lists 1,500 links to my blog while your search only reveals 260, that’s another indication that your methodology is pretty much useless (and that Technorati is better at finding links than Google, not surprising since that’s its job). The purpose of a Google search is to uncover people writing about the blogs WITHOUT linking to them (in newspaper articles, and such, for instance).

    If you believe that Russia Blog has 2,000 daily visitors without using commerical techniques, then that’s a pretty rough indictment of their blog, since all those visitors generate so few comments and only the same number of linking blogs as mine does. It’s the same as saying that Russia Blog is useless pablum. Which may of course be true. After all, when was the last time you linked to Russia Blog? Hopefully, now that RB has started to brag about its traffic, it will be more open in allowing access to its traffic data, as you have done.

    Who said the same people are returing to Russia Blog over and over? Do you have any basis for that statement? The whole point of my comment was that it might be that is NOT happening. Commerical traffic generation uses key words, adds and such to draw people to the site without knowing what it is, different people all the time, hoping some will like it. I thing your suggestion that 2,000 of the same people daily return to Russia Blog over and over but don’t comment on it is rather mind-boggling and utterly speculative. I’d love to know whether it’s true or not, just like you. If it proves to be, I’ll start attacking them in a much more aggressive manner.

  2. Andrew Waller says:

    Russia Blog and La Russophobe both have faults.

    RB has deleted and censored perfectly acceptable comments and LR’s deficieny has been well established.

  3. Andy says:

    LR – I think the survey is valuable, and interesting – I just have a couple of quibbles with some of the methodology, which I think is flawed in places.

    With regard to google searches, I still don’t think a text search is a particularly useful way of drawing a comparison in this case.

    You’ve cornered the market on the term “La Russophobe” and as a result, every result on that text string is pretty clearly about you and your blog.

    Using “Russia Blog” isn’t so helpful. It draws far more results than a search for “La Russophobe”, but I suspect that is because it is a more generic term, less readily linked to one particular blog or blogger. And I’ve already detailed my concerns about the use of the term “Real Russia Blog.”

    As for Technorati’s difficulties dealing with foreign languages, I’ve posted one link already. There are more out there, and even David Sifry’s state of the blogosphere reports make occasional reference to the issue.

    Finally, I apologise unreservedly for extrapolating. Out of pure curiosity, however, I’d still be interested to hear if you have any evidence as to whether Russia Blog uses commercial traffic generation techniques, or whether it is a supposition on your part.

  4. You should note that Alexa is a completely discredited measurement system for any form of online presence. Om Malik (www.gigaom.com) is as good a source as any on this subject. Just about any VC blog will have some reference.

  5. RUMINATOR: My post clearly notes the possible limitations of Alexa. Frankly, I think it’s totally outrageous that you would slander them by claiming the are “totally discredited” without citing a single shred of evidence in this regard. But thanks for the link to another source, I’ll look into it.

    ANDY: I understood your purpose in this post, and I had the same one in return in my comment. I’m delighted to have my methodology and my conclusions challenged, that’s the only way they can become sounder. But I think your methodology is just as open to question as mine (I assume you too delight in being probed and challenged).

  6. RUMINATOR: I have looked at the most recent posts on GIGAOM about Alexa and, far from finding attacks, I find GIGAOM citing to Alexa’s rankings on several occasions, for instance here:

    http://gigaom.com/2006/12/28/orkut-down-for-maintenance/

    And I don’t see any information on GIGAOM pointing to a more reliable indicator of web traffic. Please document your claim with more specificity. Link to the posts that discredit Alexa and link to a better source of information on web traffic.

  7. ANDY: To address the substance of your comment:

    (1) Google has nothing to do with the methodology of my survey. My methodology relies on Technorati and Alexa. Google is only mentioned when I argue in favor of discounting Russia Blog’s signficance, and it’s only one of many diffent points I’ve made as indications that Russia Blog’s traffic is illusory.

    (2) “Real Russia Project” is just as unique as “La Russophobe.” If they really have 2,000 visits per day in genuine traffic, RRP should have a lot more Google play that it does. So should the name “Yuri Mamchur” which is unique and has existed in the blogosphere far longer than “La Russophobe.”

    (3) I think the fact that there are less than two dozen truly significant English-language Russia blogs, and that many of them are laconic or moribund over the past year, is clear proof that Russia is not a topic of great interest in the world due to Russia’s alienation of the world with its behavior. International tourism to Russia also conclusively establishes this. The Technorati data merely confirms it. The fact that there are Russian-language blogs not listed on Technorati is flatly irrelevant to this point. Nossik’s blog is near the top of Technorati’s list, and many others are are listed. But these blogs, though written in Russian, aren’t necessarily ABOUT Russia, and they can’t be accessed by non-Russian speakers even if they are. I believe it’s been clearly proven that Russia has utterly failed to make a significant impression in the blogosphere compared to other countries, and maybe this is even the way Russia wants it. That attitude has been eating away at Russia for generations now. It’s sad. Russia can either change and improve or stay the same and fail. I don’t think we should encourage the latter by rationalizing their manifest failure.

    (3) I note that conspicuous by its absence is any attempt on your part to defend the content of Russia Blog and any reference to a link by you to that content. Your own lack of interest in Russia’ Blog’s stream of intelligent-design-mongering goo is also pretty convincing evidence that their significance is illusory.

    (4) If I had any evidence of how they generated their traffic, I’d publish it. As of now, I don’t even know what their traffic actually is, I can’t even make an educated guess based on Alexa. I know their ranking is relatively high, but this could be to a freak occurrence such as you experienced with Digg. Naturally it’s speculation, which I’m perfectly entitled to do. Their claimed daily traffic is weirdly and wildly out of touch with their Technorati data and their comments, which gives rise to the speculation. Part of my reason for making it is to induce them to come clean on this issue, since they themselves have raised it and since they make no actual data avaiilable as of now. If you believe their claimed traffic is totally legitimate, how do you explain these facts? Why would 2,000 real visitors leave so few comments and generate so few links in the blogosphere? Are they zombies? Or is it that my readers are just so much more dynamic and intelligent?

    (5) Do you really stand behind the statement that spending money on things like banner ads and keyword searches and spam can’t generate traffic on a blog? Frankly, I would be suprised if you would do so, and Discovery Institute is a well-funded organization so I see no reason why they wouldn’t support their blog financially and seek to increase its traffic. There’s nothing wrong with that, I’d do it if I were in their shoes. All I’m saying is that it’s silly to compare the traffic of a blog that is doing it to one that isn’t.

  8. GER O'BRIEN says:

    LR, you statement
    ”is clear proof that Russia is not a topic of great interest in the world due to Russia’s alienation of the world with its behavior. International tourism to Russia also conclusively establishes this.”
    is totally ridiculous. Would you like to back up that remark with some piece of evidence? Are there any surveys done where westerners clearly say ”I dont want to go to Russia because of its behaviour”??
    The reason Russia doesnt have more tourists than it has is very simple- visas. Western European tourists and holiday makers just couldnt be bothered going through the effort of getting a visa. Prague and Budapest very cleverly saw their opportunity in the early 90’s and scrapped all visa requirements for westerners and built tons of hotels as well as setting up routes between them and almost all major european capitals. Russia was too slow off the mark. The end result is that to visit Russia indepenently takes time and effort whilst visiting Prague and Budapest takes none.
    Young people looking for a weekend away simply couldnt be bothered getting invitations organised and are all in all likelihood intimidated by the process – we simply dont need visas for anywhere else. This probem has been acknowledged by Putin himself only a few weeks ago in Sochi. As for Americans, most of them couldnt mark Russia on the map let alone want to go there on holiday. They probably think Vladivostok is a space station.
    By apart from all that, Russia doesnt yet even have the right tourism infrastructure to handle large numbers of visitors -even now there’s a hotal shortage in Moscow alone. There’s no doubt Russia would clean up if they sorted all these problems out. There are endless things to see and do in Moscow and St Petes and your statement above couldnt be any more ridiculous or off the mark. Then again, what to expect from you?

    As for the rest of the comments, what is this facination with being known by other bloggers? Who cares? Have you got no ACTUAL friends in real life? You speak like your site is a seriously important place. Are you joking? Get a life!

  9. Andy says:

    LR – just to answer a couple of your points:

    3. The conspicuous absence of my defense of Russia Blog’s content (or for that matter the content at LR, or anywhere else)is probably because I was trying to keep this post on the topic of statistics about the relative popularity of blogs, rather than their relative quality.

    5. I didn’t actually say that spending money on traffic generation has no affect on blog traffic, merely that I didn’t really think it would have a major impact on Russia Blog’s daily hits. I don’t doubt that one could bring in a lot of hits by using commercial traffic generation techniques, but I doubt that Russia Blog’s backers would really want to spend the kind of money needed to bring in 2,000 hits a day, or even a significant proportion of that amount.

    On a monthly basis, to drive that level of traffic (using Adsense, for the sake of argument) would cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. A big investment for comparatively little reward.

  10. ANDY:

    Since I’ve been reading your blog I’ve never seen you mention Russian Blog content once. Had I ever, you’d surely have heard about it in no uncertain terms; I’d then have promptly lost respect for you and stopped reading you. You’ve had two opportunities to support their content and sidestepped both of them. You have, however, linked to LR on several occasions and nominated LR as one of the best blogs of 2006 (by the way, a belated thanks for that!). For me, that says it all.

    How do you know how much money Russia Blog’s backers would be willing to spend in order to bring the wonders of intelligent design to Russia? You know NOTHING about them. That’s rank speculation. Spending a few hundred dollars per month is nothing for an organization financed by millionaires like the Discovery Institute. What’s more, there are plenty of Russian hackers available for hire to peform various types of work at low, low discount prices. You question my speculation about what they are doing, but are pretty liberal in speculating yourself, aren’t you?

  11. Andy says:

    True – it’s speculation.

    I’ve actually featured Russia Blog posts here on more than one occasion – see, for example, this post on whether Russia should waste its money on nuclear weapons.

  12. I notice the RUMINATOR has failed to document his claims. I’m not surprised.

  13. Andy says:

    Perhaps the Ruminator hasn’t been around for a few days.

    I think it’s fair to say that Alexa does have its weaknesses. A quick google search for “alexa reliability”, for example, brings plenty of results.

    The general consensus, from my reading, is that Alexa is reasonably good for ranking high traffic sites, but less reliable when it comes to smaller sites.

    But, in the absence of reliable statistics data for all blogs, its certainly better than nothing.

  14. Yuri Mamchur says:

    Andy,

    Thank you very much for your great research work. I won’t go into any arguments, just a few facts:

    1) I have been very busy with fundraising in the last two months for my program which is called “The Real Russia Project” and does much more than a blog. Our next big conference will be held in Washington DC at the University Club on April 18 at 4:30 pm. The event name is “Russia: Friend, Foe, or What?”

    2) The blog is still called Russia Blog. I just like the new banner and I will take your tip and add something about the actual blog name.

    3) Discovery institute is a non-profit, and it takes the overhead cut for things like accounting, office space, IT support, etc. No one gives out money to anyone (at least in my world). Fundraising is tough, but I like what I’m doing.

    4) Also the real stats of the blog for yesterday (March 7, 2007) are: 2,103 unique visitors to the main page, and other approximately 2,200 unique visitors to certain articles and archives. Our average is around 3,000-5,000 a day. Last month Russia Blog received 51,000 unique visitors. Our articles regularly appear in Google News. Just wait for a major piece by us and Google it up and hit the “news”.

    LR – you have tons of some NGO or government money behind you. I respect the gig – great thing – looks like one hateful female, but in reality a full-scale production with serious funding. I’ll work hard to raise more funds so we could continue this game. As per funds: 100% of the money for the Real Russia Project comes from private individuals and investors in the Greater Seattle area.

    Again, thank you Andy!

    Cheers,
    Yuri Mamchur

  15. Michael Averko says:

    I’m quite proud that my Russia blog commentary boosted Russia Blog’s popularity. A point that was acknowledged to me by Charles Ganske.

    My Russia Blog articles (like my last one on Kosovo) attracted a good number of quality posts in the respective Comments section following those articles. Articles which were often cited by other venues.

    I’ll continue to provide such quality material, whether or not Johnson’s Russia List, Russia haters and some court appointed Russia friendlys choose to censor such Russocentric commentary.

    Russia Blog and other blogs like Siberian Light do a great service by qualitatively providing what others don’t. To go against that is counterproductive.

    Nice to see my periodically used “Cheers” ending put in use.

    Cheers!

    Mike

  16. ANDY:

    Not that I’m offended or anything, but I believe you owe me an apology. It’s very, very clear from Yuri’s comment that Russia Blog DOES in fact spend money to generate traffic artificially. His response is to justify it by claiming that I do the same thing, and to brag that he’s going out to raise more of it.

    In future, I suggest you be a bit more careful about challenging the things I say. I don’t just throw things out willy-nilly.

  17. Andy says:

    LR: No apology – sorry to disappoint.

    In my world-view, providing office overheads is not commercial, or artificial (whatever that might be) traffic generation.

    And, as I’ve said before, even if Russia Blog has greater financial clout than other blogs – that still has no bearing on the quality (or lack thereof, depending on your point of view) of the actual words that comprise Russia Blog.

  18. ANDY:

    No, you’re missing the point.

    The fact that Yuri admitted he raises funds and spends money on the blog for “overhead” is secondary. He’s made NO ATTEMPT to deny that he enagages in commercial traffic generation, even though the charge is there in black and white. You know as well as I do that means he’s admitted he does it, just as I said. He brags that he’s going to go out and raise and spend more money. Note, too, that while he (falsely) accuses me of being funded he doesn’t dare to claim I spend money to generate traffic, because he knows damn well I don’t. My number of Technorati links is precisely commensurate with my traffic.

    I’ve said clearly that there’s nothing wrong with spending money on your blog. What I’ve simply said is that it isn’t fair or appropriate to compare Russia Blog’s traffic to that of a blog which doesn’t rely on such techniques. That’s the point I’ve made in my post, and you can’t (and don’t) dispute it.

    I’ve also said that receiving financial support can give rise to bias and agenda that the unwary reader must be warned about, particularly when the money comes from a single-issue political organization like Discovery Institute. You can’t (and don’t) dispute this either. I’ve never said that the existence of the money by itself impugns the quality of the “actual words that comprise Russia Blog.”

    As for the quality of Yuri’s blog, I’ve made no secret that I think it’s the very worst in the blogosphere. It scandalously and irresponsibly mischaracterizes data and fails to provide adequate source material while pursuing a rabid partisan agenda. I’ve published several posts documenting the gross errors contained in Yuri’s reporting, one is currently running on my main page (and another is coming soon!). I’ve never said that Yuri’s blog is poisoned by money per se, I’ve simply said that the money gives rise to the possiblity of bias being the explanation for Yuri’s errors, which lead to poor quality.

    And again, the number of links from blogs (and Google hits) received by Yuri, and the number of comments on his blog, is totally inconsistent with the idea that 2,000 people seriously read his blog every day (as opposed to being lured there for a few seconds through they use of advertising or key word techniques or publishing press releases any of the many other commerical tactics for increasing blog traffic). That’s the main point and again you can’t (and don’t) dispute it.

  19. Andy says:

    He’s made NO ATTEMPT to deny that he enagages in commercial traffic generation, even though the charge is there in black and white. You know as well as I do that means he’s admitted he does it, just as I said.

    Kim – that’s a load of old rubbish, and you know it.

    Refusal to enter into an argument does no constitute an admission. Not everyone has the time, or the inclination to refute every charge that you throw out. While you may be indefatigable in asking questions, not everyone has the time, or the inclination, to answer them.

    And, people also have the right not to answer them without guilt being inferred from their silence.

    I think it is not always appropriate to compare sites that generate traffic commercially with those that use more organic growth, and probably have more repeat readers.

    However, I haven’t seen anything yet to suggest that Russia Blog actually engages in commercial traffic generation.

    I would think it should be relatively simple to establish whether Russia Blog does actually engage in commercial traffic generation – look for adverts.

    As for biases, these come from a lot of sources. Whether Russia Blog’s authors, or parent organisation have a view on intelligent design is somewhat relevant (although, in my opinion, not all that relevant to their Russia commentary per se). The information is publicly available, so readers can find this out if they want. And, given that you regularly point it out, I doubt there is anyone in the Russia blogging community who is now unaware of the Discovery Institute’s views on the matter.

    Given this, I think people can probably be relied on to draw their own conclusions.

  20. GER O'BRIEN says:

    Andy -LR cant criticise anyone for not answering questions. Time and again I’ve questioned her spin on copy and paste articles. According to her logic therefore, she’s guilty of twisting the truth in those posts of hers.
    Then again she’ll just accuse me of working for the Kremlin, being a manic Russophile blah blah blah

  21. La Russophobe has accused us of copyright infringement for excerpting or republishing articles in the public domain (while always providing links and citations to the original source)- which is exactly what he/she does! This is what I mean when I describe LR’s general m.o. as “pointless hectoring” – constantly accusing others of doing what he/she does.

    After I answered this person’s questions in a straightforward manner, he/she/they proceeded to obsess over the finer points of Yuri’s education, and demanded that we do all of their Russian language research on Yuri’s CV for them – just as they previously demanded that we delete or rebut any comment they didn’t like posted on Russia Blog.

    From the very get-go LR has twisted my words. When I told this person or persons that I couldn’t possibly fact check every single comment, this was distorted into an admission that I don’t fact check posts put up on Russia Blog. Basically, this person attacks our credibility while consistently distorting other people’s statements, all while remaining anonymous.

    Let me explain why the arguments about comments and Technorati tags are mostly rubbish – even though we have had far more on average comments per post than LR does (out of all the LR posts currently up that do have comments, I count 5 and 7 as the largest numbers), but then again, he/she/they would just argue that this is because we use “commercial” means to generate traffic – though there is not a single shred of evidencefor this charge, it is admittedly pure speculation on LR’s part. Nonetheless, the main reason arguing about comments is futile is that you could have hundreds per post from two or three people going back and forth (many of Averko and LR’s posts had just these type of controversies) and some people do put like to use sock puppet comments. At any rate, most of the comments in our filter are deleted because they’re generated by spambots, and sometimes real human comments get accidentally deleted. The only comments besides LR’s (under various names) that I have deleted were either obscene, incitements to racial violence, or sock puppets complaining about one particular Russia Blog contributor that were irrelevant to the post.

    Even if it were true that more blogs do link to LR, does that mean more people are actually reading LR or were these just links from single digit trafficked blogs no one has read in months? That is why Andy is right to point out that the Technorati stats are mostly meaningless.

    Calling DI a “single issue organization” is simply false, considering that so much of the organization’s total budget ($1.3 million) comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Cascadia Center for Regional Development, which not only covers transportation in the Pacific Northwest but has also branched out to energy issues. The conference they sponsored in 2006 at the Microsoft campus included speeches by Senators Sam Brownback, Maria Cantwell, and former CIA Director James Woolsey. DI also has the Technology and Democracy Project with an office in D.C. pushing for telecom reform (basically making it easier to roll out broadband and opposing so-called “net neutrality”).

    None of these issues has anything to do with the Center for Science and Culture, and all of my work at DI was for the Real Russia Project, the Cascadia Center, or the Technology and Democracy Project. So all of his/her points are irrelevant or ad hominem, which is par from the course from this person or groups of persons. We have no idea who funds LR or whether it is one or many people, though the timing of his/her/their emails suggests someone based in the UK or Europe.

  22. Michael Averko says:

    (many of Averko and LR’s posts had just these type of controversies)

    WRONG!

    Check again Charlie and note your having thanked me for boosting the hits to Russia Blog.