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Announcing Technorati Tracks: Blog Posts Mentioning Each Candidate

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, February 21 2007

We're pleased to announce our newest feature: Technorati tracks, a series of dynamic charts that show how often bloggers are mentioning the presidential candidates over the last 30 and 90 days. The charts are broken down by party, and we've also included a third set showing how bloggers are also talking about prominent non-candidates like Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, Wesley Clark and Michael Bloomberg.

I have a couple of observations about what all this means. First, this is just the world live web in action. Bloggers are just people using a bit of software to share their thoughts with each other in real time. Technorati watches the ever growing worldwide blogosphere -- more than 60 million, with another 100,000 added every day -- scrapes the content of all the new posts people write, and then makes it easy for us to search by keywords or phrases or links, to see who is saying what and linking to whom. (Full disclosure: TechPresident editor Micah Sifry is the older brother of Technorati founder David Sifry.)

So, we shouldn't be surprised to see big, but temporary, jumps in the mentions of the leading candidates around the dates of their official campaign launches (Edwards just before New Years, Clinton in mid-late January, Obama and Romney around February 10-14, McCain in the last few days with the launch of his new website). Likewise, the mini-scandals that have marked the first few weeks of the campaign also show up, with bumps for Joe Biden and John Edwards at the very beginning of February (for calling Obama "clean") and over the bloggers he hired, respectively.

My second observation is at the large gap between mentions of Democratic candidates and Republican candidates for president. When I first looked at these trend lines a few weeks ago (here, here and here), a close count showed a 2-1 edge for the overall Democratic field in how much bloggers were talking about them. I haven't recalculated the exact numbers (maybe someone will add a helpful comment?) but just a look at the spikes show how much more interest there is globally in the Democratic field. Clinton, Obama and Edwards have each broken the 1500 daily mentions threshold at least once; so far none of the Republicans have. That said, it does look like the leading Republican contenders--Romney, Giuliani and McCain--appear to be nipping at the heels of the top three Dems in recent days. But right now, the top Democrats are just plain more interesting to bloggers than the Republicans. I suspect this is true for the general public as well.

Third observation: Globally is right. While these charts are only tallying mentions of the candidates in English, there's no way to separate out American bloggers from the larger English-speaking world. So, to the extent that the US elections interest bloggers elsewhere (as well they should), our charts are reflecting that conversation too.

Fourth point: There's a lot of interest in Al Gore, and while an Oscar nomination doesn't hurt (watch his numbers spike this weekend!), a lot of this is no doubt people expressing themselves around the possibility that he might yet run, or be drafted to run. There's hardly as much grass-roots interest in any of the other non-candidates we charted, though Newt Gingrich isn't a complete slouch in that department.

Can blog posts be faked, the same way someone could create a bunch of bogus MySpace accounts and then artificially inflate a candidate's total number of friends? Sure. While Technorati does its best to filter out splogs (spam blogs), there's no question these numbers could be gamed. However, right now I think there is little evidence of that, and any campaign that tried it would have to deal with quite a bit of blow-back if it got caught (sort of like paying people to show up at rallies).

So, I think it's fair to say that the number of times bloggers are mentioning the candidates is a good, if imperfect, reflection of how interesting they are to the electorate. Buzz among bloggers may also be an early-warning sign of trouble, or unexpected enthusiasm, for a candidate or around something he or she says or does. We'll certainly be watching these charts as the patterns shift, and I look forward to figuring out with everyone else what it all means.