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The Top U.S. Politics Blogs, Via Technorati's Update

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, October 16 2009

Back in January, we updated our list of the fifty top political blogs, using one simple metric: # of incoming links as measured by the blog search engine Technorati. Well, the good folks at Technorati (yes, the company founded by my smarter little brother) have just rolled out a wholesale site redesign, along with some changes in how they track and rank blogs. The biggest change, for our purposes, is that they're no longer basing that metric on the past six months of blogospheric data. As they explain on their company blog:

Because most searches are looking for items less than a month old, we’re going to narrow that window in a similar way. In the past, because the data window was so long, Authority and the Top 100 lists it powered were relatively static. With the new algorithm, the resulting Authority will better reflect the fast-changing nature of the blogosphere. Its new inherent volatility will also show which blogs are rising and falling in authority, rewarding authors on posting frequency, context and linking behavior, as well as other data inputs.

So, given that Technorati is resetting the calipers, it makes sense for us to also update our guide to the top political blogs, which we're in the process of doing. But I wanted to highlight for you the most interesting effect of this update, which is a look at which blogs have risen or fallen significantly in their rank over the course of this year.

Here's January's top 50 list, with the new Technorati ranking alongside each blog. Note, for the new listings I am just drawing from Technorati's "U.S. Politics Blogs" subcategory, which wasn't available back in January. So some blogs that lack a new ranking haven't disappeared, they just have been reclassified by Technorati (more on that below).
1. HuffingtonPost (1)
2. Boing Boing
3. Daily Kos (8)
4. CNN Political Ticker (3)
5. Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish (21)
6. The Caucus (New York Times)
7. Treehugger
8. Threat Level (39)
9. Think Progress (2)
10. 538 (10)
11. Talking Points Memo
12. Washington Wire (Wall Street Journal)
13. Michelle Malkin (14)
14. Ben Smith, Politico (22)
15. The Corner (National Review Online)
16. Pajamas Media
17. Hot Air
18. Political Radar (ABC News)
19. Crooks and Liars (13)
20. Newsbusters (5)
21. Glenn Greenwald (Salon) (4)
22. Marc Ambinder (The Atlantic)
23. Swampland (Time)
24. Powerline (9)
25. Redstate
26. Americablog
27. Firedoglake (20)
28. Gateway Pundit (11)
29. Matthew Yglesias (40)
30. Hit & Run (Reason)
31. Feministing
32. TruthDig
33. Buzzmachine
34. CQ Politics
35. Open Left
36. Hullabaloo (28)
37. Talk Left
38. Taegan Goddard's Political Wire (33)
39. Mother Jones
40. Pam's House Blend
41. MyDD
42. Balloon Juice
43. Stop the ACLU (41)
44. The Next Right
45. The Moderate Voice (33)
46. Feministe
47. Real Clear Politics
48. Atrios
49. Little Green Footballs
50. Wizbang

New additions to the list, per Technorati's system:
The Plum Line (6)
Glenn Thrush's Blog, Politico (7)
Politics Daily (12)
ABC's The Note (15)
LA Times' Top of the Ticket (16)
Ezra Klein, Washington Post (17)
Juan Cole, Informed Comment (18)
The Swamp (19)
Wonk Room, Think Progress (22)
Public Policy Polling (24)
Media Matters for America (24, a tie)
TPMMuckraker (26)
The Long War Journal (27)
The Cable, Foreign Policy (29)
Big Hollywood, Breitbart (31)
Legal Insurrection (32)
Minnesota Independent (34)
The Daily Politics, Daily News (36)
Jules Crittenden (37)
Media Matters for America, County Fair (38)
Daily Intel (42)
Scorecard's Blog, Politico (43)
Cato @ Liberty (44)
Hit & Run (44)
Atlas Shrugs (44)
Flopping Aces (47)
Mediaite (48)
Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy (49)
Jeff Poor's Blog, Newsbusters (50)

Lots of observations to add to this picture (feel free to jump in with your own comments):

1. Technorati is probably making a mistake to take big news-centric blogs like Talking Points Memo and Boingboing out of its U.S. Politics Blogs category, because they are still huge attention-getters. Same with sites like the New York Times's Caucus blog or the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire. Boingboing would show up between #6 and #7 were it included in the U.S. Politics category, based on its current "authority" score. Tina Brown's The Daily Beast would hope onto the list, tied with PowerLine. The Caucus would squeeze in between Andrew Sullivan and Ben Smith. TalkingPointsMemo would show up between #28 and #29. The Washington Wire would fall in just behind Taegen Goddard, as would Pajamas Media, which certainly belongs on this list. Hot Air would be in the top ten. The Washington Monthly's Political Animal would jump onto the list. Hopefully Technorati's team will take another look at how they're sorting these specific sites and tweak their U.S. Politics list accordingly. (This is why we're taking a slow and careful look at their overall data before we post our own top 50 list, which is hand-curated.)

2. As we noted back in January, big media bloggers are steadily edging out their less-well-subsidized brethren in the U.S. political blogging arena. The first six additions to the list--The Plum Line, Glenn Thrush, etc.--are all backed by major media outlets. Not that this is news, but the days of the individual "pajama-clad" blogger hitting the big time are clearly over.

3. Contrary to political scientists like Matthew Hindman (who wrote the book "The Myth of Digital Democracy") who argue that the blogosphere is as or more stratified than the old media system, there's quite a bit of volatility displayed by Technorati's new rating system. There are a lot of new blogs showing up in the top 50, and quite a few older sites that have seen their relative rating change. Perhaps this is to be expected, given the tectonic shift in the American political scene that started last winter, but I would argue that the political blogosphere is still a more open arena for aspiring voices than the media system pre-web.

4. The new Technorati list shows a definite rise in right-wing voices. Again, not a complete surprise, given how online attention and energy has shifted, with Democratic-leaning bloggers in a more subdued mode of either defending the Obama administration or trying to criticize it constructively, while Republican and conservative voices are in a fury of passionate engagement.

5. Lastly, it's interesting to note that several entities, including Think Progress, Politico, Foreign Policy, TPM and Newsbusters, all have spawned secondary blogs or multiple blogs all keyed off the same domain, and gained additional linkshare as a result. Hint to web strategists--if you have one strong blog, maybe it's time to spin off a second one.