What makes a blog post popular?

Our friends over at mSpoke posted part 1 in a series about what makes blog posts popular. This is an in-depth look at the factors that contribute to popularity, here Paul is looking at post writing quality and correlation to popularity.

To start, we’ll need a bunch of feed items and measures of popularity and writing quality. For the popularity measure, I will use the feed item’s NewsGator attention score. While Newsgator has done some additional work to renormalize the scores to range from 0 to 10 since this post, it should give you a good idea about what factors into an item’s score. Put simply, the larger the NewsGator attention score, the more popular the feed item.

Measuring whether a feed item is well-written is difficult. As a crude proxy, I use the php-text-statistics package to compute the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. This measure has been around for years and looks at the number of words per sentence and the number of syllables per word to estimate the number of years of education expected for a reader to understand the text. I also look at the length in bytes of the posts because that is easy to compute.

[From mSpoke Corporate Blog » Blog Archive » What makes a blog post popular? Part I: Comparing popularity and reading difficulty]

This is an important topic because a consequence of the explosion of content that is available in the blogosphere and broader web is that companies who have an interest in tracking their brands don’t know what they don’t know, and more ominously don’t know where to look. It’s easy to deliver relevant content but this is often yet another ocean they have to submerse themselves in.

What is needed is a mechanism for measuring authority on a subject and ability to influence, and popularity is clearly one of the factors. Popularity is an amazingly intricate subject because it combines objective measures like traffic relative to other sources with much more subjective data that suggests ability to influence.

The science underpinning popularity is complex and companies like NewsGator and mSpoke have been devoting significant R&D resources to this problem. Stay tuned.