by CIO Staff

Multilingual Tools Mine Buzz in Blogosphere

Oct 17, 20066 mins

Companies trying to navigate the maze of blogs around the world to find out what’s being said about them will get help soon in the form of some localized blog search sites from Technorati.

The company has partnered with public relations firm Edelman to develop versions of Technorati’s blog search tools that are localized in French, German, Italian, Korean and Chinese. Edelman will have exclusive use of the new tools until early next year, after which they’ll be available to the public.

Edelman will use the tools to help clients find out who is saying good and bad things about them in the “blogosphere,” with a view to getting involved in the discussions and shaping perceptions online.

It’s an area that’s becoming more important every day, according to Edelman. Research by the company suggests people are far more likely to trust the opinions of people like themselves—i.e., bloggers—than they are statements from companies and executives. And the number of blogs worldwide now stands at more than 57 million, according to Technorati, with more than 1.2 million posts added every day.

Getting involved in the debate may not be easy for companies, however, said Iain Dale, who publishes the U.K. political blog Iain Dale’s Diary.

“The problem PR people will have with bloggers is that we are skeptical of what the agenda is,” he said at an Edelman event in London last week. “There’s no point in sending us a press release on your latest product; we don’t want that. We want some sort of edgy story from it.”

Edelman faces another challenge at the moment as it seeks to promote its blog-savviness. Thanks to bad timing, the company itself has been dealing with a public relations fiasco for some work it did for its client, Wal-Mart Stores.

Edelman helped the retailer establish a blog that was apparently written by two ordinary Americans touring the United States in a holiday vehicle, which they parked at night for free in Wal-Mart car parks. In the process, they made a series of enthusiastic posts about how pleasant and helpful Wal-Mart’s staff had been.

What Wal-Mart didn’t disclose was that the trip was funded by an organization set up for it by Edelman, and that a brother of one of the travelers works for the public relations company. With those facts reported by BusinessWeek last month, the trip has now ended with a rueful post explaining how the project was misunderstood. 

After a few weeks of criticism, Edelman’s president and chief executive officer (CEO), Richard Edelman, issued an apology on Monday in his own blog.

“I want to acknowledge our error in failing to be transparent about the identity of the two bloggers from the outset. This is 100 percent our responsibility and our error; not the client’s,” he wrote.

Steve Rubel, a senior vice president with Edelman, chalked it up as a learning experience.

“It’s indicative that a lot of companies’ experiences [in the blogosphere] are good and bad, and we live in a glass house and you can’t credibly understand this space unless you experience it from all different angles,” he said Tuesday.

Whether Edelman’s apology will be heard louder than its blogger critics is another matter. According to a recent study by Edelman, more than two-thirds of respondents said they trust their peers as a source of information, while only 28 percent said they trust a CEO.

This is precisely why, according to Edelman, corporations need to identify their friends and foes in the blogging world, read what they’re saying and try to get involved in the conversation. The new Technorati search sites aim to help them do this.

Technorati’s websites can be searched in other languages today, but the interfaces are only in English and Japanese, and they identify the “most influential bloggers” only in English. The new sites will have French, German, Italian, Korean and Chinese interfaces, and they’ll identify the most influential people blogging in those languages.

Who counts as most influential is debatable, and Edelman admits that its lists will be refined over time. Technorati measures influence by looking at how many other sites link to a blog, rather than other measures such as page views. And the U.K. bloggers have been manually chosen, since automated tools can’t easily distinguish them from bloggers in other English-speaking countries.

Most blogs today are published in English (39 percent) and Japanese (31 percent), according to Edelman/Technorati, but that makeup is changing, with more non-English blogs appearing every day.

Businesses and brands are discussed in European blogs, but not nearly as often as in the United States and Japan, the companies said. In a recent study by the companies of 213 Japanese bloggers, 84.5 percent said they blog about companies, and more than half said they were never contacted by companies.

Among the other recent findings of Edelman and Technorati are the following:

  • Nearly a quarter of the population in the United States, the United Kingdom and France read blogs at least once a week.

  • The number of media articles mentioning blogs has steadily increased, reaching a high of 766 mentions in the second quarter this year.

  • The English, Japanese and Chinese languages account for 82 percent of blog postings.

  • All but one of the world’s 100 most influential blogs are published by Americans. The exception, by Italian commentator Beppe Grillo, at number 28, is in English as well as Italian.

  • More French blogs tend to be personal journals (30 percent), followed by technology and business (22 percent) and cooking (19 percent).

  • Most German blogs are about technology (25 percent), followed by personal journals (22 percent), and media and/or public relations (12 percent).

  • Italian blogs are mostly personal diaries (43 percent), followed by political blogs (27 percent) and technology (11 percent).

  • U.S. blogs are mostly about technology (34 percent), followed by culture and entertainment (26 percent), politics (25 percent) and business (12 percent). Only 3 percent of U.S. blogs are personal diaries.

-James Niccolai, IDG News Service (Paris Bureau)

Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.