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7/17/2006
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Mining For Data In Blogs

As the market evolves, it's become increasingly important for publishers to understand if an RSS can draw more traffic than the actual Web site, for instance, and what type of information in the feed is too much. New tools can help.

Blogger Anthony Citrano wants to gain insight into those who visit his Web sites. So he signed up for FeedBurner Inc.'s TotalStats service to gain details from RSS feeds on the information readers come to read.

The amount of information Citrano will gain is about to jump. As of Monday, FeedBurner, the podcast aggregator and maker of online software acquired blog analytics provider Blogbeat.

Digging for information, bloggers gain a method to study traffic patterns for each post. Citrano also controls the Web server where his domain name resides and can log on to view raw statistics generated by two separate software packages.

In May the software told him that 46 people spent more than an hour on his site, for example. Without analytics, most bloggers don't have access to that type of information. "I can see all the surf phrases and terms that led people to my sites, and they range between the most bizarre to topics that make sense," Citrano said. "Some of the bizarre have been 'voting by IQ,' 'creepy views,' and 'Chinese foot binding in women'."

Citrano isn't the only blogger "curious" about the topics attracting people to his site. Forrester Research Inc. analyst Peter Kim began using Blogbeat in April to track links and hits on his personal blog. The annual subscription cost totaled somewhere around a mere $25 per year. Not a hefty price to monitor posts, visitors, referrals and links that provide insight into who visits the site.

Kim equates blog analytics to "one-hand clapping, because if the blogger doesn't receive comments, track-backs or an active discussions in the thread," analytics can provide insight into who's coming to the site and what's being read.

But FeedBurner has much more in mind. Cofounder and chief operating officer Steve Olechowski said the company aims to provide customers with statistical data gained through the technology in Blogbeat, which launched in January.

As the market evolves it's become increasingly important for publishers to understand if an RSS can draw more traffic than the actual Web site, and what type of information in the feed is too much. "As Microsoft rolls out Vista, Internet Explorer 7, and Outlook where feeds are in the forefront of the applications, people will get more comfortable accessing information through RSS feeds," Olechowski said.

Once that happens, RSS will evolve into a separate medium that Olechowski calls "subscribing." Moving toward that trend, the product roadmap will see Blogbeat's technology integrate into FeedBurner by November.

"FeedBurner is built on a LAMP/Java stack, and the way we scale achieving data maps very similar to the way FeedBurner works," he said. "The foundation of the statistics is driven off the feed, which is different than the Web analytics products out there today."

The "design pattern" in FeedBurner and Blogbeat are similar, though the platform for the Raleigh-Durham, N.C. company was built on a Microsoft .Net stack rather than Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl and Python, the core set of applications and languages used in a Linux Web server, Olechowski said.

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