Reader engagement with blogs has changed dramatically over the last three years, primarily because of the rise of online social networks, according to new numbers released by analytics firm Postrank today. Postrank published an analysis based on metrics for signals like comments, trackbacks, shared links and online bookmarks for the top 1000 most-engaging feeds online and for 100,000 randomly selected blog posts in each year since 2007.

The numbers paint a stark picture: blogging has changed, but the blogging scene is in some ways in better shape than it was three years ago.

The big picture is that total engagement with online content is growing while on-site engagement is declining in significance as off-site engagement like link sharing on social networks grows. Surprisingly, this off-site link sharing has also extended the lifespan of content.

Highlights from the report include the following:

  • Total reader engagement has grown 30% year over year or 69% total for the top 1,000 feeds, which includes blogs and mainstream news sites.

  • For 100,000 randomly selected blog posts in each of 2007, 2008 and 2009...
  • Engagement on-site has grown in absolute terms but the share of total engagment that happens on-site vs. off-site has dropped 50%.

  • Trackbacks have fallen from 19% of engagement to 3% of engagement.

  • Engagement on social networks like but not limited to Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook has grown from 1% to over 29% of total engagement. The Postrank staff admitted that this was a surprisingly low number but said that in aggregate there is still a whole lot of activity going on outside social networks.


  • Segmenting from the last amount of effort required up to the most, reader engagement now looks like this: 29% is link-sharing on social networks, 29% is bookmarking or voting on sites like Delicious, Digg and Reddit, 38.5% is comments on or off-site and trackbacks are now 3% of engagement. "Trackbacks are taking a nose dive," Postrank CTO Ilya Grigorik told us by phone, "bookmarking sites have consistently gone down over the last 3 years, but voting on sites like Digg or Reddit has grown."

  • Perhaps most significantly, blog posts now have a longer life span. In 2007 tracked posts saw 94% of engagement within the first day and 98% of that first day's engagement happened within the first hour. In 2008 that number fell to 83% within the first day and in 2009 it was a mere 64%. Thus Postrank concludes that 36% of reader engagement in the top blogs happens after 1 day. "While the real-time web is all about lowering the latency," Grigorik says, "the pervasive nature and number of people engaged in their communities and conversations (the Social Web) is helping with information discovery. People are worried that the real-time web will destroy their readership as everyone just gets distracted by the newest shiny thing on Twitter, but the numbers show something very different. It's so easy to spread information now that it lasts longer and finds more niches - this trend is helping content travel further."