The Dirt on Techdirt's New Blogger Community

Posted by: Rob Hof on October 11, 2006

I’ve always liked the sharp, pithy analysis of current tech issues on the Techdirt blog, but it turns out that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the Belmont (Calif.)-based company. Those short posts are a sampling of Techdirt’s real business, which is providing analysis and competitive intelligence to about 40 large client companies.

Now, it’s blowing up the place in a bid to expand its analysis from just its seven full-time analysts to the entire blogosphere—or at least the part of it that includes people who know what they’re talking about. On Wednesday at the Office 2.0 conference, says CEO Mike Masnick, the company will launch a beta version of the Techdirt Insight Community to bring together bloggers and companies that want their expertise and insight on particular topics.

Masnick believes companies such as SAP and Verisign want to understand what bloggers think and engage with them on issues they’re knowledgeable or passionate about. And no doubt, bloggers would like to make some money from their insights. Essentially, Techdirt’s trying to turn groups of bloggers into ad-hoc analyst firms, filling what Masnick sees as a void between broad consumer testing firms and traditional analyst firms such as Gartner and Forrester.

Maybe not surprisingly, the relationship between the companies and the bloggers will be double-blind, at least at first. That way, companies can put forward questions without worrying about revealing competitive intelligence, and bloggers can feel free to offer honest opinions. Bloggers set their own price, likely starting around $50 to $100 per post per blogger, and Techdirt packages them up, pricing the bundle so it can make some profit. So far, Masnick has signed up about 50 bloggers, which the company vets for expertise and, of course, willingness to deliver posts on demand in a few days to a week. He hopes to get to 100 bloggers before long and many more down the road.

Interesting idea. Good bloggers get an alternative to AdSense for income, and companies get potentially unique insights of a kind that conventional focus groups and traditional analysts often don’t provide. I suspect matching what bloggers can offer with what companies want will be tricky. But if Masnick can provide a marketplace for that long tail of knowledge, he could be on to something.

(Update: Fixed a reference to Techdirt taking a cut—actually, it builds a profit margin into the packages of blogger posts.)

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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