The growth of ScienceBlogs & science blogs

By Razib Khan | April 6, 2010 8:11 pm

sbgrowthScienceBlogsTM just put out a release on their traffic growth. The trend is interesting because after a period of flattening out, 2008-2010 seems to have seen some robust growth again. As I said when I left I do wish SB and many of their bloggers well, and I continue to subscribe to several of their blogs in my RSS as well as the select feed. The network’s robust growth is a positive sign when it comes to the transition of science communication from dead tree to the internet. I know that there’s been a lot of stress on the part of science journalists as to the sustainability of their enterprise, though that is really just a domain-specific instantiation of the issues in journalism as a whole, but until that works itself out the growth and persistence of science blogging and science-related websites is a good thing. There is a calm after the storm of creative-destruction, and the current science blogosphere is laying the seedbed for future renewal. The outcome may be sub-optimal from the viewpoint of labor, but the consumer will benefit.

The growth of internet based science communication means that the pie is growing, and the tide is rising. It isn’t a zero-sum game between SB, Nature Networks, Scientific Blogging, Discover Blogs, etc. My main concern personally is that my readership is still strongly Anglospheric, literally hundreds of millions of Chinese have started using the internet while I’ve been blogging, but very few of them do and can read my content. Due to language constraints this may be a long term structural issue, though the utilization of Google translate + chart heavy posts may be a way to push beyond the Anglosphere a bit. If you want to see the geographic skew, sitemeter is sufficient even with a sample size of the last 100 visitors.

Note: Also, please note that the growth can’t be attributed only to non-science content. Obviously I can’t lay out specific numbers, but blogs which focus on science such as Tetrapod Zoology and Frontal Cortex draw lots of traffic.

(via DM)

MORE ABOUT: Blogging, ScienceBlogs
  • Albert Bakker

    To address your personal concerns, for what it is worth, my impression as a non- or perhaps semi-Anglospheric barbarian is that your extensive vocabulary and creative use of language is instructive and very enjoyable, but perhaps not the most foreigner-friendly.

    I don’t read Chinese. But if I’d for example use Google translate to view this text in Dutch (I tried it) the result is hardly Dutch at all and I still have to read the English text to figure out what it means. And even then I’d have a harder time to recognize and translate certain idioms in context than I would to just read the original. I suspect it won’t be much better in an unrelated language like Chinese.

  • Razib Khan

    good point. since you’re dutch this is a good test, since that language is the closest to english excepting frisian. and i don’t consider dutch barbarians :-)

  • Henry Donahue

    We pay a lot of attention to these metrics (e.g. overall growth, U.S. market share, non-U.S. traffic) at the corporate level, so I will add two points from the business side.

    First, you have to take any company’s internally measured and press released numbers with a big grain of salt. They (and we) have an incentive to make the numbers look as good as possible. Web traffic measurement numbers can vary greatly depending on the provider (Google, Omniture, Nielsen, ComScore etc.) and the underlying assumptions (e.g. definition of unique visitors). When we look at overall market growth and share across sites, we usually cite a third-party provider like Quantcast. Though the third-party numbers are flawed in some ways, you can be confident that they are using the same method across all the sites.

    Second, from a business point of view, U.S. page views are much more desirable than international page views because many advertisers ask specifically that we only provide U.S. impressions. I suppose if we suddenly found we had a large Chinese audience, we could adjust our sales approach but, for now, Chinese impressions have significantly less advertising value.

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  • Brian Too

    Good point but too ambitious by half I think.

    It’s almost absurdly difficult to cross the barriers of culture, language, religion, class, politics and race, all simultaneously. This has never been easy and the Internet makes the problem seem within reach. However I think that’s mostly an illusion.

    In order to make that work I think you’d have to target your audiences specifically. That’s native language writing, with at least a basic cultural understanding of your audience, and publishing to sites that are within the domains allocated to those audiences.

    Can a not fluently-English speaking person from the developing world find your blogs here? Sure. Will they do so routinely? No. Will they become regular readers and even contributors? Not likely, no. It’s simply too difficult and the Internet makes other, better choices easily available.

    After all, how many Brazilian bloggers who write largely or exclusively in Portuguese do you read? The answer for me is zero.

  • Razib Khan

    there’s little symmetry between portuguese and english, so i frankly that’s a specious example (in fact, currently there’s no symmetry between english and any other world language in terms of likelihood of it being a second language). though your general points are probably valid.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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