If asked what the most popular show on television is, many astute American TV junkies could say (while rolling their eyes) that it is CSI.
Save for special programming like the NFL Super Bowl, CSI routinely trounces the competition.
Ask the same people what the most popular blog is, and they'll likely rattle off the blogger at the top of their particular passion's peak: Instapundit or Daily Kos, if they're political; Gawker or Go Fug Yourself, if they're into celebrities wetting themselves; and so on. All of these pundits, however, would likely be wrong. It's hard to tell exactly what constitutes popularity (links, page views, visitors), so any overt declaration of popularity must bear with it slight caveats. If we're to believe that Technorati is an apt judge for the popularity pageant, then we must acknowledge CEO David Sifry as the host who determines the most popular blogger. As he told Wired magazine, that person is Chinese actress and director Xu Jinglei.
In an earlier column, I discussed Sifry's "State of the Blogosphere" report that found more Japanese-language bloggers (32% of total bloggers) than English-language bloggers (31%). Indeed, English-language bloggers (which you rightly assume includes those from the UK, India, and elsewhere) make up less than 1/3 of the blogging population.
Because so many of the earliest moments of blogging were documented and captured in the US – from the software creation to the opinionated writers who rose to prominence in traditional media profiles (take a look – and a grain of salt – at the Wikipedia entry for blog), it's not surprising that that news is surprising.
Some of the blog heavyweights realized this early on; tech blog Engadget launched a Japanese and a Spanish version in June 2005. TechCrunch, a site that profiles Web 2.0 companies, has a French and a Japanese version.
PR agency Edelman recognized the importance of the global market when it brokered an exclusive partnership with blog search firm Technorati that would provide it with real-time access to information about blogs written in five languages - Korean, Chinese, German, Italian, and French - before that service is made available to the public.
And the market is growing. In PRWeek's 2006 global special, communicators across the board had more to say about new media than they did in 2005, some of whom said their global CEO issued a company-wide initiative to spur deployment of new media technologies.
And while Americans can take comfort in the fact that many businessmen and women in foreign countries have at the least a rudimentary grasp of English, companies are launching that help translate posts into other languages. This trend is important to PR professionals because, as Mike Manuel, online strategist at Voce Communications, aptly points out, search engines don't care about geographical boundaries.
Anyone has written a blog can attest to sitting in amazement as your visit logs show that people from Romania, Germany, and Korea show up because your post was the first entry on a Google search for "Sprite" and "Lost."
"You may very well be creating and writing a blog for a US audience, but by no means is that blog's content limited to American eyeballs," Manuel says, via e-mail.
This, of course, mirrors what we're seeing about global media. Thanks to numerous developments like Google News, ever news article is local, national, and international at the same time. Blogs are no different.
It's been long stated that PR is a global game, and blogs are a part of that. Multilingual PR reps handling US accounts can leave comments in Japanese blogs. Companies looking to expand into other countries can learn more about the culture by reading popular native blogs.
Manuel give one such example: "For example, if you're a major auto manufacturer and you're talking about your new hybrid sedan, even though it's only available in the US, it would be wise to consider adding a sentence or two about your international roll-out plans — it might actually help create some early anticipation and enthusiasm in other markets."
The work day just got much longer.