Saturday, April 3

Ranking Content Providers: Fresh Content Project, First Quarter

Last year, we launched an online experiment called the Fresh Content Project, which tracked approximately 100 blogs (currently at about 230) to determine how much popularity played a role in what communicators read online. We speculated it played a significant role, and sometimes at a detriment.

So, to put popularity to the test, we removed it from the equation and tracked approximately 100 blogs (currently at about 250) frequently referenced by a capped Twitter list of 300 communication-related professionals (currently at 248).

From those blogs, we narrowed the "Fresh Content" to choosing a single standout post every weekday (with weekend posts spilling into Monday). There is no algorithm. We picked one post per day. You can find out why we picked them here.

So what happened? Thirty-six communication-related professionals were picked at least once, with a handful picked more than once. Popularity, not surprisingly, is no measure for quality content. In fact, we even had to remove three popular blogs; two for plagiarizing the content of lesser known bloggers and one for providing consistently bad advice.

We're NOT including the names of those blogs or the balance of the blogs included in this experiment because it is designed to lift people up and not tear them down. So please don't ask if "so and so" was included in the experiment. They probably were. Besides, there are some people who are already on next quarter's list like Chris Koch, who was picked just yesterday.

Speaking of which, I might mention that we also made note of posts that, on any other day, might have been the pick. Mostly, we added that measure so we would not have to list ties in alphabetical order. Suffice to say that there are some worthwhile authors who haven't been picked yet.

So, here are 36 communication-related professionals who provided Fresh Content Picks in the first quarter of 2010. While some are suited for specific tastes, there is no mistaking that the top of this list (with more than one pick) ought to be in your reader.

The folks below represent some of the freshest, most original content related to communication today. And, we look forward to reading more of their fresh content in the second quarter along with some new faces. The comments are yours.

36 Fresh Content Communicators By Quality Of Content

1. Valeria Maltoni is a passionate brand strategist and author of the Conversation Agent. Her work frequently appears in other places and spaces, but you'll find a consistent stream of strategic communication content on her blog. Hands down, she is the hardest working communicator online with more fresh content picks than anyone. She pens posts you won't want to miss almost daily.

2. Geoff Livingston may have undergone some positive transitions this past year, but he still measures up as someone who not only practices what he preaches but does so with unabashed authenticity. Whether you follow his occasional work on The Buzz Bin or his personal blog, you'll find most posts play along. But then, without any warning, he takes a stand that strikes at the heart of an issue with such clarity, it reminds you that he doesn't embrace the Echo Chamber.

3. Ike Pigott is a smart guy who pens smart content that is generally too far off the beaten path on Occam's RazR for him to become popular. What you'll find, however, are ample amounts of truth that are only occasionally distracted by personal interests. The benefit is that, free from the trappings of being popular, he can call it like he sees it. He's also one of the better writers online. You'll love the prose.

4. Maria Reyes McDavis A.K.A. WebSuccessDiva, is "almost" a surprise find. Her online presence might have been well-known among people looking for SEO, but that isn't what makes Web Success Diva stand out. It's her smart and business savvy approach to strategies and tactics, the kind of skill sets that not enough communicators are working to develop. Reading her blog has become a real benefit since starting this experiment.

5. Lee Odden doesn't need much of an introduction to anyone who follows anything about SEO. He has been penning great content as CEO of Top Rank Online Marketing for what feels like forever. He's a veteran online marketer, but his expert understanding of SEO is what most people remember. There is a reason for that. He wasn't given any gift of popularity. He earns it.

6. Bill Sledzik, public relations professor at Kent State, doesn't provide the volume of content needed to keep up with the more popular people with opinions on public relations and sometimes social media. But what he does do at ToughSledding is provide value. What you'll find are posts that frequently bridge proven practices with tactics that some experts mistake as new ideas.

7. Mitch Joel is an author and digital marketer bent on good design. As he is a new media enthusiast, you're likely to find some posts on Six Degrees of Separation attempting to peer three steps into the possible future. While he sometimes misses, you'll find he hits more than his fair share by practicing a mantra that can best be described as rethinking everything.

8. Jay Ehret A.K.A. "The Marketing Guy" is chief officer of "awesomeness" at The Marketing Spot. Specializing in small business marketing consultation, Ehret has been around for some time. What you'll find is a retooling of social media to meet the needs of small business marketing as learned by big businesses once upon a time. Not everyone will appreciate his roll-up-the-sleeves approach, but you'll find more than a few gems on his blog.

9. Bob Conrad is one of the better but somehow underrated thinkers in the field. You'll find his work on The Good, The Bad, The Spin tends to challenge the status quo with new ideas, but not at the expense of traditional thought that continues to prove itself true. If he wrote more posts, he'd likely be higher on any list.

10. Callan Green is a junior account executive on the BG Creative team who lends her voice to the company's Don't Drink The Kool-Aid Blog. She's also one to watch. Green is already starting to stand out because she has the right background and obviously has the right guidance as a junior account executive. It's easy to say so because when she recaps lessons learned or shares observations, they are always spot on without too much slippage we see from longstanding social media experts.

11. Joel Postman is an internal communications executive for Learning@Cisco. His blog, Socialized, is rough to read in the format in which it is presented. But if you can get past the gray on gray tight columns (or subscribe in a reader), the content speaks for itself. Of late, Postman is making a great case as a well-meant contrarian who turns some readily accepted social media ideas on their heads. You have to love that.

12. Beth Harte wears many hats, which has contributed to a much slower posting pace at The Harte of Marketing. That isn't a bad thing. Since she scaled back on her postings, each post has become more important and much more grounded with her roots as a marketing professional. Apparently, the initial Kool-Aid buzz has worn off and she has become a welcome advocate for integrated communication.

13. Andrew Weaver writes about life, business, and everything in between on Leave It To Weaver. Sometimes it touches on communication and marketing issues, but not enough to operate inside the communication bubble. As a result, it's under-read despite the relevance. One of the most striking series shared by Weaver is The Cult of Mediocrity. It's a good series to follow, especially for any popular bloggers who didn't make the list.

14. Lauren Fernandez is an account executive at Moroch | PR who pulls double duty as a resident specialist in social media. Her work can be found at LAF and the best of it breaks away from what people want to read and centers on real industry need. Specifically, she sees that some social media experts are leading their lemming followers off the edge of a cliff and wants to do something about it. I give her credit. I'm inclined to let them fall.

15. Carl Haggerty is an enterprise architect at the Devon County Council who sometimes shares some heavy-handed and important topics at Carl's Notepad. Frequently, the posts revolve around U.K. government without the polarization of politics experienced in America. But more than government, his content tends to be refreshing because it covers how organizations interact with people. Something many Web developers might consider.

16. Adam Singer is responsible for The Future Buzz, which is a blog about Web marketing combined with public relations strategies. While he frequently makes the case for popularity measures (and why marketers need it), Singer demonstrates enough "why" to remind people he is not advocating popularity over expertise. What you'll also find is a lot of bullet-laced posts that make for easy reading, even if that reading isn't always memorable.

17. Dan Zarrella is a social, search, and self-dubbed viral marketing scientist who has built a solid following on The Social Media Marketing Handbook. While his writing is filled with social media buzz terms, including several he coined himself, you'll still find fresh content with an emphasis on sociology, even if he doesn't always link the two fields. More importantly, Zarrella is persistent in wanting to move social media away from soft-focus fantasies that popular marketing bloggers tend to preach.

18. John Jantsch is another one of those folks who most people know. Duct Tape Marketing rightfully pinned him down as one of the world's most practical marketers. Practicality is important if you hope to make a case for communication to the executives you hope will pay for it. At the same time, Jantsch teaches public relations firms and communicators something most forget. At the end of the day, communication companies are businesses too. Act like it.

19. John Bell, who heads up the global 360-degree influence team for Ogilvy Public Relations, demonstrates that not only can large agencies learn new media, but they can quickly become experts by applying proven strategies to new platforms. Digital Influence Mapping Project provides the focus for his work and the work being done at Ogilvy in this space.

20. Sree Sreenivasan, professor and dean of student affairs at Columbia Journalism School, contributes to places like DNA info and Mashable. While being a contributor makes his work harder to track, it's very clear Sreenivasan has tasked himself with helping journalists evolve at a pace that will help preserve the best of the profession.

21. Kelly Day is an associate creative director at BG Creative, the second team member to be included from its Don't Drink The Kool-Aid Blog. Although her simply stated insights into Facebook tend to be more popular than her tips for better creative, we're likely to attribute that to social media readership more than merit. The content contributions are equally solid and more designers will likely find her over time. (Sure wish she would update her blog-to-Twitter link soon).

22. Gini Dietrich is the CEO of Arment Dietrich. You'll find most of her work on F.A.D.S.. What you'll find is a blend of fresh, friendly commentary and marketing from a business perspective. While it didn't make a pick, read Predictable Success: The Lifecycle of Successful Businesses for a sense of her style.

23. Larry Kim, a search marketing enthusiast and founder of WordStream. You're more likely to find his written work elsewhere, places like the Search Engine Journal, but he always brings a unique perspective as a software engineering and search specialist.

24. Louis Gray is the managing director of new media for Paladin Advisors Group, which provides marketing, public relations, sales processes, and new media services to its clients. He shares observations about technology and innovation from Silicon Valley. What you'll find is exactly that, presented as a conversational diary recapping the news. The only difference is that this diary and scrapbook of sorts is open to the public and includes some interesting insights.

25. Aaron Brazell is author of the WordPress Bible and comes from an I.T. background, and was one of he first tech bloggers to capture a communication audience too. It's hard to pin down precisely why Technosailor lost some of its lift. Mostly, Brazell still provides a good read in between conference buzz and some gut guesses that fall short of the mark.

26. Jeff Bullas is a Web marketing practitioner with plenty of useful information that is usually presented as some sort of list at Jeffbullas's Blog. Almost all of it starts with a number of something, which is often the kind of stuff we avoid. However, what works is that some of these lists are backed by real data and time consuming research. It's not puff, and almost always includes new ideas for using various free tools to do it.

27. Barbara Nixon, Ph.D., teaches at Georgia Southern University online and Southeastern University offline. Her blog, Public Relations Matters, frequently covers public relations basics and entry level ideas on social media. What works is that she often covers what many social media experts don't know enough about to write about.

28. Shel Holtz has always positioned himself on the front end of technology and communication. It has served him well over the years, and will for many more years to come. A Shel of My Former Self is often a testament to that. What you'll find, in between the podcast marketing posts, are social media adoption tests for the sake of adoption and strategic communication applied to social media. Other times, however, you'll find Holtz to be surprisingly stubborn in framing up the world as it "should be."

29. David Meerman Scott saves much of his best work for places other than Web Ink Now, which tends to feature a much lighter sampling of topics than you might find on places like The Huffington Post, where he reminds us he still has the skills of a journalist.

30. Amber Naslund has become best known as director of community for Radian6, but her start with Altitude was a real pleasure to watch. What you'll find is that her content is engaging because it is infused with her infectious personality. Even when she retreads topics, it feels fresh and clearly articulated, especially as someone who learned most of her social media and marketing skills on the fly.

31. MarketingProfs, headed by Ann Handley, provides surprisingly solid content despite the irritating sign-in page. Sure, not all of the content is as fresh as you might find direct from contributors and not all authors are clearly identified. However, MarketingProfs keeps a pulse on public relations and marketing, with the occasional surprise breakthrough the noise moment thanks to objective research.

32. Jennifer Riggle is a public relations professional with CRT/tanaka, which is the firm that inherited The Buzz Bin from Geoff Livingston. She is intensely focused on mobile adoption and medical as it applies to social media. Sure, she writes other stuff, but her interests in these areas shine through with some solid thought, possibly ensuring that The Buzz Bin will eventually retain relevance beyond the originator. Good to see.

33. Chris Brogan is president of New Media Labs and many people in communication fields read his blog. Interestingly enough, though, only one post (though others were close) on the last day of the quarter cut through the clutter. That's not to say the Brogan blog isn't relevant. However, if you have ever heard him speak, you already know that the blog, nowadays, has become Brogan light.

34. Jonathan Fields, at a glance, comes across as one of the growing number of pop marketers that tend to capture some popularity because they are fun. But then the more you read Awake At The Wheel, you begin to realize that pop marketing packaging fuels some bigger ideas if you take the time to look for them, including his tribute to ten dead dudes.

35. Brian Solis truly owns the buzz term PR 2.0. What you'll find in between the self-promotion and his head-in-the-clouds preachiness approach to social media is one of the best comprehensive recappers of other people's research. He takes huge amounts of data and summarizes it without slashing it to sound bites like most people, making those posts well worth wading through the rest of it.

36. Jeremy Meyers is the only social media purist to make this list, but he does so deservedly. He didn't make it for his own content, but rather his uncanny ability to find some of the most important and overlooked content via his feed on posterous. It sets him apart because while many people guess at the future of the net, Meyers tends to find what is already happening.

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