Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Assessing the Value of [Bolivian] Blogs

One of my favorite mental exercises is assigning value to intrinsically invaluable things (call it asset valuation just for kicks if you will). We all do this in a subconscious level for pretty much everything in our lives, from the relationships we establish to the things we buy. So it occurred to me that the task would more challenging if I were to assign value to something like, say blogs -Bolivian blogs. Many see web logs only as means of self expression, and therefore absent of any value to persons other than the writer. I used to have this opinion, but immersing myself in the world of blogs has given me a different perspective. Off the top of my head I can name three value features of blogs, and Bolivian blogs in particular:

Let us start with the easy one:
  • A Blog is valuable because of its monetary meaning; which originates from the expenses and opportunity costs incurred in creating it. Blogs, as any other product of the human imagination can be appraised and ostensibly traded.
Are Bolivian blogs, monetarily valuable? Definitely, the resources (time, energy, brainpower, hosting and domain costs, electricity, internet time) and opportunity costs used to create the blog entail expenses that ideally should be recuperated one way or another.

The final product is intellectual and proprietary (and authors often recognize this by seeking Creative Commons protections). In many cases returns are sought in a more material way, either by selling advertisement or by promoting services or products than the less material but equally compensating sense of recognition.

Bolivian blogs also provide knowledge, and are a potential source of information for the mass media. Just browse through the Google searches that lead to your blog; in my case I have been visited by people typing “banco bisa abierto angulo internacional” or “Apex Silver Evo Morales” pretty obscure associations unless you are seeking specific information about a financial entity in Panama funding an acquisition in Bolivia or what Evo Morales thinks about your company. However, I say potential news source because blogs have no editor and bloggers are not reporters, and any serious journalist would take this facts into consideration.

Bloggers’ opinions provide a source of quasi-primary research and consumer information for a well adjusted marketing firm that knows where to look. Certain types of blogs offer a glimpse of what is fashionable or what trends dominate a segment of society. This data can serve several commercial purposes, and in the case of Bolivia, provides access to a demographic that is generally educated, urban, and wealthy or aspires for wealth. Blogs can also be a tool for self-promotion, were lawyers, writers or musicians can effectively reach potential employers in a personal level everyday, every time. Similarly, bloggers can openly or succinctly offer their professional services. If the blog belongs to a non-profit organization –as is the case with several Bolivian blogs- it can also serve as a means of seeking funding or international exposure.

According to Blogs de Bolivia's observations the majority of Bolivian blogs use free hosting services, enabling egalitarian access to the network.

Finally, blogs create networks and connectivity, both of which are highly valuable assets in a country like Bolivia, where only a fragment of the population has constant access to the internet. This connectivity adds to the value of the web log, and just as your cell-phone connection has a cost attached to it, your presence in this network has a cost and potential monetary value. All of the features I’ve pointed out above would “in the real world” either cost money or provide revenues, and therefore have a real and monetary value.

One of the most accessible frameworks to assess potential “dollar” value of blogs is based on the research of Tristan Louis; I have used this application to compute the potential monetary value of seven of the oldest and better known Bolivian blogs, as well as a few others for comparison purposes.

Oldest and most visited/linked blogs from Bolivia, all figures as of January 13, 2006 (listed by founding date):
  • elforastero.blogalia.com/.- Founded circa: May 2002. Average unique monthly visits (Extreme Tracking) 11,272: Technorati measures: 199 links from 66 sites . By link-to-dollar ratio this blog is worth: $28,227.00
  • almadadenoche.blogspot.com/.- Founded circa: February 2003. Average unique monthly visits: None publicly available. Technorati measures: 53 links from 20 sites. By link-to-dollar ratio this blog is worth: $11,290.80
  • centellas.org/miguel/.- Founded circa: March 2003. Average unique monthly visits (CQ counter): 3,461 Technorati measures: 129 links from 34 sites. By link-to-dollar ratio this blog is worth: $19,194.36
  • barrioflores.net/weblog.- Founded circa: September 2003. Average unique monthly visits (CQ counter): 1098. Technorati measures 136 links from 35 sites. By link-to-dollar ratio this blog is worth: $19,758.90
  • mabb.blogspot.com/.- Founded circa: September 2003. Average unique monthly visits (Site Meter): 1422 Technorati measures: 197 links from 54 sites. By link-to-dollar ratio this blog is worth: $28,791.00
  • rocko.blogia.com/.- Founded circa: May 2004. Average unique monthly visits (StatCounter): 2,888 Technorati measures: 20 links. By link-to-dollar ratio this blog is worth: $11,290.80
  • democracyctr.org/blog/.- Founded circa: December 2004. Average unique monthly visits: None publicly available. Technorati measures 130 sites link to this blog: By link-to-dollar ratio this blog is worth: $25,988.89
And to prove the power of links and networks, look at the potential monetary value of this five month old blog:
  • blogsbolivia.blogspot.com/.- Founded circa: September 2005. Average unique monthly visits (Extreme Tracking): 1200 Technorati measures: 57 sites link to this blog. By link-to-dollar ratio this blog is worth: $32,178.98.
Or this 13 month old blog/digest:
  • cyber.law.harvard.edu/globalvoices/-/weblog/.- Founded circa: November 2004. Average unique monthly visits: None publicly available. Technorati measures: 1,790 sites link o this blog. By link-to-dollar ratio this blog is worth: $754,225.44
Or 2005’s Weblog Awards “Best Blog” Winner:
  • www.dailykos.com/.- Founded circa: May 2002. Average monthly visits (SiteMeter): 14 million. Technorati measures: 10,872 sites link to this blog. By link-to-dollar ratio this blog is worth: $5,689,434.12

Websites like Blogs de Bolivia or Blogalaxia are dedicated to tracking Bolivian blogs, thereby sustaining a great deal of the networks connectivity; while sites like Mundo al Revés, represent an entrepreneurial effort to host Bolivian blogs.

Now to the more complicated valuations, where I “assign value” to the content of the blog, which can be a touchy subject, as my opinions are subjective and what to me is a “worthless” blog (very few of those) certainly has a value for other people and to its author.
  • A Blog is valuable because of its political and propagandistic uses/potential.
Several Bolivian blogs publicly express the political tendencies of their authors, and as far as I know the better part of the full spectrum of political tendencies is present in the Bolivian blogosphere, where you find (my descriptions not theirs) representatives of the:

Right wing of fascist origin, “typical” conservative right wing (US definition) , right wing free marketers a sangre y fuego, pragmatic right wing, centrist, pragmatic left wing, “typical” left wing, left wing anti-globalizers, populist left wing. As well as representatives of fringe movement like indianismo; there is also a number of religious particularly evangelical blogs.

The existence of these blogs, other than serving their author’s particular goals, functions as means of furthering a particular political ideology. Though I don’t expect any bloggers posts to shift the weight of an election, they do contribute to informing voters and commentators. Such political orientations are recognized by others and also by the main stream media. With regards to the Bolivian blogosphere, emporiums of the right, such as PubliousPundit, will approach and link mostly to bloggers of a clear ideological position –which they approve of. The same holds true for the left, were blogs such as The Democracy Center’s Blog by Jim Shultz are a constant reference. In both cases the authors are identified by their ideologies and may benefit from interviews, articles or other types of air time in the traditional media.

One of the benefits of the internet is the availability of reaching vast sources of information, and readers/viewers generally tend to “consolidate” their news sources. By this I mean that readers tend to settle for a few channels, one newspaper and a few websites. As the reader becomes more comfortable with this limited set of sources –possibly because they agree with his preconceptions- he becomes complacent and eventually will cease to question the veracity of what he’s reading. This can happen with politically-inclined blogs as well, and there lies its potential for propaganda.
  • A Blog is valuable because of its educational potential.
There’s an increasing number of educational blogs popping around in the Bolivian blogosphere. While we may argue that the first blogs to spin from Bolivia were educational in essence –and I’m talking about those founded by Linux fans - initiatives like Diplomado en Temas Curriculares and Libro Libre Bolivia have a broader educational transcendence.

Well known authors such as Edmundo Paz Soldán or Ramón Rocha Monroy as well as aspiring authors and a number of academics, doctoral students, and undergraduates –including yours truly- both in Bolivia and abroad, also post in many blogs, sharing their knowledge and providing commentary in their areas of expertise.

Blogs, particularly those maintained by the Diaspora, promote a cultural exchange between expatriates and the citizens of their home countries. Is this enough to counter brain drain? Obviously not, but at least it provides some sort of knowledge remittance, which should be encouraged.

As you can see, Bolivian blogs certainly have value beyond the obvious; being monetarily, informative/propagandistic and educationally valuable. I’m sure that there are other features that I have not pointed out, and the reader is invited to add their own impressions, comments are open.



miguel (MABB) said...

Thanks for this post. It is a very different way of looking at it, but very interesting.

Personally, I try to do more of an infomative blog. That is bringing information about Bolivia to the English world. My experience (I surf the net since at least 1994) trying to find info about Bolivia has been frustrating, up until now. This blog thing has served the purpose of publishing loads of info on Bolivia. I find that very good.

Thanks for the link and the comment on MABB.

påt®iciå said...

What about the facts of blogshares?
Why you want to boy 50 shares in barrio flores? I´ll give you (as a gift) some shares in other blogs, so you can have "money" to buy more blogs.
This facts are really different from blogshares, however MABB is going down with his shares, i´m loosing money with him :)


eduardo said...

Yeah, I'm with Patricia..why would you even want to buy 50 shares of barrio flores??? In that case, I have a terreno in Cliza that I could sell you...cheap. ;)

If someone would offer me $19,758.90 for my blog, I'd take it in a heartbeat and go retire to Bolivia for three years.

Jonathan said...

Patricia, I wasn't using blogshares figures, these are "actual" numbers using:


yours is worth $5000! mine is only worth 5 benjies after all this effort! I would certainly appreciate your gift, so I'd actually have something to trade in blogshares.

Now, on why I put an order to buy 50 barrioflores it's because I expected it to go down a few dollars in value and then climb up again after this weekend, because I expect it would receive more traffic/links with the ceremony posts. (you see there's a method to the madness..) ;)


Creo que blogshares compensa el hecho de que nadie queria jugar monopolio conmigo cuando era chiquito. jaja

pobre en la vida real said...

Ya te pase un regalito, pero debes avisarme cuando vendes las acciones de ese blog, asi las compro nuevamente, lo que me sobra es $$$, lo que me falta es tiempo!!