How accurate is Cision’s top 50 PR/marketing blog list?

A couple weeks ago, I’m sure you noticed Cision published a list of the top 50 PR and marketing blogs. And not surprisingly, it spread across the Web.

These kinds of lists are a dime a dozen–I should know, I create a bunch of them. But, this one had a bit of process behind it as Cision used its proprietary Cision Influence Ratings to create the list. I would imagine that tool takes some kind of algorithm of unique visitors, comments and social scoring into consideration before giving a blog one of the “scores” we see in the list (note: I have never used the Cision tool).

But, what I didn’t see the last couple weeks was a lot of discussion about this list. If this list had come from an independent blogger (like me, for example), I probably wouldn’t bat an eye. When it comes from an organization like Cision, I take a closer look.

So, I took a closer look. Here’s what I found in terms of facts.

The facts

How many of the blogs are written by agencies? 10

How many of the blogs are written by solo bloggers? 24

How many blogs aren’t actually even in the US? 3. Danny Brown, Dave Fleet and PR Conversations are all written by blogger who live outside the U.S. — The initial list did say U.S., right? 😉 (OK, I had to give Cision a little grief for that one). PR Conversations is written by three bloggers who all reside outside the U.S. Just pointing out the obvious here.

Number of blogs on the list featuring the company who actually created the list: 1. I know it’s not your fault, Cision, that you popped up on the list. But when you’re the list facilitator it’s tough to put yourself on the list. It’s a shot to your credibility–even if the numbers are true.  I took some heat for including myself on a list a few years back–so, speaking from experience here, Cision, just take yourself off next time.

How many blogs don’t even really cover PR or marketing? I know, I know, social media is just a small part of the larger marketing and communications mix. But, technically folks like Chris Brogan, Lee Odden (Online Marketing Blog), Jason Falls’ Social Media Explorer and Jason Keath’s Social Fresh don’t cover PR or marketing. They specifically cover “social media.” Go ahead, fire away at me now. And, all four were in the top six! Why is that relevant? Because they blog about social media. It’s kinda like Twitter. Consisistenly, tweets about Twitter rank as those most popular on the platform. Well, people that blog about social media can tend to have bigger audiences than those that blog about other disciplines. Again, I know you can lump them all together. I get it. I would just argue that those three blogs aren’t really PR or marketing blogs.


The analysis

Lists like this are meant to be debated (and shared). Anyone who’s ever created a list online knows this. But, when it’s a list from an industry-leading organization like Cision (and using one of their proprietary tools), I tend to take a closer look (and I expect it to be a bit more buttoned up than this one was).

Outside of the Fleet/Brown/PR Conversations miss (start a Canada/international list, perhaps? :), I don’t have a big problem with the list. I see lots of blogs that deserve to be on a list like this. But, I also see a few that kinda surprised me. Beyond The Hype (few shares, comments), CrisisBlogger (great content, but limited sharing and engagement), Down By the Avenue (not a single comment on one post since April.) and The Intake blog (grand total of one comment since May 1), just to name a few (not slamming these blogs because they’re not solid blogs–I just question whether they should be on a Top 50 list developed with help from a proprietary tool by an industry-leading organization).

Meanwhile, I noticed a number of blogs that were conspicuously absent. First, if the list is going to include social media blogs from the likes of Brian Solis, Lee Odden and Chris Brogan, how can they NOT include Jay Baer’s Convince & Convert? That’s simply unacceptable no matter how you’re coming up with the list. Close behind, I’d list Adam Singer’s The Future Buzz and Jeff Bullas–both miles ahead of a number of other blogs on the “Top 50” list in many ways. Additionally, I probably would have included Heather Whaling’s PRTini, Frank Strong’s The Sword & the Script and Stuart Bruce’s A PR Guy’s Musings. All belong in this company. But that’s just me.

Why all the fuss about this list? Because Cision created it with their Cision Influence Ratings tool–something they sell as a tool that will help you with blogger outreach. I’m not here to say it’s a horrible tool–it’s most likely a great tool (I’m sure someone will attest). But I’ve learned that you shouldn’t use these tools as the end-all-be-all when it comes to building blogger lists. Remember, there’s a human element to blogger outreach–researching blogrolls, Twitter feeds and About Us/Me pages that these algorithms and formulas aren’t going to pick up. In this case, you would have missed Jay Baer, Heather Whaling, Frank Strong and a host of others. And, according to this list, you’d be focusing on Brogan, Falls and Keath pretty intently–three guys that again, write predominantly about the world of social media (again, I know social media is a part of PR/marketing).

So what do you think of Cision’s list? Was it relatively accurate? Or, did it miss the mark a bit? Does it matter?

Note: Photo courtesy of Terren from Virginia via FlickR Creative Commons.

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26 comments on “How accurate is Cision’s top 50 PR/marketing blog list?

  1. jasonkeath says:

    Good questions. I know I would like to know more about how they calculated the Cision Influence Rating. I doubt comments have much to do with it. What I could dig up on their site is that it is more about to person or people that run the blog than just the blog activity itself. That probably sheds some light on it. 
    A few retorts/comments.
    Social Fresh definitely covers marketing. More specifically, our site is more about digital marketing sometimes than social media as a whole. We cover Wikipedia, SEO, Email marketing, lead gen, ecommerce conversion, etc. With a focus on social or bringing those topics back to social. So clearly, I am biased, but I think we fit.
    The list is for PR or Marketing topic blogs. Each blog does not have to fit into a PR topic mold.  Something can be written outside the US and still have a big audience in the US. Not sure that point really matters.
    I would agree there are some sites missing. Their list is form their database though and that database is part curated, part publication submitted. So sites can submit themselves to these categories if they are not already there. And I believe they can remove themselves too. Remeber, if you are on this list, they you are going to get pitched by companies that use Cision. Good or bad. 
    For me, I would like to see more info on the scoring, but I don’t need to see the whole sausage making blueprint. Their social/seo list was great. They explained how they used 4 metrics from compete. Mostly traffic, users, return users, time on site I think. So I would like to see a little more info on what goes into the influence score they talk about here. 
    Good questions Arik. I am sure Cision will find this and share some of their thoughts. 

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    One attribute of an effective blogger is skepticism! Nice work.
    We all know that listicles = links. It’s how the social space works. But lists aren’t all bad. They can help us understand our world, so long as the criteria for ranking is laid out for all to see.
    But my “BS” detectors go off when I see: …Cision used its proprietary Cision Influence Ratings.” What goes into the secret sauce? Well, we can’t tell you that. But we’re Cision. You can trust us. Now, can I interest you in buying the Cision Influence Rating Tool?
    No thanks. Unless I can open the hood and peek at the engine, I’ll stick with Klout 🙂

  3. yvettepistorio says:

    Great questions Arik. I’m the social media manager for Cision and author of the blog post and I just wanted to answer some of your questions… Cision’s Influence Rating is based on concrete metrics like unique visitors, page views, tweets, likes and comments. There are limitations to the ability of these types of metrics to quantify influence, which is by nature very fluid and ethereal, but they are the best tools we have (and this type of data keeps getting richer!)
    We have Canadian blogs and bloggers that are based outside of the US listed because our influence ratings are based on U.S. reach and engagement. Sorry to those he mentioned who were left off! It’s hard to cut off a list like this at just 50.
    As Jason mentioned we did pull the list from our database so sites can submit themselves to these categories if they are not already there and they can remove themselves too. 
    I agree that tools like our Influence Rating (and lists such as this one) should not be used as the end-all-be-all when it comes to creating blogger lists and doing outreach, but it can be a good starting point for some. You definitely still need to do your own research!

  4. stuartbruce says:

    Thanks for mentioning me as a blog that should have been included, although as I’m based in the UK I wouldn’t make the US criteria. We all know how weak lists are,  but that doesn’t stop them being fun and you’ve touched on one of my personal complaints which is the inclusion of social media/search type blogs in PR and marketing blog lists. They just don’t belong as they are about something else. Some of ones I’m complaining about are great and I enjoy reading and learning from them, but if you’re using even vaguely appropriate criteria they aren’t about PR or marketing.

  5. cloudspark says:

    How accurate is @cision’s top 50 PR/marketing blog list? rt @arikhanson

  6. arikhanson says:

     @stuartbruce Look who didn’t do their own research 😉 Oh well–I still like your blog…

  7. arikhanson says:

     @Bill Sledzik I’m not sure I need to see the sausage factory, per se, but I just think they missed some pretty major blogs (Jay’s, others) and included some pretty run-of-the-mill blogs. 
    I totally agree on lists–I’m actually a big proponent. When I first started on Twitter years ago those “who to follow” lists were extremely helpful. Anything we can do to make the Web “smaller” is usually a big help.
    Thanks for the comment, Bill!

  8. arikhanson says:

     @jasonkeath Thanks for weighing in Mr. Keath. Good point about your blog, but I would still argue it’s more of a social media blog–heck, you have “social” in the headline! 😉 Another good point about the US/international blogs–that was really a technicality, but I could see it both ways, I guess.
    Your point about their list is exactly why I believe you can’t “trust” these tools too much. Most are “user submitted” so if you don’t submit, you’re not on the list, obviously. As a blogger, I’m not sure I’ve submitted my blog to any of these outreach tools (I get enough horrid pitches as it is). So, that’s the big flaw I see. Most likely that’s why they missed all the blogs they did.
    Good stuff, as always.

  9. arikhanson says:

     @yvettepistorio Thanks for jumping in–thought you might. 
    I understand the limitations of the tool. That’s why I think folks shouldn’t rely on them too much (which PR people tend to do). The human element is absolutely key.
    I just thought your list had some glaring holes. And, for a tool that’s supposed to help identify influencers, I thought you missed some pretty big ones in our industry. That’s all.

  10. arikhanson says:

    @JasMollica Your thoughts?

  11. douglaskarr says:

    I was curious as much as you were and didn’t get much of a response from Cision.  I was really surprised at the number of blogs that were quite small on the list so I questioned their reach and influence.

  12. Frank_Strong says:

    Yikes!  Plainly I work for a competitor.  Even if my blog did rank, I wouldn’t blame them for discounting it.  I’d do the same and I’d have no qualms about it. 
    As for my little side project — it has no business ranking with some of the names and blogs on that list. Sometimes I write something that gets traction, more often I don’t. An old Army buddy of mine who is a MN State Highway Patrolman used to say, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes.”
    I can still hear him saying that through his mustache.  Makes me smile.  I wonder who he’s giving a ticket to at this moment.  
    I blog because I like to.  Because it helps me think.  It’s an experiment, both with ideas and technology.  There’s something to be said about going through the mental and physical exercise of building a blog.  It takes discipline.  You have to like it.   
    Still I see your point.  Algorithms are hard to do.  They aren’t perfect.  Look at Klout.  They get heat rounds every day.  A measure of influence?  Probably not.  But it’s a darn interesting marketing experiment and if they can prove measurable results, it’ll see the critics fall silent. 
    The best approach I think is a bit of algorithm with a bit of human intervention.  We should want that intervention; after all social is about people, not technology. Technology should have an adaptation to accept user feedback — more of this — less of that.  Imagine if we could do that with Google search results?  That would be personalized search.  And it’s coming…
    Oh, and my cop friend?  He’s a biker.  Watch out for the motorcycle cops this summer!

  13. arikhanson says:

     @douglaskarr You and me both…

  14. arikhanson says:

     @Frank_Strong I would argue you absolutely belong on a list like this? Looks at some of those other blogs I mentioned–your blog is every bit as informative and well-written as those. You need to give yourself more credit, Frank! 🙂 Oh, and I’ll keep an eye out for our friend when I’m cruising in my Nissan Rogue at 52 MPH on 35W …

  15. Frank_Strong says:

     @arikhanson Thanks for the kind words, Arik.  That only makes me want to try harder!  Cheers.

  16. ThePRCoach says:

    Arik, I’m late to this very useful discussion but thanks for your perspective. The problem with many PR lists is they do include many “social media” pros because that is a big part of PR. I can see the day when we’ll be calling ourselves social PR strategists. You can look at Traackr, Klout, GroupHigh and other tools that use algorithms and find a similar problem. They’re still useful as a starting point as long as they contain one other element – curation. I wonder if I’m on Cision’s Canadian list even though 80% of my readers are US based. Depends how you slice and dice the metrics. Without human judgment, they’re only one part of the search for influencers. Thanks again for a valuable conversation.

  17. leeodden says:

    I’ve been included and excluded from many, many blog lists over the past 8 years – interpretation and discussion are a very good thing when it comes to such lists because they are so subjective whether scored by people or software.
    When I’m not happy with a list I make one of my own as I did when ClickZ posted a list of social media rockstars with very few women included. I responded with “25 Women Who Rock Social Media”, two years running (we’re due for another) and those posts have been some of the most popular we’ve ever published.
    One thing in the post above that made me do a double take, was this:  “…technically folks like Chris Brogan, Lee Odden (Online Marketing Blog), Jason Falls’ Social Media Explorer and Jason Keath’s Social Fresh don’t cover PR or marketing”
    Chris, Jason and Jason can speak for themselves, but for Online Marketing Blog, marketing with a PR slant is exactly what we cover – for 8 years. Maybe the sky is pink and sugar is sour too 🙂
    I actually did an analysis of referring keyword traffic to the top 10 of Cision’s list to see how the most powerful list on the web “Google” perceived these blogs. The word clouds speak for themselves: with a huge “MARKETING” in the Online Marketing Blog word cloud.
    That keyword data is only from the past 180 days or so, but we’ve been covering a mix of marketing, PR, social and search longer than the vast majority of blogs in the category today.  For another view, I found that “PR” or “Public Relations” are terms included in over 2,400 posts. “marketing” is included in over 3,300 posts. I’m just not seeing the same thing as you are Arik, nor is Google.  Search for “online PR” or “online marketing” for example. 
    Calling Online Marketing Blog a site that doesn’t really cover marketing or PR is simply a mis-characterization.  

  18. LisaBarone says:

    @leeodden There were plenty of blogs on that list you could argue didn’t cover PR/marketing. @TopRank was not one of them, IMO.

  19. LisaBarone says:

    @leeodden Also, people are still fighting about who did/didn’t make blog lists? Really? 😉

  20. cuponismo says:

    @leeodden No – I think you guys are great.

  21. bradshorr says:

    @leeodden Been reading your blog for years. I’d describe it as content marketing/PR focused.

  22. leeodden says:

    @LisaBarone The inclusion/exclusion thing is funny. I just wonder about mis-characterization more than that. BTW, dm in a sec.

  23. arikhanson says:

     @leeodden Not sure I can disagree with that. After all, you did cite the Bible, uh, I mean, Google. I probably shouldn’t have included OMB with those other blogs, but I was looking for blogs that I perceive to be more about online and digital PR/marketing (and yours falls into that category for me–Google or no Google). Again, the line is pretty blurry. And, as you can see from this post, people have many different perceptions of which blogs cover which topics.

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