Umbria Hears the Blogs

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Blogging is the new black. Everyone is doing it.

According to a study presented by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association in June, more than one-third of all Internet users blog or post to online forums, creating a new message every second.

The association reported that 36 percent of home broadband users older than 30 regularly post blogs, as do 51 percent of those younger than 30. Marketers are looking for ways to harness the potential of all this information.

"It can be overwhelming having to listen to so many voices," said Janet Eden-Harris, CEO of market intelligence firm Umbria Inc., Boulder, CO. "Marketers need to focus their attention on what relevant consumers are saying."

Ms. Eden-Harris compared this to a hard-of-hearing person in a room full of people. This person has to turn up his hearing aid to tune in the person he is speaking with and tune out the background noise.

Umbria does this listening for clients like Gatorade, Wild Oats and Google AdSense. The firm analyzes the perceptions and opinions of the online community and translates this into marketing information.

Its Umbria Accent Platform studies blogs by exploring the rapidly changing topics online, finding spam and determining blogger demographics based on language and behavior.

The project for Gatorade found information in the blogs that no one was looking for. Apparently, many online writers use Gatorade as a mixer for alcoholic cocktails. Though Gatorade has not decided to launch a mixer, it is a way for the firm to understand how its products are being used and therefore how to target its audience.

Google AdSense drew even more interesting findings. Of the 120,000 blogs that were studied for the company, valid consumers wrote only 10,000, Ms. Eden-Harris said. The rest of the content was created by advertisers, which Umbria identified with its series of algorithmic filters.

"Spam in the blogosphere is a large part of the increase in bloggers," she said.

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