Linking to Michael yesterday set off a bell or two. He noted, back when the referral storm hit, two things. First, that he was glad he’s gone to a hosted service (he uses Typepad), for which, hoorah; and that he was rightly concerned about bandwidth costs. People gave immediately, however, and he was well able to bear the cost.

The fellow I linked to yesterday via Manuel, Tom, noted that his site’s unexpected traffic growth had led to worries about bandwidth costs, costs that he’s defraying via a gift from his grandma!

When a blogger’s work becomes successful enough to, for a moment, graze the underbelly of commercial publishing, it threatens the very low-cost predicate of the publication itself.

Setting aside for the moment the absurdity of the situation, which is clear, it seems to me that over the past few years we’ve seen this exact phenomenon occur over and over again. I’m guessing, now that media people have integrated the blogosphere into their information gathering practices, we’ll see it with greater frequency and to more devastating effect over time.

Therefore, I think that two things need to happen. First, I think there is a proactive business opportunity for the right business to defray these transient bandwidth costs, probably in the form of short term ads on the sites that are experiencing the bolus. The obvious home for the service is in Nick Denton‘s portfolio or, maybe more sensibly, as a default feature for Typepad, Movable Type, and for premium-style accounts at Blogger, since the free accounts already have banners.

I won’t go further down that branch at the moment, but I will note that it might even be cooler yet if this feature enabled Google keyword ads. Maybe it should be an independent service, or a program that the keyword service provides for bloggers, who are currently more or less specifically discouraged from using it.

Back to my original thought.

Can we assemble a large enough sample set to generalize about traffic spikes and retention for bloggers from the various events over the past two years? I’m guessing we’d need a sample set of twenty-four events, from things like Michael’s twenty-four hours to Mahir’s moment in the sun (which is probably too long ago to get data on) to the effects of things such as being linked from instapundit or having your site or name mentioned in a media outlet such as the NYT.

The objective would be to develop predictive data, very generalized, allowing folks in the future that experience such an event to look at some pretty simple tables and decide what to do. I’m guessing we could establish percentile growth parameters for various kinds of events which would allow site-maintainers to reasonably project the shape and duration on the increased traffic.

Is this possible? What’s the best way to gather data? Should it be a data-gathering website? Or should that simply be a component?

During the dot-com boom, I saw studies on topics like this from all kinds of sources, but they were all terribly flawed, usually by the desire to predict huge market growth to justify absurd pricing to the end user or to attract VC dough or to prop up earnings and so forth if it was post-IPO. Of course, at the same time, many of these studies also were using infinitesimal user and traffic bases to develop their growth and usage projections – sometimes smaller than the traffic bases we see for blogs in general – which suggests another set of studies. Hm.

My impression is that there’s a kind of 80-20-10 on daily traffic to blogs: 80 percent or more get fewer than 100 site visitors daily; about 20 percent get between 100 and n site visitors daily, and 10 percent or less get n-plus site visitors daily. I also suspect the curve that one could plot against this simple distribution is logarithmic, based on what I know about traffic fall-off in click-throughs.