Research Project could show, how to use Weblogs as a solid Infrastructure for Viral Marketing

Wired reports about an interesting research project at the Hewlett Packard Information Dynamics Lab: based on data from Intelliseek's BlogPulse researchers there are trying to figure out, how certain pieces of information (more specifically: URLs) are being spread through the blogosphere.

They are especially interested in building a model which can explain why and how certain "ideas grow from isolated topics into full-blown epidemics that "infect" large populations."

The project is still in a very early stage and the "Blog Epidemic Analyzer" on its website is only based on a very narrow period of three weeks in May 2003. But there are already some interesting results:
When they plotted the links and topics shared by various sites, they discovered that topics would often appear on a few relatively unknown blogs days before they appeared on more popular sites.

"What we're finding is that the important people on the Web are not necessarily the people with the most explicit links (back to their sites), but the people who cause epidemics in blog networks," said researcher Eytan Adar.

These infectious people can be hard to find because they do not always receive attribution for being the first to point to an interesting idea or news item.
To solve this problem HP researchers are working on a new algorithm called iRank:
Unlike Google's PageRank algorithm, which ranks websites based on overall popularity, the iRank algorithm ranks sites based on how good they are at injecting ideas into the mainstream. (...)"
Very interesting ! If they are successful, a new blog search engine using the iRank algorithm could for example make viral marketing campaigns, which are now usually random and chance-driven, much more predictable...