Technorati is a system used to track, rank, and search the blogosphere which now includes 57 million blogs. They recently came out with a state of the union post on the blogosphere itself which is a pretty interesting read, albeit a little on the long/complicated side.
One section of the post hopped out at me. They did some work on trying to correlate certain events with overall "success" of a blog. Their definition of "success" is a function of the number of other blogs linking to your blog within the last six months. The blogs are broken down into low, middle, high, and very high authority based on the overall number of links into them within the six month window. The thing that jumped out at me was how closely correlated the success/authority of the blog is with the age of the blog itself. Despite throwing out data that is greater than six months old, the older the blog the more likely it is to gain very high authority.
I can imagine a myriad of reasons for this. Over time you get more people linking to you from their sites/blogs that produce traffic that builds (particularly if on blogrolls) slowly over time. The blog starts getting noticed by Google around consistent themes over time as well, so that when someone comes onto Google to search on a certain term, your blog starts moving up the list and gets clicked on more frequently. Dharmesh's OnStartups blog has been around for just over a year and now gets more than a third of its traffic from natural searches on Google. Both of these effects are cumulative and climb steadily, so that even if your content does not get any more interesting or frequent, the baseline readership tends to increase.
One other point of interest from the report was that there are 100,000 (that's not a typo) new blogs created every day. I suspect the vast majority of these are being started by individuals, not businesses, but that will likely change in the coming year or so making the pile you will need to climb over even higher if you start then. This is another reason the age of the blog matters because there is more and more competition in the blogosphere and more competition to get into people's RSS readers.
If you are running a small business in a niche market, I recommend you get the process started of creating a blog sooner, rather than later. A blog is a tool that can help you "attract" prospects through links and natural search that will likely be interested in your company's offerings. A blog is a way for you to "engage" with your prospects enabling them to self-qualify for your offering. Lastly, when someone visits your website (brochureware), they often just come once and never return, but a blog gives them the ability (through RSS) to subscribe to anything new that comes out and a reason (fresh content) to come back for more.
Have you started a blog for your business yet? If not, why not? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments.