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Buzz tracking software firm BuzzLogic released a report yesterday, administered by Jupiter Research, which affirms the role of blogs in influencing purchasing behavior. These data come at a key time for BuzzLogic’s story, when Madison Avenue remains somewhat wary about advertising on blogs.

The survey “Harnessing the Power of Blogs” (n=2000) reported an overall 300 percent growth in monthly blog readership over the past four years. Forty-nine percent read at least one blog per month, and 71 percent read more than one blog per session.

These more frequent readers reported taking action 50 percent of the time after seeing an ad on a blog, while less frequent readers did so 40 percent of the time. Of those actions, 17 percent read a product reviews; 16 percent have sought out more information about a product; and 16 percent visited a manufacturer or retailer Web site (more data here).

Who Do You Trust?

Overall, a point of comparison in the report was the level of influence, relative to social networks. Twenty-five percent of readers say they trust ads on a blog, compared with 19 percent who trust ads on social networks.

Social media is getting more attention with the tools that MySpace and Facebook have integrated for advertisers to target users. Google has taken it a step further, as we examined a few weeks ago, with technology to identify top influencers within a social graph. The idea is to basically rank individuals, and value ad inventory accordingly — kind of the same idea behind Google’s core Page Rank technology.

This is just what BuzzLogic does, except it tracks these levels of influence throughout the social graph that is the blogosphere. It tracks who is linking to whom and who has the most influence over media consumption, political views, purchase decisions, etc.?

This can be valuable information for brand advertisers to plant themselves in the right places, and for PR professionals to track buzz around a certain topic or client. BuzzLogic has also integrated its buzz tracking engine into Google AdWords so marketers can run text ad campaigns that target AdSense publishers that have the most influence in the areas where their product applies.

“Let’s say you’re Microsoft and you’re marketing the Zune [portable music player],” Rob Crumpler, BuzzLogic’s president and CEO, told me last year. “You can find out where discussions are happening about scratches on an iPod screen, and then target your advertising in those places.”

What Does It Mean for Local?

The BuzzLogic/Jupiter data suggest that the blogosphere has evolved into a sort of middle ground where well-traveled blogs are seen as both credible and trustworthy.

Blogs, in other words, now exist somewhere between mainstream online sources and the closer connections one might have on Facebook. Mainstream media might be too distant or impersonal for some readers, while close connections on Facebook aren’t necessarily experts in certain fields (product reviews, for example).

So what can local learn from this? What is the equivalent of this trusted middle ground in the unique online local media picture? User reviews in places like Yelp are one possible answer, though reviewers pop up here and there and don’t have the continuity of a blog to gain trust.

Maybe local blogs themselves are the answer, but the fragmentation of local media causes there to be a lack of a blogging “brand” that is local enough to be credible, yet on a national scale. The closest answer may be Topix, which is scaled nationally and has lots of community editors in each ZIP code who have built up a certain degree of influence.

There are also a few sites that aggregate blogs based solely on location, such as and Placeblogger. The formula hasn’t been figured out 100 percent, but BuzzLogic’s data suggest there is a prize waiting for whoever can identify or plug influential voices into the local media picture. Weigh in if I’ve neglected any.

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