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Pew Survey of Bloggers: Who is Blogging

There’s been a lot of talk a while ago about the Pew’s survey of bloggers, and here are some of the interesting comments I found on the subject recently.

Buzz Machine’s “Who the hell are we, anyway?” brought up the issue of blogging verses journalism.

…someone you’d know plopped down in a chair in front of me and said: ‘So explain to me why most bloggers don’t consider themselves journalists.’

Easy, I said. I’ve long argued that we shouldn’t assume that bloggers want to be reporters. Sometimes some of them do. But mostly, blogs are just people talking. That’s my essential definition of the form: people in conversation. And when you see blogs through that light, you have to relate to them differently: Your customers, voters, neighbors, students, audience are talking and only a fool wouldn’t want to listen. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the journalism in them.

I also said that what confuses the pros is that acts of journalism are mixed in with moments of life. One minute, I may report some news or comment on it, but the next moment, I’ll complain about Dell. To bloggers, this makes sense. Journalists have trouble figuring it out; they think that something journalistic must be purely journalistic.

…In short: Blogs are different keystrokes for different folks. There is no monolithic motive for blogging. And what that really means is that we are approaching the point where measuring what bloggers as bloggers do is pointless, like measuring why typists type or phoners phone or talkers talk. That, to me, is the most valuable insight from the Pew study.

A Thaumaturgical Compendium found the following of interest in the survey:

They keep blogs largely for a variety of reasons, and I found this part of the report particularly interesting. A few things of note here:

* The most popular major reason for keeping a blog was creative expression and sharing a document of your life. Half of bloggers saw this as the major reason for blogging, and 78% were driven by personal experiences to blog.

* A large proportion saw blogging as a way to stay in touch with friends or family (37% major reason), or network and meet new people (34% minor reason).

* Only 15% thought of it as a way of making money.

* Of particular interest to some of the work I’m doing now, 34% saw “sharing practical knowledge or skills” as a major reason for blogging, and 30% found it a minor reason.

Interestingly, over-30 bloggers tend to have one-topic blogs, while younger bloggers are a bit of everything. When people ask me how to have a popular blog, I generally tell them to narrowly specialize. I wonder if this is a genre bias of us old folks. I mean, it may just be that wide-audience blogs need to be topically narrow, but it may also be that this is true mainly because of our assumptions about media.

Blogger Alex Halavais may have a point, but if you want to be known anywhere for being an expert in anything, you better blog with a narrow focus. If you just want attention and traffic, and you aren’t picky about being an expert in anything or creating a strong repeat readership, well, nowadays, anything goes.

An interesting point that caught my eye was the point “that the blogosphere is only 60% white, and evenly divided among men and women. This probably runs counter to the intuitions of many bloggers, who assume the blogosphere is a white man thing.” With 50% women, it isn’t a “man thing”, and there is a definite increase in non-whites blogging, especially as blogging reaches non-white countries and cultures. And how do you know that a blogger is white, brown, yellow, black, or even green? In some cases, you don’t even know if they are male or female, young or old. The one thing the blogosphere does for the world is break down huge barriers where skin, religion, sex, age, and other discriminating surface factors have little impact.

KB Cafe – The RSS Blog also made a good point about the lack of education regarding feeds as reported in the Pew survey on blogging:

I suspect the truth is that nearly 82% of bloggers don’t know they are offering an RSS feed as most all of the blogging platforms now provide a default RSS feed.

Honestly, don’t you all know what feeds are yet? Get to know them. They are your friend and the future of the web.

As we enter a new year, blogging will become even more popular and pervasive, expanding worldwide. So it will be interesting to see how this “blogging thing” goes in the next 12 months as anyone and everyone can share their opinion on the web.

So have you read the Pew survey or other bloggers’ comments about it? What do you think about the survey? Do you think it’s a fair assessment of what blogging looks like today? How do you think it will change in the near future? In the long range future? Do you represent their findings? What do you think?

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

3 Comments

  1. Posted December 23, 2006 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    In a way, there is no need to ‘know’ who is blogging. If a blog is interesting, well informed and meets the needs of its readers, it’s doing its job. Like you say, a fantastic way to break down perceived barriers. It’s only a shame that we need an ‘anonymous’ forum to make this happen.

    As for the narrow/wide focus divide, I find the age of 30 to be an interesting cut-off and not one that I particularly agree with. I think that focus is more to do with what you want to achieve with your blog. I have three blogs each serving a particular purpose. One is with my fiancée and is used mainly to stay in touch with a widely-dispersed family so the focus is narrow on us and our readership will stay at around 5. My personal blog contains pretty much a bit of everything and has no particular direction. My pub review blog receives most of my attention and is necessarily focussed on pubs and real ale. I don’t want to make money from these blogs and I’m not particularly bothered about who is reading them. I blog for the fun of it and for sharing a small part of what I know to whoever may stumble across the posts in the fullness of time.

  2. Posted December 23, 2006 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I have browsed through the Pew blogger study findings before. I am most interested in people of baby boomer age (42-60) becoming bloggers. The word on the street is that more people in this demographic are getting into it. But I know that among my friends who use the Internet regularly, NONE of them know what an RSS feed is! It’s gonna be a long road, I’m afraid.

  3. Posted December 23, 2006 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle,
    What I like most about blogs is the fact they can be used in so many different ways, by so many different niches. Blogs are a medium.

    One of the aspects of blogs that I think will attract more attention is their ability to provide a much more authentic view of a *business* than a more traditional website. The nature of the blog medium – involving a personal voice, establishing a conversation (through comments and trackbacks) and providing historical perspective – means that it really lets a business put its cards on the table. So a small business that blogs might not get a lot of traffic, and will never be a top ranking site in Alexa or Technorati. But when a potential customer checks out their blog, they get an insight into the company that is hard to achieve otherwise. And this may mean the small business gets a new customer they woudn’t otherwise have had. Very important for the small business. Big business has armies of sales folk and ‘shoe leather’ driven relationship models. Well, now small business has blogs to compete with the sales army.

    Small business blogging doesn’t show up as a major use of blogging in Pew or elsewhere (it pales into insignificance compared to the numbers found in personal blogging). But doesn’t mean it isn’t very important to small business. We are in the era of The Long Tail, and niches are where it gets interesting.

    Glenn Nicholas, PublicityShip


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