As a blogger, I’m apparently in the minority in more ways than one (I speak here as one of the Reveres and for myself only). A telephone survey done by the Pew Internet and American Life project estimates that half of bloggers are below the age of 30 (not me, alas), are interested in blogging as a form of self-expression (not me, alas), documenting personal experiences or sharing practical knowledge (not usually) or just keeping in touch with friends and family (like they read our blog, right?). More than half live in the suburbs (nope) and are equally split between men and women (the Reveres don’t divulge personal details). They are less likely to be white than the general population of internet users (60% versus 74%). Only 11% of blogs focus on government or politics. We are therefore in the small minority who do. Most bloggers have never published anything before and don’t consider themselves writers. Again we are different in that all the Reveres have written and published extensively. In one way, however, we are in the majority. 55% of bloggers post under a pseudonym. More beneath the fold . . .
Most bloggers spend less than 10 hours a week at it (don’t we wish we were in that category). In fact, most spend only a couple hours a week maintaining their blogs and they don’t do it for money, for politics or for ambition. the fact that few do it for money isn’t surprising because you can’t really make money doing this. You can’t even come close to breaking even. Because the most common reason given for blogging is to express thoughts creatively, blogging has brought a whole new set of voices into the public sphere. Some of them are truly talented writers. Once seduced into the blogging world, bloggers also not only create new content but consume it as well, especially political news, even if neither their blog nor their interests are political. Obviously they are also heavy users of the internet.
Interestingly, few of them see blogging as a public activity, although it is in fact very public. I still remember how surprised I was when I first started blogging to see the really intimate thoughts expressed in many blogs. I began my blogging career on Blogger, mainly because it was so ridiculously easy to start a blog and I wanted to see what it was like. One feature of blogs hosted on the Blogspot service is a little button on the menu bar, “Next Blog,” which takes you to a random blog hosted on the Blogspot server. I never used it myself, but in looking at my referrer logs I began to see readers coming to my blog from other blogspot sites that never linked to me and had nothing to do with public health. They were the random stops of the Next Blog buttons. And what I found astounded me.
Now I know from what Mrs. R. says and my own knowledge that personal diaries are commonly kept by young girls. They are extremely private, kept hidden and often destroyed post adolescence out of embarrassment or fear of discovery (boys don’t keep diaries; I’m not sure why). Imagine my surprise to find these extremely intimate personal logs being kept by pre-teen and early teen girls for all to see on the internet. I only looked at a few because reading them was too painful and often made me feel like a voyeur, but they were the kind of thing you might expect. Trouble with parents, boy friends, girl friends, loneliness, feelings of rejection, the whole mess of adolescent sufferings most of us spend a lifetime successfully forgetting. It was truly amazing. Apparently there is a good readership for them, too.
The Pew survey was limited to those over 18 and they estimate that 8% of web users (12 million adults over the age of 18), keep a blog, and that an impressive 40% of internet users read blogs. This is a significant increase in readership over the past year. Both blog writers and blog readers are heavily skewed toward the younger age group, so old geezers like ourselves but who don’t read blogs are now getting a different stream of information than our younger counterparts. Whether it is better or worse, more or less accurate varies from user to user. But there is no doubt it is more diverse than conventional information outlets. The idea that people use blogs as an echo chamber is belied by the huge range of subjects, links and cross references the medium allows. Even if you only read right wing blogs or left wing blogs or mommie blogs or financial blogs there is so much link out you are invariably exposed to other points of view, if only in the form of denunciations. In conventional media those other perspectives aren’t even mentioned. In the blogosphere they are not only mentioned but you usually have immediate access to the original.
I’d say that was an improvement. But then I’m a blogger.
You can read the report of the Pew Survey here (.pdf).