Pew Study Unmasks US Bloggers

The United States’ blogger population continues to explode, but who are the people behind the words?

About 12 million American adults, or roughly 8 percent of adult Internet users, blog; and 57 million American adults, or 39 percent of the online population, read blogs, according to surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. However, the people doing the blogging may not not necessarily match the images most have in mind.

A national phone survey of bloggers released by Pew this week helps unmask the millions of faceless writers whose content is weaving its way through the World Wide Web. The research finds that the ease and appeal of blogging is inspiring a new group of writers and content creators who wish to share their personal experiences with whomever is willing to read, look or listen.

Who Are These People?

Many people think the majority of bloggers are males who blog about political happenings, but the research found otherwise, according to Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at the Pew Internet and American Life Project and co-author of the report. The numbers actually are divided fairly evenly between men and women — 54 and 46 percent, respectively — who are focusing on things, places and events they encounter in their daily lives. “This report untaps some of the myths of who bloggers are and what they do,” Lenhart told TechNewsWorld.

Findings show that 77 percent of bloggers do it for self-expression. In fact, 37 percent cite self-expression as their primary reason for blogging. That’s compared to 11 percent of bloggers who say they do it to report or comment on politics and government, 7 percent on entertainment, 6 percent on sports, 5 percent on general news and current events, another 5 percent on business, 4 percent on technology, 2 percent on religion, spirituality or faith and additional smaller groups who focus on a specific hobby, health problem or other topics.

“Much of the … attention to bloggers has focused on the small number of high-traffic, A-list bloggers,” said Susannah Fox, associate director at Pew and co-author of the report. “By asking a wide range of bloggers what they do and why they do it, we have found a different kind of story about the power of the Internet to encourage creativity and community among all kinds of Internet users.”

Not About Money

Blogging is a hobby for most people, Lenhart explained, and the majority — 59 percent — are only spending one or two hours a week doing it. “It’s not the serious endeavor it was made out to be,” she said. Still, there exists a subset of people who blog for money, most of whom are older — over 50 — and are doing it with “a great awareness of their audience.” Roughly 15 percent cited making money as a reason for blogging and only 8 percent actually have made money doing so — and most of that income is negligible.

“Advertising on blogs is enough to buy them one latte a month versus freeing them from the shackles of the workplace,” Lenhart said. “This is not someone’s ticket to prosperity.”

Other findings of the survey show that bloggers are avid consumers of online news and information and are highly engaged with communicative tools such as instant messages, text messages and e-mails. About one-third of them are self-defined journalists, but many more still check facts and quote original sources.

“It’s part of your online identity, and if you care about being perceived as accurate and respected, people will be compelled to engage in these kinds of behaviors because they want people to trust them,” Lenhart said. “I don’t believe they are trying to be journalists, but they have similar values and similar desires.”

Beyond the Blog

Eighty percent of bloggers said they believe they will still be blogging a year from now. Online “bells and whistles” may be the wave of the future. Roughly 15 percent of bloggers are already adding video and 30 percent are including audio in their sites. As more people sign on for high-speed Internet access and acquire the necessary tools, Lenhart expects that number to increase.

Meanwhile, word will continue to spread as people within the community link to one another’s thoughts and ideas. “Sure you can get lost in the blogosphere if you wander far and wide, but that’s no different from navigating any other area of the Web,” Lenhart said. “Part of the fun of blogging and reading blogs is it allows you to discover new blogs all the time. It interconnects people in very intriguing ways and you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

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