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2008 November 3 - 12:00 am

TECHNOLOGY TODAY: Report Says Internet Blogs Growing in Popularity, Influence

One of the most curious recent trends in Internet communication are blogs, these Web logs where people let their hair down and reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings to the world, or whoever happens upon their words.

Technorati (www.technorati.com), an Internet search engine for blogs, may be the best site for tracking the state of the blogosphere, the world of blogs in the aggregate. It recently released its latest “State of the Blogosphere” report, revealing some interesting, and surprising, findings. Among the most interesting tidbits:

  • Bloggers are educated and affluent. Three out of four U.S. bloggers are college graduates, 42 percent have attended graduate school and more than half have a household income $75,000 or more.
  • Bloggers skew toward males, singles, and self-employed. While 50 percent of Internet users in the U.S. are male, 57 percent of bloggers are male. While 19 percent of Internet users are single, 26 percent of bloggers are single. While only 8 percent of Internet users are self-employed, 20 percent of bloggers are self-employed.
  • Most bloggers write about multiple topics, with personal and professional issues being equally popular. The average number of topics covered in a blog is five, with the five most popular being personal/lifestyle, technology, “other,” news, and politics.
  • The top reason for blogging is “speaking my mind on areas of interest.” This is followed by “sharing my expertise and experiences with others” and “meeting and connecting with like-minded people.”
  • Most bloggers don’t hide their identity. Two-thirds of bloggers openly reveal who they are on their blogs, while one-third worry about their privacy. The two biggest reasons for hiding their identity are concern about family and friends being harassed and possible disapproval from friends, family, or employers about the views they express.
  • Among professional and corporate bloggers, the most frequently cited benefit is becoming better known in their industry. A small minority reported negative results. Nine percent of bloggers said as a result they weren’t as focused at work, and 2 percent said they were fired or put on probation because of something they blogged about.
  • The majority of bloggers don’t make money from their blogs. But 15 percent of bloggers report that their blog is a source of supplemental income, and 4 percent say that that they consider their blog to be their full-time job. For those who reach lots of people, 100,000 or more unique visitors per month, the average annual revenue is more than $75,000.
  • For many veteran bloggers, the above $75,000 statistic leaves them scratching their heads. In his own popular “Practical Technology” blog (http://practical-tech.com), Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols maintains that because the Technorati numbers are self-reported, they’re likely inflated.

Blogging is not an easy way to get rich, he says. “You can easily make more money by working at the fast-food joint of your choice.” On the other hand, he said, “If you love writing about a subject that you love, go for it.”
It’s clear, though, that if you want to make money from blogging, you need to attract readers in terms of both quantity and quality. Sponsors will pay a lot more for reaching the same number of Fortune 500 executives than college students or mixed martial arts fans.

There’s also no escaping blogging as a societal phenomenon. Newspapers, which see the blogosphere as competition, have taken to blogging in a big way. According to the Bivings Group (www.bivings.com), an Internet communications firm, 95 percent of the top 100 U.S. newspapers supplement their commentary with reporter blogs.

The marketing and political worlds have also jumped on the bandwagon, using blogs, sometimes surreptitiously, to spread the word about their product, service, or candidate.

Blogs, whether earnestly home-spun or slyly promotional, have never enjoyed a great reputation for reliable information. In one conversation about blogging in an online discussion group run by the Internet Press Guild (www.netpress.org), one participant remarked that he thought people were supposed to know something about a subject to blog about it.

A second participant said: “I don’t know about that. I think the great thing about blogging is that it puts publishing in everyone’s reach. You can blog about whatever you want. Expertise is not required.”

A third agreed: “You think bloggers should actually know something? That would take all the fun out of it.”
And a fourth participant piped in: “I’m living proof of that.” 

Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at reidgold@comcast.net or www.reidgoldsborough.com.

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