19 July 2006


Who are bloggers?

According to the results of a survey of nearly 5000 internet users released today by the PEW Internet & American Life Project, there aren't all that many surprises in answer to the question. But there are a few.

In an effort to continue our thinking about the digital beyond—and specifically the possibilities for alternative prose writers and publishers there—here are some of the highlights from the report:

  • 8% of internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog; 39% of internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs.
  • 37% of bloggers cite "my life and experiences" as a primary topic of their blog; in other words, we may have something like a digital analogy for the unthinking and narcissistic narrativity of most pedestrian and parochial memoirs here—only without even an attempt at editing.
  • 11% of bloggers cite politics and government as the main subject of their blog. Entertainment-related topics were the next most popular blog-type, with 7% of bloggers, followed by sports (6%), general news and current events (5%—isn't that extraordinary?), business (5%), technology (4%), religion, spirituality or faith (2%), a specific hobby or a health problem or illness (each comprising 1% of bloggers—among which irrational numbers, somewhere between underwater basket weaving and leprosy, I'm afraid, Now What would find a place).
  • The most distinguishing characteristic of bloggers is their youth. More than half (54%) of bloggers are under the age of 30.
  • Like the internet population in general, bloggers are evenly divided between men and women, and more than half live in the suburbs.
  • Bloggers are less likely to be white than the general internet population. 60% percent of bloggers are, while 11% are African American, 19% are English-speaking Hispanic and 10% identify as some other race. By contrast, 74% of internet users are white, 9% are African American, 11% are English-speaking Hispanic and 6% identify as some other race.
  • Despite the public nature of creating a blog, most bloggers view it as a personal pursuit. 52% of bloggers say they blog mostly for themselves, not for an audience—but then why, I wonder, don't they simply keep diaries?
  • One in ten bloggers spends ten or more hours per week on his or her blog; most spend about two hours.
  • 52% of bloggers say they do so mainly to "express themselves creatively."
  • Only 34% believe the blog is a form of journalism, and only 56% of bloggers attempt to verify "facts" they include in their posts. Duck and cover: thought and argument have given way to bloviation and bluster.


Davis Schneiderman said...

Well, the answer for us--clearly--is to become a religion-oriented blog. There simply aren't enough.


Lance Olsen said...

I think you're on to something, Davis.

We can call it Saint Peter the Impossible and focus exclusively on our own mystical experiences of The Divine coupled with conspiracy theories (garnered from a Ouija board read by C.I.A. operatives on acid) surrounding Mel Gibson's sequel to The Passion, all in a snarky tone and deeply hip if embarrassingly clunky style that spells "for" "4," "you" "U," and "late" "L8."

Do that, and I'm pretty sure readers will flock to us.

It's a worth a shot, anyway.

In the meantime, doesn't reading some of those stats serve to remind us (as if we needed the mnemonic nudge) what being marginalized really feels like from the inside out?

Anonymous said...

Well, I really do think that there are other options which haven't yet been explored (if the NOW WHAT collective really, really wishes to be a "popular" blog, that is). If 37% of bloggers are focused on "my life and experiences" - by far the greatest number of savvy (perhaps) netizens on the list - then why not make this the NOW WHAT META[FICTIONAL] MEMOIRS blog and beat the bloggers (and perhaps even the NY publishers) at their own game? Every day/week would see a post written in first person (though this would be a collective effort, of course) describing the everyday lives and times of an innovative fiction writer/publisher/artist/all-of-the-above, a sort of "reality [T.V.] blog," if you will, for Truly Intelligent Individuals (TII). This creative effort (see the second-to-last bullet point on Lance's list) would afford the blog's readers a true "voyeur's-eye view" into the fascinating, exotic world of what it's really like to create/revise/rerevise/etc. ones "Art"; to receive multiple rejection letters for work that has been slaved over for months, if not years; to lose sleep over word choices/nuances; etc. etc. (Perhaps one of the publishers on this blog would like to make his/her own list describing the world of running/maintaining a small press?) Sounds like a bestseller to me.

Seriously, though, Lance brings up an interesting point about bloggers blogging "for themselves" and yet, ironically, also posting such (potential) inanities (though not always) about their everyday lives publicly. It seems to me that, despite what people say when responding to a survey such as the one described here, there's a very human need to have ones "thoughts" viewed (and, implicitly, approved) by others. The blogging system I use, for instance, allows for both public and private (i.e. "locked") posts that only a defined set of users may read, and so can potentially be employed as a hybrid mass e-mailing system for close friends living in various parts of the globe. I think that more people are now opting for multiple blogs (which is a bit like having multiple e-mail addresses, or multiple websites; i.e. one "personal," one "business") on which they post different types of content.

Just a few scattered thoughts about this phenomenon. Be forewarned, however. I haven't verified all of my "facts." ;)


Carol Novack said...

oy, you're all giving me a headache. excuse me while i commune with trees. unlike trees, blogging shall pass. extension of narcissistic me generation yawn stuff though aspiring to much as humans are want to do. yes of course "one" needs an audience. clap clap. it's hot and wet. where's the air? where's the rest room?

Carol Novack said...

and what's more --

my skin is not chocolate or mocha or coffee colored.

i do not live in any suburbs.

i am way over 30.

i do not use any of the blog descriptives cited in this alleged survey.

blogging is another thing to do that keeps me from becoming as famous as gertrude stein and half as happy.

the excruciating needs of the individual to express her/himself are evident. and the results of such needs are equally excruiciating. aside from which, as we all know, there simply isn't enough time, enough time....

i hate surveys. i i i i.

how many people want to know what i did today? after all, i am neither what's his name nor what's her name.

Lydia Netzer said...

37% of bloggers include the words, "Aw, gee, I hate writing these things," in their profiles.

83% of bloggers leave fatuous ass-kissing marginally-relevant comments on other people's blogs in the hopes of generating traffic for their own blogs.

2% of bloggers actually do have really cool things in their own actual navels.

Davis Schneiderman said...

Ah gee, I hate responding to these posts.

You've made some great points, Lostcheerio.

Hey, check out the "Now What" blog for more on the subject.

Ted Pelton said...

I loved a piece I heard on the radio yesterday. A teenage girl was complaining that her mom read her blog. She wanted it to remain private and had kept it password protected, but her mother had read it while the daughter left it open while was on the phone. In her defense, the mother said her daughter was far more articulate on her blog and that she now understood better the daughter's feelings during a recent argument when the daughter had not been articulate face-to-face. The daughter asked whether her mom had been upset with what she saw there; the mother said that she had been, briefly, but that therapy was helping.