Bloggers are a mostly young, racially diverse group of people who have never been published anywhere else and who most often use cyberspace to talk about their personal lives, according to a report on blogging released yesterday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The report also said that 8 percent of Internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog, and that 39 percent of Internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs.
“This is a decent portrait of the long tail of the blogosphere,” Lee Rainie, director of the project, said in an interview yesterday. “These are the average, everyday folks who blog. They are different from the A-list bloggers who get so much media attention. This is the first attempt or one of the first attempts at a representative sample of bloggers.”
The report, called “Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet’s New Storytellers,” relied on two telephone surveys conducted over the last year. The first survey, taken from July 2005 to February 2006, asked in-depth questions of 233 people, who were a nationally representative sample of bloggers. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 7 percent.
Additionally, from November 2005 to April 2006, 7,012 adults (including 4,753 Internet users) were surveyed by telephone. That survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent for the Internet users and 2 percent for the entire group.
Amanda Lenhart, the senior research specialist for the project, said that while the number of bloggers surveyed was not large, only 4 percent of all Americans have blogs.
“Certainly, as a research center, we get asked about blogging,’’ Ms. Lenhart said of the reason for the surveys. “It was something igniting the American consciousness. Blogs were perceived as having a big impact on politics, technology and journalism. We wanted to go in and see what bloggers were doing.”
Pew is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center based in Washington.
So far it appears that most bloggers view blogging as a hobby that they share with a few people, Ms. Lenhart said. “The new voices are being read in relatively limited spheres,’’ she said.
Among the report’s findings was that while many well-known blogs are political in nature, 37 percent of bloggers use them as personal journals. Among other popular topics were politics and government (11 percent), entertainment (7 percent), sports (6 percent) and general news and current events (5 percent). Only 34 percent of bloggers considered blogging a form of journalism, and most were heavy Internet users.
More than half of bloggers (54 percent) are under 30, the report said, evenly divided between men and women. More than half live in the suburbs, a third live in urban areas and 13 percent in rural areas. Bloggers, the report said, are also less likely to be white than the general Internet population: 60 percent are white, 11 percent are African-American, 19 percent are English-speaking Hispanic and 10 percent identify themselves as members of some other race. By contract, 74 percent of Internet users are white.
Despite a potentially vast audience in cyberspace, the Pew project found that 52 percent of bloggers said they blogged mostly for themselves. When asked for a major reason for blogging, 52 percent said it was to express themselves creatively and 50 percent said it was to document and share personal experiences.
Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Wired, a magazine about technology and culture, said the Pew report was accurate. “The finding that jumped out at me was the recognition that people are talking about the subjects that matter in their personal lives,” he said.
Mr. Anderson, the author of the book “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More” (Hyperion), said that the Pew report shows how the blogosphere is unlike traditional media. “It’s narrow, niche subjects,” he said. “It’s a granularity of media that we in the commercial media could not scale down to. Niche media is ‘me’ media, and the blogosphere is the ultimate manifestation of that.”
Published: July 20, 2006
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company