Survey describes blog life

Personal experience is the favored subject

July 20, 2006|By NICK MADIGAN | NICK MADIGAN,SUN REPORTER

A wide-ranging study of bloggers, the chattering class of the Internet, concluded that a mere 5 percent of them use news as their primary topic - a figure at odds with perceptions that blogging is remaking journalism.

The study, released yesterday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, reported that 37 percent of those surveyed cited their own life and experiences as primary fodder for their blogs. Eleven percent of the respondents said they blog regularly about politics and government; 7 percent about the entertainment world; 6 percent about sports, and lesser fractions on business, technology and faith.

"Blogs are as individual as the people who keep them, but this survey shows that most bloggers are primarily interested in creative, personal expression," Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher for the Internet project, said in a statement. "Blogs make it easy to document individual experiences, share practical knowledge or just keep in touch with friends and family."

That is, essentially, how blogs began in the mid-1990s, with Web surfers linking others to sites they found compelling. Some added remarks and commentaries to the links. By 1997, the expression "Web log" emerged, later contracted to "blog."

The Pew survey, one of several conducted by the group - an arm of the Pew Research Center - in the past few years to determine citizen involvement in cyberspace, estimated that 12 million American adults, or about 8 percent of Internet users, keep a blog. About 39 percent of Web users in the United States, or 57 million adults, read them. More than half of all bloggers, 54 percent, responded that they are younger than 30, the survey said.

Pew researchers called 233 bloggers between July 2005 and February this year and undertook additional, larger-scale telephone surveys through April. These follow-up surveys yielded a sample of 7,012 adults, which included 4,753 Internet users, 8 percent of whom are bloggers. The margin of error was 6.7 percent.

Fifty-four percent of the bloggers said they have never been published anywhere other than on their own blogs, while 44 percent said their work has been seen elsewhere.

More than three-quarters of bloggers, 77 percent, said they have posted something online that they created themselves, such as art, photographs or videos. By comparison, only 26 percent of Internet users in general have done so. Forty-four percent of the bloggers have taken material they found online - such as songs, text or images - and remixed it or altered it into their own artistic creation, the survey said, whereas only 18 percent of all Internet users normally do that.

Sixty-one percent of bloggers said they rarely or never get permission to use other people's copyrighted material.

Despite - or perhaps because of - the personal, even confessional nature of much of the blogosphere, 55 percent of bloggers write under a pseudonym, the study found. About 34 percent see their blogging as a form of journalism; 65 percent disagreed. Just over a third of the bloggers said they often conduct journalistically appropriate tasks such as verifying facts and linking to source material.

More than 40 percent of bloggers said they never quote sources or other media directly, and 11 percent said they post corrections. The survey found that men and women have statistical parity in the blogosphere, with men representing 54 percent of bloggers and women 46 percent. Forty percent are nonwhite.

Susannah Fox, the Internet project's associate director, said that much of the attention devoted to bloggers has focused on "a small number of high-traffic, A-list bloggers." 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," she said.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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