Thursday, April 28, 2005

Who are bloggers? The Blogosphere Series - Part Two

This is the Blogosphere Series, Part Two, a look into bloggers.

Who are bloggers?
What are their Interests?
Why do they blog?
What makes them different from non-bloggers?
What encourages them to keep blogging?
Are they willing to spend their money to blog?

In Part Three of this series, I'll try to answer: "How do I get bloggers to blog about me?"

1) Who are these blogger-people?

CNN Reports that the majority of blog-readers are internet users between the age of 18-29, however they did not poll people under the age of 18, so this data is less accurate than it could be. It does show a trend for young people to be the most common readers of blogs, but also highlights that if a user of any age category uses the internet, then there is more than an 28% chance that they have read a blog sometime before.



A survey of bloggers and readers of blogs that carry BlogAd advertising showed that among other findings, 70% of bloggers are over 30 years old, 43% had family incomes greater than $90000 USD, 75% are men, 50% said blogs are their most useful source of information, 4.8% listen to podcasts weekly, 28% use RSS to read blogs, and 20% of readers are also bloggers.

2) What are bloggers blogging about?

On Dec 9, 2004, Media Culpa stated that, “I have checked a sample of 50 important RSS feeds of traditional media in the Nordic countries in the Bloglines system and it is clear that IT and news are what interests most subscribers, 84 per cent of all subscriptions are for IT and general news. Business, sports, culture and entertainment have far less subscribers. This is of course an effect of both supply and demand.”



The O'Reilly Radar picked up this Confusability blog that lists the Top 100 folders that Bloglines users use to categorize their blogs of interest. Not surprisingly, the Top 5 were: Blogs, News, Tech, Technology, and People. Followed by Politics, Friends, and Comics. Java was 17th, Business 22nd, Sports 24th, and Knitting beat out Marketing by taking the 37th and 42nd spots respectively.

3) Why do bloggers... blog?

Defining exactly why people blog is not an easy task. Perhaps it is better to start by analyzing why people read blogs first, and then look at why people write them after.



In this blogads survey from March 2005, the timing and content of blogs (faster news, news I can’t find elsewhere) was important to readers, but perhaps more important was the source from which the news was delivered (Better perspective than a reporter, more honest, and with transparent biases). This supports the ideas of Jeremy Wright and Darren Barefoot that describe ‘objectivity’ as the currency of journalism, and ‘authenticity’ as the currency of bloggers. Perhaps the fact that 43.8% of blog readers are interested in “transparent biases” shows the decline of true objectivity in the journalist trade. This could either be because people are beginning to distrust the current level of objectivity in news-providers, or because people value opinions that support their own, and like to hear such information.

This begins to open the door into the bloggers mind, showing a glimpse of why they blog. The idea that their opinion is valuable and desired by other humans makes blogging an attractive social outlet. That they can also gain a reputation among a community of peers, build a business, interact more closely with their customers, and stay connected with their family and friends increases the attractiveness. A Feb 18th, 2005 survey of blogware users stated the reasons why people blog are:

40% - To let the world know what I think!
30% - To stay connected with family and friends.
15% - To build a better relationships with my customers.
10% - To share ideas and projects with coworkers/employees.
5% - To store and share photos online.

Though this survey had a low number of respondents (32), it had some other interesting findings, including the fact that 34% of the respondents had been blogging for more than 2 years (while 25% began within the last 3 months), and that these users would prefer to see blogware blogs listed by topic, category, author, and location of author rather than one of these individually. People who read blogs want them to be organized, and relevant to their interest. This is another reason why aggregators will be more popular.

This comes back to the number of people who are interested in blogs for the speed with which they can find information, and the fact that they can’t find that info elsewhere. An extension of this will be “semantic” tools that explain the web, based not on the hyperlinks throughout it, but by the information contained within the pages on those links. The condition implied on these semantic tools, is that they will need to be fast, simple, and allow users to pull desired information and information sources (eg via RSS).

Simply, users need fast access to important information that is easily searchable and organized. Participators need to feel like they are making a difference, to know that others are listening to them, and to gain respect or a reputation among their communities.

4) How are bloggers different from muggles?

Hepnar.org lists 15 traits believed to be common among all bloggers, but I’ve shortened his list and made comments:


3. Other people listen to what they have to say (on the net).

This inspires bloggers to build online presence

6. They read other people's blogs for inspiration.


7. They generally have a basic knowledge of CSS and/or HTML..
As blogging hits the mainstream, this is likely to become less important

8. They learn about other members of the blogosphere by reading that person's
blog.
They initially learn about other members via the comments that person makes on a blog, or as a recommendation from a blogger they respect.

10. A presence on the Internet is fulfilling for them.
Bloggers are spending time on the computer instead of in the pub or with their family. This online presence helps them to feel respected, intelligent, appreciated, and stimulated by their interactions with other people there.

11. They are generally a bit geeky.
12. Have a basic knowledge of computer skills.
13. Are proud members of the blogosphere and are passionate about blogging.

They may be geeky, but they are not ashamed of it (online at least)

15. Stand by their opinions and respect other members of the blogosphere and people in general.



People have learned that if they make stupid comments, or begin “flame wars” on blogs, then their comments will be removed. Once the thrill of irritating someone is removed, they cease the practice.

He goes on to say “I'll continue to look for similarities between members of the blogosphere, not only because I think it's interesting, but because it's like Social Studies (I have a point, I promise...). It's like learning more about your culture. It's fun!” His quote shows how #13 is applicable.

However as blogs progress into the mainstream, the trends of bloggers is likely to change. Some predictions include:

  • The mainstreamers will not blog obsessively, all day, every day. Blogs will be a tool and a facet of their lives, not their lives. I think most mainstream blogs will average annually ~2 posts/week.
  • They want convenience. The better the tools/software services, the more convenient it will be for them to blog and the more they will blog.
  • They are looking for the classic “whole product” and do not want to fuss w/difficult to use/unintegrated technologies.
  • There is no joy in perl scripting for them. Blogs will become, as Jason observed, the new business card/CV and also the new refrigerator door. People will update the world on their careers in the professional section of their blogs. They will update their friends in the personal areas.
  • Pictures/galleries and filesharing posts will become at least as important text-oriented posting.
  • As they post more and more of their lives online, they will start to demand ways to safeguard and secure all the work they have done.
  • Next-gen blogrings/community/affinity groups will become more important and will create their own mini-blogospheres, complete w/powerlaw distributions
  • Folksonomies will become a concept everyone can understand and will surprise everyone w/how they evolve.

The last two predictions seem the most interesting for the future. People are already listing “respected bloggers” on the sidebars of their own blogs. Because no one expects to be the next Scoble, people will form into their own groups, comprised of opinion leaders, thought-followers, nay-sayers, and passive readers, for topics that interest them most.

This blog has become incredibly long, so I'll save the last few questions for the next post in the series.
1) What encourages them to keep blogging?
2) Are they willing to spend their money to blog?
3) How can I get bloggers to blog about me/ my company/ my service?

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