Saturday, March 12, 2005

Bloggers: Don't get too big for your britches

The bloggerati have been high on the hog lately, what with the takedowns of Rather and Eason and Gannon -- and all the attention suddenly heaped on the very valid question: "Are bloggers journalists?" (You know my answer -- basically, yes.)

So to sober things up a bit, I point to the latest results from The Gallup Organization, "Blogs Not Yet in the Media Big Leagues":

Three-quarters of the U.S. public uses the Internet at work, school, or home, but only one in four Americans are either very familiar or somewhat familiar with blogs (the shortened form of the original "Web logs"). More than half, 56%, have no knowledge of them. Even among Internet users, only 32% are very or somewhat familiar with blogs.
More to the point, fewer than one in six Americans (15%) read blogs regularly (at least a few times a month). Just 12% of Americans read blogs dealing specifically with politics this often. Among Internet users, the numbers are similarly low: 19% and 15%, respectively. (My note: Margin of error +/- 3 percent)
And there is this pungent comment, noting that it was in May 2002 that Andrew Sullivan wrote that blogs would be the next big thing:

Well, it has been almost three years, and, while blogging is certainly wielding some influence in media and political circles, traditional news outlets are still the dominant sources of information for the American public. (Blogging is also so new that the 2003 edition of Microsoft Word thinks it's a typo at this writing.)
Hey, but at least the results are a little better than Pew's survey reported in January that said 62 percent of those questioned didn't know what a blog is, right? Right?

In other words, don't break out the champagne yet, folks. Which is a good thing, because it shows again that a) The public is not a bunch of cats to be herded into "the next big thing" and b) Success more often comes from long attention to craft and accuracy. So will it be, I think, with "blogs." Those that gain currency will be the best of breed as distinguished by their long attention to detail, accuracy and relevance.

One other thing of note about this: As with others, the Gallup survey shows that if you want to reach the coveted younger Internet user, blogs probably have to be in your mix. And as Kevin Drum notes, even if we take the numbers at face value, we're probably talking in the tens of millions of adult Americans who are reading blogs at least occasionally.

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