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January 21, 2005

Every Computer Has a Calculator

My Northern New Jerseyian mother sent along a paper clipping of a piece from the Bergen Record titled "Bustling blogosphere gets hype, not readers." (That link requires free registration, but Jeff Goldstein has reprinted the whole thing.) The headline goes a bit beyond staff writer Brian Kladko's take, but the article is still a typical mainstream media minimization of blogs:

If you're not keeping a blog, or at least reading them, you're hopelessly behind the times, right?

Well, don't panic. A survey released Sunday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 62 percent of Internet users don't really know what blogs are.

The survey reveals that blogs, as interesting as they may be to journalists, have yet to capture the imagination - or the eyeballs - of the general public.

Presumably as a representative of "the general public," Kladko quotes a local pastor as finding blogs to be "a waste of time" compared with the "insightful commentary" of ye olde media. (A mystery of journalism: how and why do they find such apparently random people?) Mining the article for data, however, one finds that the number of "men on the street" who would give a different answer hardly justifies the suggestion that this "growing diversion" is not attracting readers:

The percentage of Internet users who say they read blogs - short for "Web logs" - jumped from 17 percent in February to 27 percent in November. And the percentage of users who have created blogs rose from 5 percent to 7 percent.

Technorati, a search engine company devoted to blogs, estimates there are more than 5 million blogs on the Web - three times the number in February. ... The Pew survey found that 12 percent of Internet users have posted comments or other material on other users' blogs.

Accepting all of these numbers and mixing in population data (assumed constant), we can calculate back the number of Internet users as 71.4 million and the number of blog readers as 19.3 million, or 6.6% of the population. For a little perspective, the popular vote in the 2004 presidential election totaled 117.9 million, and Bush led by only 3.3 million.

Yes, more people have blogs than decided the popular vote victory. Assuming all bloggers are readers, about three times as many people just read blogs as write them. And the readers are increasing more rapidly than the writers. At what point does this become a more significant activity than a diversion for journalists?

Posted by Justin Katz at January 21, 2005 6:01 PM
Bloggers Blogging

The Internet is just a fad.

Posted by: Dan Rather at January 21, 2005 6:49 PM