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July 19, 2006

New Pew Blogger Study

The Pew Internet and American Life project today released a fascinating study on Americans who consider themselves bloggers -- that is who say they maintain "a web log or 'blog' that others can read on the web."  A summary is available here, the full report and questionnaire here.  I have not had a chance to read it all yet, but have heard rumors about it and have been eagerly awaiting its release for months.   I have seen other surveys of bloggers, but none I am aware of were based on a truly projective random sample survey. 

The relatively small size of the blogger population makes the mechanics of such a survey difficult.  In this case, the researchers identified bloggers using the random sample surveys of all Americans conducted by the Pew Internet project in 2004 and 2005.  Respondents that identified themselves as bloggers on the first interview were called again (sometimes many months later) and asked to complete a second survey on blogging.  So the good news is, this survey is based on a random sample of all adults.  The bad news is, respondents had to agree to be interviewed twice and the combination of the relatively small size of the blogger population and attrition between the first and second interview makes for a small sample size -- 233 self-identified bloggers.  Thus the important disclaimer in methodology section: "The low number of respondents is a significant limitation to this study." 

Nonetheless, the report looks to provide a very comprehensive look at the population of those who blog.  I'm looking forward to reading it in full, and may update with more comments in a few days. 

One tantalizing bit of news in the summary caught my eye:

Related surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the blog population has grown to about 12 million American adults, or 8% of adult internet users and that the number of blog readers has jumped to 57 million American adults, or 39% of the online population.

I had reported on these statistics previously.  Pew's estimate of blog readers would certainly represent a big jump, from 27% of adult Internet users in May/June 2005 to 39% in January 2006.  However, note footnote #2 in their latest report on Internet activities. The wording of the question changed slightly.  In earlier studies, they asked:  "Do you ever use the internet to read someone else's web log or blog?"  In this latest study, they asked:  "Do you ever use the internet to read someone else's online journal, web log or blog? [emphasis added]"   

As I read it, absent a side-by-side experment testing the two versions of the question, we cannot be absolutely certain that the increase is real and not the result of the change in wording.   However, trend aside, if you consider "online journal, web log or blog" a reasonable definition, then the number of Americans who have "ever" read a blog -- 57 million or 28% of the population (if I'm doing the math correctly) -- is quite large. 

Related Entries - Polling & the Blogosphere

Posted by Mark Blumenthal on July 19, 2006 at 04:00 PM in Polling & the Blogosphere | Permalink


Just on a guess, I would expect people who self-identify as bloggers, and are thus into expressing their thoughts, opinions or feelings, would be more likely than the general population to agree to a second interview.

Posted by: triticale | Jul 19, 2006 10:56:43 PM

Given Pew's history of Astroturfing campaign finance http://tinyurl.com/zsbue I'd think the first question is what Pew policy effort do these results support? Are they trying to get FEC regulation of blogs? Or, perhaps they're looking for subsidies of rural broadband?

I'd trust any numbers coming out of Pew as much as I'd trust the Weekly World News.

Posted by: Richard Riley | Jul 19, 2006 11:56:05 PM

I'm amused that you picked the Pew blogger survey as topic of choice today, since I used you as a reference on the same topic yesterday (http://ymmat.livejournal.com/222485.html). I'm glad you picked it up, as your perspective is always appreciated and well-grounded.

Posted by: ymmat | Jul 20, 2006 10:23:28 AM

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