Politics

Blog Readership Bogged Down

Audience skews slightly young

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The audience for Web logs, or "blogs" had an auspicious start, going from practically zero to almost 20 in a very short time frame (20 being the percentage of Americans today who report reading blogs on at least an occasional basis). However, according to recent Gallup data, it seems the growth in the number of U.S. blog readers was somewhere between nil and negative in the past year.

Gallup's annual Lifestyle survey, conducted Dec. 5-8, 2005, finds only 9% of Internet users saying they frequently read blogs, another 11% read them occasionally, 13% say they rarely read them, while 66% never read them.

These findings conform almost perfectly with a special Gallup study of blog use conducted in February 2005. At that time, 9% of Web users said they read blogs daily or a few times a week ("frequently"), 10% read them a few times a month ("occasionally"), 13% read them less often than monthly ("rarely"), and 63% never read them.

Given the different response options used in the two questions, the December 2005 and February 2005 data are not exactly comparable. But, given the close similarities, it is reasonable to draw some inferences. The main inference is that blog readership did not grow during 2005.

Mail and News Lead Web Activities

To put blog readership in context, the December survey found that checking online for news and weather is done regularly by 72% of Web users. Fifty-two percent regularly shop online, 40% pay bills, and 28% play games. At 20%, blog reading is on par with downloading music and participating in online auctions such as eBay.

Internet Activities Summary Table
(Among Internet Users)

2005 Dec 5-8
(sorted by "Frequently/
Occasionally")

Frequently

Frequently/
Occasionally

EVER
(Frequently/
Occasionally/
Rarely)

Never

%

%

%

%

Sending and reading e-mail

67

87

93

7

Checking news and weather

45

72

83

17

Shopping

18

52

71

29

Making travel plans

19

52

71

29

Finding medical advice

10

41

68

32

Paying bills online

27

40

50

50

Budgeting personal finances

17

29

41

58

Playing games

16

28

44

56

Using instant messaging

16

28

42

58

Buying or selling products in online auctions

7

23

40

60

Watching video Webcasts

8

22

40

60

Downloading music

10

22

34

66

Reading "blogs"

9

20

33

66



The Broader Context for Blog Trends

It is important to note it's not just blog readership that suffers from anemic growth: Americans' likelihood of doing most of the other online activities has not changed over the past two years. As reported in a Feb. 6, 2005, Gallup news article, of the nine activities measured in December 2003, the only notable differences are modest increases in the percentages using the Internet for making travel arrangements and paying bills, and a slight decline in the percentage using instant messaging.

Furthermore, the percentage of Americans who use the Internet to any degree has not changed during the past three years -- roughly 75% of U.S. adults say they use the Internet on at least some occasions.

At the same time, Gallup has recorded a gradual increase in the amount of time Americans spend online. The percentage using the Internet an hour or more each day increased from 42% in December 2002 to 51% in December 2005.

Thus, it appears the online public is simply doing more of the same activities, rather than branching out and trying different Internet offerings. It is within this broader context of set habits that a rapidly expanding number of blogs must compete for readers. According to BlogPulse.com, there are more than 20 million blogs worldwide at this writing -- the Gallup Editors' blog being one. Tens of thousands are adding to that number every day.

Blog Readership Patterns

Frequent blog readership today is significantly higher among adults aged 29 and younger than adults 30 and older. Nearly one in five Web users in the under 30 bracket (19%) say they read blogs frequently; this compares with fewer than 1 in 10 older Americans.

The generational gap narrows some when factoring in those who read blogs occasionally.

Blog Readership by Age
(Among Internet Users)

18-29

30-49

50-64

65+

%

%

%

%

Frequently

19

8

5

6

Occasionally

9

12

12

11

Rarely

12

16

11

7

Never

60

63

71

75

Frequently+Occasionally

28

20

17

17

As seen a year ago, there are only slight differences in blog readership by party identification. Democrats tend to be more avid blog readers: 15% of Democrats vs. 6% of Republicans read them frequently.

However, as with age, there is little difference in blog usage by party when taking into account the percentages reading them occasionally.

Blog Readership by Party ID
(Among Internet Users)

Republican

Independent

Democratic

%

%

%

Frequently

6

7

15

Occasionally

13

13

8

Rarely

14

13

13

Never

67

66

62

Frequently+Occasionally

19

20

23

The direct influence of blogs in society is even lower when taking into account that a quarter of Americans do not use the Internet at all. While 20% of Internet users read blogs on a frequent or occasional basis, this drops to 15% among the general public.

Overall Blog Readership

General Public

Internet Users

%

%

Frequently

7

9

Occasionally

8

11

Rarely

10

13

Never

74

66

Don't use Internet

27

--

Frequently+Occasionally

15

20

Then There's the Incalculable Effect…

Of course many bloggers will argue that the influence of blogs is immeasurably greater than their readership statistics would suggest because of the disproportionate influence they have on opinion leaders, political insiders, and modern news media. That may be true, just as it may also be true that, by providing a competitive and handy marketplace for discount and used goods, online auctions such as eBay -- used regularly by only about a quarter of Web users -- are making a mark on the broader worlds of e-commerce and retail shopping.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 5-8, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/21397/Blog-Readership-Bogged-Down.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030