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Read blogs? So do 57 million others in U.S.

July 20, 2006
Reprinted from OrlandoSentinel.com

by Chris Cobbs, Sentinel Staff Writer, Orlando Sentinel

Nearly every night, Katie Hansen sits at a PC in her bedroom and blogs about her life.

Curled up on the bed beside her is Ripley, her 2-year-old dog, who was mentioned in her blog recently after a random duck attack as they walked beside the lake near her Orlando apartment.

"He went into some bushes, and I heard quacking," Hansen recalled this week. "When he came out, a duck was clamped on his leg, and he had a cut.

"People comment on that when they read the blog -- like, 'Get well soon' and 'Beware of ducks.' "

The 25-year-old Hansen is among a fast-growing number of Americans -- now numbering 12 million -- who keep a computer log and share it with the world, according to a study released Wednesday.

About 57 million people read these blogs, or Web journals, most of which detail everyday experiences such as Hansen's dog-vs.-duck story, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a Washington nonprofit that studies Web use.

The study, Pew's most extensive yet of blogging, found that both the number of bloggers and the number of blog readers have quadrupled during the past four years, said Amanda Lenhart, senior research assistant and author of the Pew study.

"Blogging is going strong," she said.

More than half of all bloggers are younger than 30, and their numbers are evenly divided between women and men.

"Our findings take on the myth of the blogger as a tech guy interested in politics whose goal is to influence media," Lenhart said. "The sense we get is most blogs are for family and friends. They're a wonderful way to tell stories."

Among other key findings:

Eight percent of all Internet users now write blogs, while 39 percent read them.

Bloggers are a little more likely to be a minority than the average Internet user. That is, 60 percent of all bloggers are non-Hispanic whites, compared with 74 percent of all Web users; 19 percent are Hispanic, compared with 11 percent of all users; and 11 percent are black, compared with 9 percent in the overall Internet population.

Nearly eight of every 10 bloggers use a high-speed broadband connection, making it easier to share artwork, photos and videos online. Among all Internet users, about six in 10 have a broadband connection.

A majority of bloggers seek out political news online but also say they prefer getting their news from sources that don't have a particular point of view.

The biggest challenge for many bloggers is figuring out how much personal information to post online, Lenhart said.

"Some young bloggers told us they had to change what they wrote when they found their parents were reading what they put up," she said. "You have to be your most public self, because anybody could be reading your blog."

That isn't a problem for Bob O'Malley, an Altamonte Springs blogger who makes it clear he's speaking strictly as an individual and whose blog is not in any way tied to his work as a public-relations official.

"It's fun talking with strangers," said O'Malley, 35, whose favorite topic is politics but who sometimes finds himself discussing everything from bad drivers to education. "I see my blog as conversation among people who like to discuss politics. For the most part, it's fairly respectful. Profanity isn't tolerated."

There's definitely no off-color language or inappropriate material on the family-oriented blog of Tom and Karalynne McCarthy of Orlando.

"It's mostly about our two little girls, ages 2 and 3, and a way for our family around the state to keep up with what's going on in their lives," said Tom McCarthy, 41, an advertising executive.

He has also helped his College Park church establish and maintain a blog.

Although many U.S. newspapers have now ventured into the blogosphere, only about a third of all "amateur" bloggers think of themselves as doing some form of journalism, the Pew study found. Only one in three regularly spends extra time trying to verify facts, and only one in 10 regularly posts corrections.

"They think of themselves as people talking about their lives," Pew's Lenhart said. "They don't seek to have a lot of influence beyond their lives."

The power of the blogosphere is its ability to connect people who share a passion for something, said Josh Hallett, who owns a blog consultancy in Winter Haven.

"Say someone just moved from Chicago to Orlando," he said. "Blogging makes it easy to connect with others who are from Chicago or still living there. It's a universal thing."

Pew called 233 bloggers between July 2005 and February of this year, then made additional telephone surveys through April. Follow-up surveys yielded a sample of 7,012 adults, which included 4,753 Internet users, 8 percent of whom are bloggers.

Reprinted from OrlandoSentinel.com

 

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