June 13, 2008


Do Regular People Really Read Blogs? (Josh Catone, 6/12/08, ReadWriteWeb)

A Harris Poll from earlier this year found that 56% of Americans never read political blogs, and just 22% read them several times per month or more. Interestingly, those over the age of 63 were the most likely to be readers of political blogs -- just 17-19% of Gen X and Gen Y (called "echo boomers" in the Harris Poll report) read political blogs.

That certainly explains why Obama has eschewed building a conversational blog while McCain has hired a well-known and experienced blogger -- Obama appeals to the specific demographic that doesn't read political blogs, while McCain appeals to the demographic more likely to subscribe to them. But could that speak to a larger trend in the blogosphere as a whole?

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any recent polling data on how many people are reading blogs. In 2005, comScore found that about 30% of American Internet users read blogs (PDF), though their study didn't really delve into how often people were reading blogs. Is that 30% who read them every day? Or 30% who have visited a blog in the past year? The study doesn't make that clear. Very likely, things have changed since 2005 -- when the comScore report was published, for example, TechCrunch -- now one of the world's largest blogs -- was only 2 months old.

However, if the Harris Poll data is at all representative of the mainstream public's reading habits toward blogs in general, things don't look particularly rosy. The Harris Poll found that of those who visit at least one political blog at least one time each week, 76% read under four of them -- a third read just one. So even though blog readership may be up, people are reading only a small number of blogs on a regular basis.

Further, 69% of political blog readers don't comment on blogs. That indicates that those thousands of comments on McCain's blog are coming from a small subset of political junkies who closely track the political blogosphere.

The important thing here is not just that blogs are trivial but that at the point where denizens of the blogosphere believe a story has reached saturation point--like the Reverend Wright's racial ravings--normal people haven't even heard of it yet.

Meanwhile, the extreme insularity of the blogging community and the skewed politics of bloggers mean that the conventional wisdom that is constantly repeated is just as wrong as that inside the Beltway, with growing overlap. If you read only blogs and editorial pages last winter then you knew for sure that Maverick was toast. But all you had to do was read history and talk to a few folks at the Christmas Party and it was obvious he'd win. Kansas is an awfully long way from Kos and the Corner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 13, 2008 6:55 AM

Could it be that the over-60 generation is the only group that CAN read.

Posted by: Tom at June 13, 2008 8:44 AM
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