The intelligent folks over at Pew Internet have the latest data on American reading habits in general and blogs specifically. I think it’s interesting enough to pass along in case you don’t hang out at PewInternet.org.
I first reported in Sling Words on American reading habits in 2005. Here’s what the stats from the American Library Association, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pew Internet & American Life Project said then:
- Number of libraries in the US: 117,859
- American adults who read a newspaper each weekday in 2003: 54%
- Americans 16 and older who read at or below a 5th grade level: 20%
- U. S. Rank among 150 nations in literacy: 49th
- American adults who read novels or short stories in 2003: 45 %
- American adults who read a play in 2003: 4%
- American internet users who read blogs: 27%
- American internet users who do not know what a blog is: 62%.
I was blown away by these statistics. Why? Because it’s always shocking to see such bad news in black and white, and the decline of literacy in this country is very bad news. Reading skill and reading activity are benchmarks for measuring literacy. It’s scary to see this continue to drop.
Since I’m a heavy Internet and Blog user, I tend to forget that not everyone is. In fact, just two years ago, only 27% of American internet users even read blogs. The number who didn’t even know what a blog was? 62%. That’s amazing.
Things change, or do they?
Now we’re at the end of 2007. Has that situation changed appreciably?
According to A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users by John Horrigan on May 6, 2007, available at the Pew Internet site, “half of all American adults are only occasional users of modern information gadgetry, while 8% are avid participants in all that digital life has to offer.”
Two years doesn’t seem to have brought about much change. Trust me on this: that 8% who are wired in? Bet most of them are below the age of thirty. Remember, I’m talking general population, not us who make a living doing this.
When it comes to blogging, a July 19, 2006, report by Amanda Lenhart and Susannah Fox pulled data from a national phone survey of bloggers. Their report finds that most people who maintain blogs are focused on describing their personal experiences to a relatively small audience of readers.
Apparently, they didn’t phone any of us because we’d have given them a different perspective. So, again, we’re talking general population here, but I think it’s important to realize what the masses are doing because we’d like some of them to drop by our blogs since many of us have them monetized. Right?
The popular free blogging platforms make it easy for anyone to set up a blog and post to it. This convenience makes blogs appealing to people who would probably never have written something creative in their entire lives without it. Outside of an English composition class. With a voice that can be heard around the world though, this new group of writers is empowered to create and to share.
For better or worse
The survey found that most bloggers are focused entirely on describing their personal experiences with a very small number covering specific niche information areas like politics, the media, government, technology, or other special interest. I always think of it as the “contemplating your navel” style of blogging.
I’ll bottom line it for you: Blogging brings new voices, but is it a voice you really want to hear?
If you’re just getting into blogging, either for yourself or a client, keep that question foremost in your mind. You always want to be able to answer it with a resounding yes!