Blogs are (apparently) no big deal

I’m troubled by this new Gallup Poll, Blogs Not Yet in the Media Big Leagues. I don’t dispute the findings. After all, nobody ever suggested that blogging is in the big leagues (yet). What bothers me is that traditional media will use the findings to validate their own assumptions about what’s taking place in the new media world.

Whether they are seeking immortality or just letting off steam, Web bloggers are multiplying in number and are seemingly affecting American media and political insiders, at the very least. But whether bloggers are directly influencing the broader public is questionable. According to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, relatively few Americans are generally familiar with the phenomenon of blogging, in which individuals, ranging from famous to anonymous, post running narratives of their thoughts and observations on whatever interests them.

Three-quarters of the U.S. public uses the Internet at work, school, or home, but only one in four Americans are either very familiar or somewhat familiar with blogs (the shortened form of the original “Web logs”). More than half, 56%, have no knowledge of them. Even among Internet users, only 32% are very or somewhat familiar with blogs.

Only 15% of Americans read blogs regularly, so one could fairly infer that there’s nothing to all this attention blogs have been getting. The report does note that Microsoft Word 2003 doesn’t even recognize “blog” as a word — a reference to the infancy of the phenomenon (Bill Gates’ term). What the report doesn’t show is the speed with which that 15% has grabbed onto blogs and — I’d wager — the degree of their passion about the use of blogs in their news and information lives.

So the study’s useful as a snapshot, but it’ll be more useful if it’s repeated next year. The trendline is what’s important.

And why does anybody who has a problem with blogging always fall back on the “thoughts and observations on whatever interests them” argument? Contempt prior to investigation is a bar to all progress.

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