Pew measures the Internet’s two-way street

Pew measures the Internet’s two-way street.
44 percent of Internet users (more than 53 million adults) have created content for the online world through building or posting to Web sites, creating blogs, and sharing files, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. However, the statistics, revealed yesterday, come from a survey that’s nearly a year old, so the truth is that user interaction is really much higher. To be included in the 44 percent, users (18 and older) had to have done at least one of the following:

  • 21% of Internet users say they have posted photographs to Web sites.
  • 20% say they have allowed others to download music or video files from their computers.
  • 17% have posted written material on Web sites.
  • 13% maintain their own Web sites.
  • 10% have posted comments to an online newsgroup. A small fraction of them have posted files to a newsgroup such as video, audio, or photo files.
  • 8% have contributed material to Web sites run by their businesses.
  • 7% have contributed material to Web sites run by organizations to which they belong such as church or professional groups.
  • 7% have Web cams running on their computers that allow other Internet users to see live pictures of them and their surroundings.
  • 6% have posted artwork on Web sites.
  • 5% have contributed audio files to Web sites.
  • 4% have contributed material to Web sites created for their families.
  • 3% have contributed video files to Web sites.
  • 2% maintain Web diaries or Web blogs, according to respondents to this phone survey. In other phone surveys prior to this one, and one more recently fielded in early 2004, we have heard that between 2% and 7% of adult Internet users have created diaries or blogs. In this survey we found that 11% of Internet users have read the blogs or diaries of other Internet users. About a third of these blog visitors have posted material to the blog.
  • The report has generated comments from the blogging community, including Jeff Jarvis. Jeff says the stats are encouraging.
    That is much bigger than I would have guessed. I never expect the creation — or even reading — of weblogs to reach a majority or anything close to it. I look at it another way: What is the proportion of Americans who, until now, ever wrote for a newspaper or wrote a book or appeared on TV? That’s really tiny. These new tools have opened up communication to those who want it and they are discovering it. Most people hate writing; most don’t think about serving a public. But now those who do can.
    Pew also said that 11 percent of Internet users read blogs and that number is also much, much larger than I expected. Blogs are very new; they are niche; the niches are starting to add up to the size of a cable channel.
    Finally, Pew said that 34 percent of those who read blogs post to them. This is a very interactive form (for those who allow it).
    This Pew Internet project is ongoing, and there’s so much information that it’s easy to miss little nuggets of gold. Whenever I can view Internet statistics through the subgroups of youth or early adopters, I find those categories produce fascinating downstream scenarios — in this case, for blogs and blogging. Pew divided the overall 44 percent into three types of content creators: Power Creators, Older Creators and Content Omnivores. Here, the group to examine is the Power Creators, because they are much younger than the other two types of creators, with an average age of 25 (compared to 58 in the Older group and 40 for the Omnivores). 40 percent of the Power Creators have broadband Internet access.
    Instant messaging is extremely popular with this group, with two-thirds saying that have used instant messaging. Online game playing is also prevalent in this group with more than half participating in this activity. Statistically, young people are a more mobile as a group than older Americans, and Power content creators are no exception. This group is far more likely to search online for a job (63%) or a place to live (50%) than other creators.

    In another nod to youth, this group also downloads music at a much greater rate than their other content creating compatriots, and are far more likely to report posting audio files and artwork to a Web site.

    Power creators might also be called the Bloggers—12% of this group has a blog and close to a third (29%) has ever visited one, compared to less than 3% of other creators, and much lower levels of reported blog visits in the other two groups.

    As these people grow older, they’ll displace the other two groups, and there’s every reason to suggest that “new” young people — those coming into the +18 mix — will be just as driven to create content as their predecessors. That means blogging is not something that can be easily dismissed, especially if the rationale for dismissal has anything to do with current statistics.

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