Look to your left. Look to your right. If you’re not reading blogs on a regular basis, one of the two people beside you is. A new study (PDF) out from the Pew Internet & American Life project found that 147 million Americans use the Internet, and 57 million of them read at least one blog regularly.
With the number of blogs doubling every 5.5 months, Pew took a close look at the 12 million US bloggers to find out what makes them tick. The result is “a portrait of the Internet’s new storytellers” that paints a familiar picture. Most bloggers write about their own “life and experiences,” for instance, and almost none write to make money. Half of all bloggers spend less than two hours per week updating their site.
But the survey says things about bloggers you might not have expected. Though most of them are under 30 (natch), a surprising 46 percent are older. Unlike video games, the blogging demographic is evenly split between men and women, but those men and women tend to live in the suburbs. Only one third of all bloggers live in urban centers, and 13 percent come from rural areas.
Bloggers are also less white than the US Internet population as a whole. While 74 percent of general ‘Net users are white, only 60 percent of bloggers are, meaning that blogs are helping to provide a creative outlet for a broad spectrum of Americans. And it is a creative outlet; few bloggers are interested in money or influence. In fact, more than half of all bloggers write using a pseudonym, and the same numbers say that they blog more for their own benefit than to be read by others.
Perhaps the most heartening statistic found in the survey deals with blog readers. With every conceivable political niche having its own Internet outpost, critics fear that the Internet could fragment into a set of like-minded communities. The Pew study shows that the opposite is also true. Instead of reading only sites with which they agree, nearly half of the general Internet population reads news and blogs without a particular political slant, and nearly a quarter of all readers actively seek out sources that challenge their own views. While political message boards can make one fear for the future of a democracy in which people can no longer debate and disagree well, the new study provides evidence that many Internet users refuse to lock themselves inside a political ghetto. That’s something worth blogging about.