Blah blah blog

Here's a headline of one of today's editorials in the paper: "It looks like most blogs are about 'me'."

It gets worse.

With all the buzz about blogging, there's finally a quantifiable sense of who these Internet traffickers are, and what they're up to. And it's mostly far more ordinary than the online stars who pound away about politics and journalism.

In recent months the nonpartisan Pew research center in Washington surveyed about 7,000 adults about whether they kept or read blogs. It determined that half these people kept their blogs as personal diaries or an outlet for expression. In other words, they had an intended audience of one. Another third do think of blogs as journalism, but they were the most intensive Internet users.

Politics and government were only slightly more popular topics among the bloggers than entertainment, sports and general news.

Still, an impressive 12 million American adults keep blogs, and an estimated 57 million read them.

So the odds are that if you're writing one, somebody else is reading it — even if the topic is "me" media, as one observor described it.

And we traditional journalists have to admit we can't compete with that specialty.

Yes, "there's finally a quantifiable sense" of blog topics and traffic … because Pew took a phone survey. Why bother with Technorati, or Alexa, or blogdex or any of the other Web-based research that has, for years, been capturing actual hard data from the actual Internet? None of that, apparently, is as reliable or scientific as a telephone survey is for producing a "quantifiable sense" (which, I'm guessing, is the opposite of a "qualitative enumeration").

The sweeping generalizations that follow about the value of reading blogs are, at best, muddled (many blogs are mere personal diaries, so we'll dismiss them all as nothing more than that), but far worse is the misleading and inaccurate characterization of "traditional journalism." Traditional journalism would not allow you to write about blogs based solely on the results of a single phone survey. Traditional journalism requires you to, you know, actually read some blogs and see for yourself before writing about them. This is what used to be called "reporting."

I'm eagerly awaiting the Pew-funded telephone survey about paper. I know all the buzz about paper suggests its about politics and journalism, but many people only use it for personal diaries and as an outlet for expression. We won't get a good quantifiable sense of what paper is really used for until we see the results of that phone survey.

Until then, I'll go back to reading blog posts like this one about shopping for makeup and watching football. It's just somebody's personal diary — more "'me' media" — so of course it's not newsworthy.

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  • Lucia

    You should read my blog. It’s mostly about knitting.
    Through it I’ve met (some in actual 3D space) lots of other people who write mostly about knitting, and I value these connections that I couldn’t make any other way. I find it interesting that the article doesn’t even mention this communitarian aspect of blogging.

  • ScottDaly

    Also I bet that this “survey” was probably commissioned by the traditional media. They have a vested interest in making blogs sound like a waste of time. If you want to know why a survey has the results it does you need to look at who paid for it.

  • Lauren

    What it is about knitting that goes so well with blogging? I know of dozens of yarn blogs, but when I search for blogs about my other hobbies, I come up short.

  • 12xu

    I’m guessing that the top use of paper for most people is wiping one’s ass. Once again, “traditional journalists have to admit we can’t compete with that specialty”.

  • Duane

    Fred, I personally don’t think you write enough about yourself. Some of us are too far away to peek in your windows and go through your garbage. Help us be better stalkers, open up a little.

  • Steve

    My favorite line: Politics and government were only slightly more popular topics among the bloggers than entertainment, sports and general news.
    And this is supposed to be a cutting remark…in comparison to the print media and television news?
    What hack wrote this article?

  • the bunny

    I’m glad you mentioned River, it’s been a while since I dropped by. I always get a panic attack when she doesn’t post for a long time. What with the kidnappings and the attacks on women who don’t conform to the role God gave them.

  • lightning

    One of the most useful things about blogs for me is just Some Random Guy posting “I was there, this is what happened”. Riverbend is a lot more dramatic than most, but it’s not that different from somebody posting what they saw at a concert.
    *Every* *time* I’ve been involved in a “newsworthy” event, the media have gotten some or all of it completely wrong. Figuring out why the media are so bad at getting to the facts (and, just as importantly, the background behind the facts) is an interesting question.

  • Jeff

    I know of dozens of yarn blogs, but when I search for blogs about my other hobbies, I come up short.
    There are LOTS of blogs for my favorite “hobby”. [BEG]
    Seriously, it could be that the yarn blogs are interwoven better than the blogs for your other hobbies. Have tried a Google of “[hobby] blog”?

  • inge

    This poll doesn’t even consider intent, does it? That’s like “most people who write, write only diaries, letters to mom or technical manuals, so writing has nothing to so with the public sphere at all.”

  • cjmr

    Umm, so, Jeff, was that yarn pun intentional?

  • Steve

    In follow-up to my earlier post in this thread, one of the top three lead stories on last night’s local news in York, Pennsylvania was that Robert Deniro was donating his collection of movie memorabilia to a musuem in Texas.
    Friggin’ politics and government obsessed TV news!?!

  • Steve

    Another follow-up…
    A headline…HEADLINE…on CNN’s website this afternoon…
    ‘N Sync’s Lance Bass says he’s gay
    My second thought: Friggin’ politics and government obsessed mainstream news!?!

  • Steve

    Okay, this is getting ridiculous:
    Sun kills 60,000 a year, WHO says
    We now trust our Health Science analysis to Daltry and Townshend?

  • Tim Lehnerer

    There’s something very entertaining about a smart and articulate person going Josey Wales on the ignorant and lazy.

  • Jeff

    Jeff, was that yarn pun intentional?
    Duh, yeah! I hope you approve.

  • Dahne

    The lovely thing about blogs is that they’re not intended to be journalism. Thus, at the same time that they can turn out to be excellent vehicles for journalism nonetheless, they’re also just nice for those of us who communicate better in writing than aloud. Much more convenient than letters, and with a larger potential audience.
    Blogs that do focus on politics, however, have an interesting drawback; it’s not always easy to follow what they’re talking about. In perusing the blogroll to the right (of this page, no the political spectrum), my forays invariably result in an endless procession of links to links to links, and lots of references to people I probably should have heard of. It seems very difficult to find a good starting point.