30 Million Blogs And Counting
Frank Ahrens, who writes the Web Watch column for WaPo, notes that are now over thirty million blogs out there. Apparently, this is to be taken as a sign of the nadir of blogging.
There’s been some recent chatter about whether we’re entering the twilight of the blogs, even though it feels like we’re only in the late morning. Noon, at the latest.
Writing in Slate, Daniel Gross wonders if the blogosphere may be teetering on its own 1999 — the year before the tech bubble burst. A recent Gallup poll titled “Blog Readership Bogged Down” showed that only 9 percent of those polled said they regularly read blogs, while 66 percent said they never read them.
There is no paucity of blogs. Technorati, the search engine that tracks the blogosphere, counts 28.7 million blogs on the Web. But there are indicators the numbers are peaking: The Gallup poll said “the growth in the number of U.S. blog readers was somewhere between nil and negative” during 2005.
It’s remarkable to think that technology adoption is moving so fast that Web logs — the earliest U.S. reference to “blog” that I can find was in a 2000 CNN technology report, showing its relative youth — could already be thought of as maturing. But that is a maxim of technology: As we get more accustomed to interfacing with tech, each new gizmo — be it a TiVo, an iPod or a blog — has a faster “uptake,” or acceptance into society, than what came before. For example, DVD players hit the 20 million mark in sales in one-third the time it took VCR players to reach the same penetration.
Part of the blog drag could be a function of age — bloggers and blog readers came of age with the Internet, and there are only so many young people out there. A recent Pew Internet & American Life Project study showed that 19 percent of teenagers and 20 percent of young adults are likely to start a blog — the highest numbers of any age group. Only 9 percent of Gen-Xers are likely to start blogs, the same percentage as 51-to-59-year-olds.
And it could be that the people who wanted to start a blog already have. Like settlers joining the land rush to Oklahoma, bloggers charged into the ‘sphere, chunked down their URLs and set up shop. Everyone else stayed back East. We know those crazy Sooners/bloggers are out there and we sort of know what they’re doing, but we’ll stay here for now, thanks. Which would keep blog growth at a trickle, at least for now.
Except that the number of blogs isn’t growing at a trickle but at an incredibly fast rate. And judging by the top couple hundred blogs in the TTLB Ecosystem and the BlogAds order page, readership is booming, too.
Further, while my wife makes her living working for a survey research company, this strikes me as a topic spectacularly unsuited for that tool. Most blog readers likely have no idea that they are blog readers. And most people who are going to start blogs in the future don’t know that they’re going to start blogs in the future. It’s pretty easy to start a blog; those who have an inclination to do so pretty much just do it.
A site’s regular readers, who come by several times a week to check out the content and participate in the conversations going on, probably know that InstaPundit or OTB or whatever are blogs. But most people coming in via search engines or direct referals from other sites have no idea what the page is; it’s just some site on the Internet. The fact that I regularly get comments on old posts in the archives begging for favors from the subject of the post (e.g., Jesse Jackson or Britney Spears) attests to that. Indeed, from a reader perspective, the only thing that makes a blog a blog is the fact that posts are typically organized in a reverse chronological order. Even as a veteran blogger, I would be unlikely to recognize RedState as a blog if I were to just stumble upon it.
Blogs are unlikely to become a replacement media in the way some triumphalists have predicted. The form of the medium will continue to evolve with technology. But there’s little doubt that people will continue to use the Internet as a means of personal expression and information exchange.