Blogs bloom despite lack of gravitas

Despite the ever-increasing popularity of blogging, the notion of citizen journalism still lacks gravitas.

According to recent surveys and polls, blogging remains a growth industry. The Pew Internet and American Life Project claims some 39 per cent of people in the US now read blogs: some 57 million in real numbers. And US bloggers themselves number roughly 12 million.

MSN’s survey shows that in the UK, the phenomenon is even more widespread, with 27 per cent of people writing a blog. In Yorkshire, the figure rises to 35 per cent.

Yet by far the greatest motivation behind blogging is simply to keep a personal diary and to share thoughts and experiences. This was the prime motivation behind 59 per cent of the 750 people polled on the subject in the UK. In the US that figure is 76 per cent.

The second driving force for UK bloggers is the ability to meet new people online, with several claiming their blogs had created more than a 1,000 friends.

But while sites such as Technorati show clear links between news events and blogging activity, there is little evidence that blogs are making much of an impact as news sources themselves. Pew’s figures quote just 5 per cent of bloggers focussing on news.

The MSN survey showed 33 per cent in the UK read blogs for the latest technology news, but that only 4 per cent thought blogs to be an impartial source of information. Nearly two-thirds said they didn’t take what they read in blogs as unquestionably true.

Most admitted they use traditional news sources – some 78 per cent – to read about the news. And a BBC poll showed roughly three-quarters of voters don’t consider blogging as journalism.

That’s not to say that blogging has no editorial merit. Online media agency Scoopt recently launched its ScooptWords service, which bloggers can use to commercialise their blogs, letting the agency license their editorial for a fee. The company already runs a similar service for citizen photographers.

‘Much of the public and press attention to bloggers has focused on the small number of high-traffic, A-list bloggers,’ said Associate Director Susannah Fox. ‘By asking a wide range of bloggers what they do and why they do it, we have found a different kind of story about the power of the Internet to encourage creativity and community among all kinds of Internet users.’

Cristiano Ventura, MSN Spaces marketing manager said: ‘On MSN Spaces alone three million people in the UK have a blog, allowing them to express their thoughts and share pictures and music – either with the entire Internet community or just with their friends. It remains to be seen whether blogging will take over traditional media, but growth in the next five years is going to be exponential.’

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