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January 30, 2007

Only 8% of Americans Read Blogs!

Wow, you know, that makes blogging just so insignificant, doesn't it? QandO were the first up to point out that that's actually more people than there are in Texas and Monica Guzman did a little digging to see where the numbers came from.

There's a Pew survey that shows roughly double the amount have read a blog, the 8% is the number who have read one recently (last week or yesterday even).

But the precise details aren't the most interesting thing. It's, as Brad Delong and Dean Baker continually try to beat into people, important to put numbers into a context where people can grasp the meaning. Is 8% (this survey) or 17/18% (the Pew one) a large or small number? What should we compare it to?

Sure, OK, despite the laxative ads, I think we would happily claim that 100% of the US population defecates. Similarly, despite the rise in anorexia, we'd be pretty happy with the statement that 100% do or have eaten food at some point this year. Again, while there are a few cases of plague and anthrax each year, as a percentage of the population it's effectively zero.

So how does 8% match up with something that could be illustrative, give people a gut feeling for just how (un)important blog reading is?

Why not compare it to the book trade? Yes, why not.

80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

That means that 20% did. OK, we're mixing and matching, families, individuals, the Pew results, the different question that lead us to the 8% and doing a bit of rounding as well. But the result we come up with?

Reading blogs is somewhere between half as important and as important as reading books is.

Now, whether you think that is important or not is another thing entirely, of course.

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Comments

Tim,

Only 8% of Americans read blogs and yet:

the left side of the blogosphere has moved the Democrats to the left through the money raised by Howard Dean and the defeat of Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut primaries.

the right side of the blogosphere ended the career of Dan Rather by exposing the hoax he perpetrated through the use of forged documents. As well as documenting the fauxtography out of Lebanon and forcing the subsequent archive removal from AP.

both sides of the blogosphere united to force earmarks reform through Porkbusters.

If a medium which is perused by only 8% of the American public can cause this much of an effect, what happens if it begins to attract more of an audience? To me the correct interpretation isn't "Only 8% read blogs", it's "Blogs sure made a large impact for only reaching 8% of the population".

Posted by: b's Freak | Jan 30, 2007 4:25:55 PM

That's a pretty big leap to "important". We thus also conclude blogs are 1/12th as important as food.

Seems to me effort and skivability factor should also be considered.

w.r.t. the political shift point, the thing is that blogs, though a small audience, are still able to drive stories into conventional media. I'd venture that political reporters and pundits are near 100% blog readers.

Posted by: zgatt | Jan 30, 2007 5:57:36 PM

Here's another number to put against the number of blog readers for an illuminating perspective.

The combined membership of the mainstream political parties in Britain - which includes virtually all MPs, MEPs, members of regional assemblies and councillors in local government - is in the order of eight hundred thousand (800,000). That compares with an electorate in Britain of 44 million. The implication is that we are being governed by less than 2% of the population.

Vive the blogsphere.

Posted by: Bob B | Jan 31, 2007 1:29:08 AM

And the sales of normal newspapers have plummeted.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge | Jan 31, 2007 8:31:27 AM

I imagine there was a time when 8% of people watched television.

Posted by: Mark Brentano | Jan 31, 2007 11:24:16 AM