jump to navigation

Abandon Blogs and Lifespand February 22, 2011

Posted by frewon9 in .
Tags: , , , ,
3 comments

Bloggers Abandon Blogs For Several Different Reasons The New York Times has a story about abandoned blogs. The article cites a 2008 Technorati study that found that about 95% of people who start blogs end up abandoning them. According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled. Blog abandonment is not a new issue. There have always been people who have started blogs and then stopped blogging. Some quit because the issue or event that motivated them to blog faded away. Some quit blogging because of time constraints with work, family or health. Others quit when they found out blogging wasn’t the quick path to riches they thought it was – this reason is probably less of an issue today. Some people have also left their blogs without updates for months because they found it easier to use Twitter or another microblogging service. The Times says some bloggers quit blogging even though they managed to create a popular blog. They found the lack of privacy disconcerting. “Before you could be anonymous, and now you can’t,” said Nancy Sun, a 26-year-old New Yorker who abandoned her first blog after experiencing the dark side of minor Internet notoriety. She had started it in 1999, back when blogging was in its infancy and she did not have to worry too hard about posting her raw feelings for a guy she barely knew. Ms. Sun’s posts to her blog — http://www.cromulent.org, named for a fake word from “The Simpsons” — were long and artful. She quickly attracted a large audience and, in 2001, was nominated for the “best online diary” award at the South by Southwest media powwow. But then she began getting e-mail messages from strangers who had seen her at parties. A journalist from Philadelphia wanted to profile her. Her friends began reading her blog and drawing conclusions – wrong ones – about her feelings toward them. Ms. Sun found it all very unnerving, and by 2004 she stopped blogging altogether. As you might suspect, the Times story also says that many bloggers quit because it is difficult to attract blog readers. Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door. “I was always hoping more people would read it, and it would get a lot of comments,” Mrs. Nichols said recently by telephone, sounding a little betrayed. “Every once in a while I would see this thing on TV about some mommy blogger making $4,000 a month, and thought, ‘I would like that.'” Building a readership can be a struggle and not being able to build one is the reason many bloggers evenutally quit. At the same time there are bloggers content to continue writing even for very small audiences. Richard Jalichandra, chief executive of Technorati, told the Times a joke about blog readership. He said, “There’s a joke within the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one.”

“…only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs [...] had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled. – DOUGLAS QUENQUA, NY Times June 5, 2009

There are few credible estimates about the number of online blogs (one enthusiast tracks offline – ie dead – blogs here) or their growth. Many figures are contradictory or merely self-serving.

Wired News noted claims that in January 2002 alone some 41,000 people created new blogs using Blogger and that there were then more than 500,000. In August 2002 another source claimed that Blogger had 350,000 users, with converts supposedly “creating a new weblog every 40 seconds, or more than 60,000 a month”. By early 2006 that had risen to around 160,000 per month (albeit with many splogs), subsequently declining to 100,000 per month.

In September 2002 the New York Times reported that LiveJournal had signed up 690,000 users since 1998 and was currently gaining another 1,100 bloggers per day. It is unclear whether all 690,000 were (and still are) maintaining their personal pages and, if so, how frequently.

In the same month the Times claimed that Brazil was the “second-largest Blogger-using country” after the US, with up to 13% of the 750,000 Blogger users.

In June 2003 Blogcount estimated that there were between 2.4 million to 2.9 million active blogs. As a point of reference that is around 10% of the number of dot-com registrations (although most blogs do not have unique domain names). Blogcount attributed over 1.6 million active users to the three largest centrally hosted services.

PointBlog.com noted in June 2003 that a WHOIS registry database search identified over 10,000 ‘com’, ‘org’, ‘net’, info’, ‘biz’ and ‘us’ domains with “blog” in the name.

The US National Institute for Technology & Liberal Education (NITL) BlogCensus at that time identified 655,631 ‘blogs’, with a substantial margin of error and a note that around 30% were ‘inactive’. An October 2003 report by Perseus Development on The Blogging Iceberg claimed that

Based on the rapid growth rate demonstrated by the leading services, Perseus expects the number of hosted blogs created to exceed five million by the end of 2003 and to exceed ten million by the end of 2004.

For us that is an echo of mid-1990s claims that by 2005 the number of web sites would outnumber the human population, a warning about projections from an initial “rapid growth rate”.

Based on its survey of 3,634 blogs on eight blog hosting services (Blog-City, BlogSpot, Diaryland, LiveJournal, Pitas, TypePage, Weblogger and Xanga) Perseus claimed that as of October 2003 there were about 4.12 million blogs.

In May 2004 Technorati claimed to track 2.4 million blogs, increasing to 11.7 million blogs in Jube 2005. The Technorati figure was assailed as simply a count of blogs registered: it did not identify blogs in regular use and did not differentiate between genuine blogs and splogs (aka spam blogs).

Undeterred, Technorati noted claims by ad group Universal McCann in March 2008 that 184 million people “have started a blog” (alas, no figures on how many have stopped maintaining a blog) and that 346 million people read blogs in 2007. comScore MediaMetrix claimed in mid-2008 that there were 77.7 million blog readers in the US. eMarketer (drew on other figures to suggest that there were 94.1 million US readers. A million here, a million there … it all adds up (or doesn’t).i

Wired exulted that “nine blogs are created every minute and 2.3 content updates are posted every second”. Those seeking perspective might ask how many disappear every minute and note other ‘magical’ statistics, eg globally there is a suicide every 40 seconds. In November 2004 PubSub claimed to track 6.4 million blogs.

In January 2005 the blogosphere was abuzz with claims that around 25% of all South Koreans have a blog, some US pundits lamenting a ‘blog gap’. That supposedly included 90% of those in their 20s and 79% of those under 40. In fact, the figures are for basic homepages – often little more than an email address – with the nation’s service providers, rather than blogs.

In July 2006 the Pew Internet & American Life Project estimated that the US “blog population has grown to about 12 million American adults”, some 8% of US adult internet users. The number of US blog readers was estimated as 57 million adults (39% of the US online population), although few of those people read widely or read often. David Sifry reported in April 2007 that growth in the number of blogs created had slowed – “matured” – with other observers noting that the percentage of active blogs are compared to the total number of blogs tracked by Technorati was declining, down from 36.71% in May 2006 to 20.93% in March 2007.

ephemerality

Several studies indicate that most blogs are abandoned soon after creation (with 60% to 80% abandoned within one month, depending on whose figures you choose to believe) and that few are regularly updated.

The ‘average blog’ thus has the lifespan of a fruitfly. One cruel reader of this page commented that the average blog also has the intelligence of a fly.

The Perseus report noted above indicates that 66.0% of surveyed blogs had not been updated in two months, “representing 2.72 million blogs that have been either permanently or temporarily abandoned”.

Jeffrey Henning of Perseus sniffed that

Apparently the blog-hosting services have made it so easy to create a blog that many tire-kickers feel no commitment to continuing the blog they initiate. In fact, 1.09 million blogs were one-day wonders, with no postings on subsequent days.

Perseus claimed that the average duration of the remaining 1.63 million abandoned blogs was 126 days, with some 132,000 blogs being abandoned after a year or more. The oldest abandoned blog surveyed had been maintained for 923 days.

In January 2009 the Pew Internet Project, in one of its more problematical estimates, claimed that 11% of online US adults used Twitter or a similar microblogging service as of December 2008, up from 9% in November 2008 and 6% in May 2008. The overreporting appears to reflect conflation of microblogging and social network service (eg Facebook) activity.

audiences

Perseus’s 2003 The Blogging Iceberg report commented

When you say “blog” most people think of the most popular weblogs, which are often updated multiple times a day and which by definition have tens of thousands of daily readers. These make up the tip of a very deep iceberg: prominently visible, but not characteristic of the iceberg as a whole.

What is below the water line are the literally millions of blogs that are rarely pointed to by others, since they are only of interest to the family, friends, fellow students and co-workers of their teenage and 20-something bloggers. Think of them as blogs for nanoaudiences.

Nanoaudiences are the logical outcome of continued growth in blogs. Assume for a moment that one day 100 million people regularly read blogs and that they each read 50 other peoples’ blogs. That translates into 5 billion subscriptions (50 X 100 million). Now assume on that same day there are 20 million active bloggers. That translates into 250 readers per blog (5 billion / 20 million) – far smaller audiences than any traditional one-to-many communication method. And this is just an average; in practice many blogs have no more than two dozen readers.

Gawker executive Nick Denton commented in 2004 that

Everyone has this illusion that Web logs have taken the world by storm, but Web logs have probably only reached 10 percent of the Internet population. Our goal is to reach the remainder.

Uh huh. A September 2004 survey by advertising giant DDB found that much of the UK had not written, read or even heard of a blog.

That led Lester Haines in The Register to comment that

There is some very refreshing news today for those who live outside the rarified atmosphere of the internet world, and indeed for many of us struggling for breath within it – most people don’t have a bloody clue what net buzzwords mean but can evidently function perfectly well in society despite this handicap. Indeed, a survey of taxi drivers, pub landlords and hairdressers (“often seen as barometers of popular trends” according to Reuters, though God alone knows when hairdressers became barometers of anything), by ad outfit DDB London showed that 90 per cent of barometers have not the foggiest idea what a podcast is, and an impressive 70 per cent live in blissful ignorance of blogging. …

A shaken DDB London planning director, Sarah Carter, admitted: “Our research not only shows that there is no buzz about blogging and podcasting outside of our media industry bubble, but also that people have no understanding of what the words mean. It’s a real wake-up call.”

The UK figure is consistent with independent surveys. The June 2005 Pew Internet & American Life study reported that “the average American Internet user is not sure what podcasting is or what an RSS feed does”. As late as January 2004 Pew found that 68% of online people in the US supposedly did not know what a blog was.

In April 2006 the British Market Research Bureau’s quarterly survey claimed that 70% of respondents had heard of blogging but that only 2% of UK internet users publish blogs and 10% view a weblog once a month or more.

Two months later a separate survey, by newspaper publishers Metro and Telegraph Media, claimed that only 13% of those surveyed in the UK had read an individual’s blog in the preceding week, compared with 40% in the US, 25% in France and 12% in Denmark. 12% of UK readers had read a newspaper blog in that week, compared with 24% in the US, 10% in France and 9% in Denmark. 95% of those surveyed in the US said they had used a website for news in the past week, compared with 89% in Britain, 81% in France and 78% in Denmark.

Blog narcissism was evident in the lowest levels of response – those from people who had had a personal blog – 3% in Britain and Denmark, 7% in the US and 8% in France.

demographics

Estimates of the demographics vary.

In July 2003 BlogCensus suggested that there were 701,150 “sites we think are weblogs”, of which 380,657 appeared to be in English. It claimed that Portuguese, (with 54,496 blogs), Polish (42,677) and Farsi (27,002) were the next most popular languages – well ahead of French (a mere 10,381) and German (7,736). On a per capita basis the language with highest blog penetration appeared to be Icelandic, with 3,542 blogs.

In July 2006 Médiamétrie, dismissing claims that 10% of French population “have blogs”, claimed that there were just over three million active French blogs. UK market researcher Synovate claimed in June 2007 that only 10% of British 18 to 24-year-olds have ever blogged.

‘Language Networks on LiveJournal’, a 2007 paper by Susan Herring, John Paolillo et al in 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences examined language use in 1,000 randomly-selected and 5,025 crawled LiveJournals to determine the overall language demographics and the robustness of four non-English language networks on LiveJournal.com. The findings indicate that English dominates globally but not locally, network robustness is determined mostly by population size, and journals that bridge between languages are written by multicultural, multilingual individuals, or else they have broadly accessible content.

The metrics enthusiasts at Jupiter Research claim that 57% of bloggers have a household income of under US$60,000 per year, a figure that is presumably consistent with concentration of blogging under Anglo college students.

Jupiter’s examination of the entrails – eye of newt, ear of bat – resulted in claims that there is no gender divide in the blogosphere, that around 73% of bloggers have been online for 5 years and that “only 4% of the online community read them”, presumably a disappointment for the industrious scribes of Reykjavik.

If Jupiter’s figures are to believed, blogs are primarily be read by men (60% vs 40% women) and in households where the total income is over US$60,000 per year (61%, the difference from authorship figures reflecting doting mums and dads?).

Perseus’ The Blogging Iceberg commented that

Blogging is many things, yet the typical blog is written by a teenage girl who uses it twice a month to update her friends and classmates on happenings in her life. It will be written very informally (often in “unicase”: long stretches of lowercase with ALL CAPS used for emphasis) with slang spellings, yet will not be as informal as instant messaging conversations (which are riddled with typos and abbreviations). …

Teenagers have created the majority of blogs. Blogs are currently the province of the young, with 92.4% of blogs created by people under the age of 30. Half of bloggers are between the ages of 13 and 19. Following this age group, 39.6% of bloggers are between the ages of 20 and 29.

It suggests that males were more likely than females to abandon blogs, with 46.4% of abandoned blogs created by males (versus 40.7% of active blogs created by males).

Abandonment rates did not vary based on age. Those who abandoned blogs supposedly tended to write posts that were only 58% as long as those bloggers who continued to publish, “which simply indicates that those who enjoy writing stick with blogs longer”.

Leigh Philips sniffed in 2003 that blogging

remains the dominion of geeks, wittier-than-thou twenty-to-thirtysomethings in Manhattan and angry gay Republicans.

By February 2005 Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet & American Life Project was claiming that eight million US adults had created a blog, with supposedly 10% to 20% of US blogs being “related to religion“. So much for angry digital log cabin boys. Médiamétrie claimed that 80% of French bloggers were 24 or younger; over 50% were female.

The 2004 paper Women and Children Last: The Discursive Construction of Weblogs by Susan Herring, Lois Ann Scheidt and co-authors argues that apparent gender/age bias in media and academic coverage of blogs arises

in part as a result of focus on a particular blog type, the so-called ‘filter’ blog, which is produced mostly by adult males. We argue that by privileging filter blogs and thereby implicitly evaluating the activities of adult males as more interesting, important and/or newsworthy than those of other blog authors, public discourses about weblogs: 1) marginalize the activities of women and teen bloggers, 2) misrepresent the fundamental nature of the weblog phenomenon, and 3) indirectly reproduce societal sexism and ageism.

The bias might, of course, also reflect the vapidity of much teen blogging.

The 2004 view is consistent with that of Dustin Harp & Mark Tremayne’s 2006 ‘The Gendered Blogo sphere: Examining Inequality Using Network and Feminist Theory’ in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Sarah Pedersen’s ‘Women users motivations for establishing and interacting with blogs (web logs)’ in 3 International Journal of the Book 2, Scott Nowson & Jon Oberlander’s The Identity of Bloggers: Openness and gender in personal weblogs (PDF), Effects of Age and Gender on Blogging (PDF) by Jonathan Schler, Moshe Koppel, Shlomo Argamon & James Pennebaker, Gender Classification of Weblog Authors (PDF) by Xiang Yan and Susan Herring & John Paolillo’s 2006 ‘Gender and Genre Variation in Weblogs’ in 10 Journal of Sociolinguistics 4.

Sarah Pedersen & Caroline Macafee’s article ‘Gender Differences in British Blogging’ in 12 Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 4 (2007) draws on a 48 person [!] sample in concluding that “men and women find the same range of satisfactions in blogging. However, more women use blogging as an outlet for creative work, whether as a hobby or as a livelihood”.

so, so yesterday?

Blogging has attracted true believers and businesses that have a vested interest in boosting blogs as a cure for various social ills, a mechanism for personal growth, a way of making money or merely something for journalists to write about. Suggestions that many people abandon blogging altogether after a handful of posts, post sporadically or simply never blog thus have attracted vehement criticism.

There has been little research into why people don’t blog and into suggestions that many people under 25 blogged once or twice before moving on to other social media because blogging – to use the words of one 19 year old contact – was “so, so yesterday and all my friends are on Facebook” and because the blogosphere has been polluted by sploggers.

The blog phenomenon in the English-speaking world has peaked and – as forecast in an earlier version of this page – most blogs are being stored in the part of cyberspace dedicated to hula hoops, pogo sticks and other fashions that reached their use-by date.

That does not mean people will stop blogging altogether. Novices will try blogging (particularly as a rite of passage); some will post passionately and regularly rather than “getting over it, just like zits” and other teenage disorders. Blogging is not going to disappear. Entrepreneurs will still be able to make money guiding CEOs or celebrities or knowledge managers in best-practice blogging at an individual or corporate level. Some people will continue to find fulfilment through blogs that reach an audience of one or an audience of one million.

We should however be realistic: the ‘blogging revolution’ collided with human nature and human nature won. Most people do not like writing, even if they have something to write about. Many people do not have time to blog on an ongoing basis in a way that attracts a substantial audience. Some people will continue to write offline diaries, commonplace books and criticism – including work that relies on a pen or pencil rather than a keyboard. Others will flow with the latest fad.

Robert Scoble thus sniffed in 2007 that

there’s a bigger trend I’m seeing: people who used to enjoy blogging their lives are now moving to Twitter. Andrew Parker punctuates that trend with a post “Twitter is ruining my blogging”. I find that to be the case too and when I talked about this on Twitter a raft of people chimed in and agreed that they are blogging a lot less now that Twitter is here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.