UPDATED: It is normal now, when a big news story breaks, that anchors will “go to the blogs,” inviting bloggers on-air for comment, or taking some sort of “pulse of the blogs.” In some ways, thus, blogs have taken the place of the “man-on-the-street-reacting-to-news-story” interview typically employed by television journalism. But what do we know about who blogs? Are bloggers the “people”?
This is a complicated question but one that many politicians and journalists are asking.
I will discuss the subject at length in my book, but see my short essay, (“Are Bloggers ‘The People’?”) in the “DOCUMENTS” section of the blog (left sidebar).
Main points and tendencies (not universalities) of the blogger profile:
1. Bloggers are not a statistical, representative, scientific cross-section of America–or the world. (Note: So it is wrong for journalists to say “let’s go to the blog to hear what the people are saying.” Rather go to the blogs to hear what bloggers are saying–but that might be pretty important.
2. Active “A-list” political bloggers–or at least those regularly ranked highest by existing “influence” and “popularity” metrics–in America tend to be male, higher income, higher educated. Non A-list bloggers tend to be much more diverse.
3. At the same time, a huge surge of blogging is occurring in young people, especially young women.
4. Political bloggers do fit the category of “influentials” who may very well affect other people’s opinions on issues of the day.
5. Active Political bloggers tend to also be political activists–and potential voters and money-donors.
Update 1: In answer to Rebecca Blood–who, by the way, wrote of the first and one of the best books on blogging–below:
Rebecca: See my longer post (“Are Bloggers ‘The People’?”) on this in “Documents” section–what I think about “blacks and blogging” probably applies to women as well. We are in a flux period. Among the huge cohort of “MySpace” young bloggers I would bet females do dominate. In fact, in mass comm schools like mine, there are more females than males, as much as a 70-30 split. Among political bloggers, I think males dominate in raw numbers, and in terms of the who-is-on-top lists. That said, blogging is so young that we have no idea how each subgenre will develop, demographically or psychograhically. One thing I do hear from my female students is that the name-calling, profane trolls and personal attacks that are so much a part of political blogging turns them off. (Deborah Tannen might have something to say about that!). But…some of the toughest cookies of the bloglands out there are females: BitchPhd, Pamela (AtlasShrugged), Sister Toldjah, and so on. I agree completely that the present should not guide the past: blogging is about being out the box, and nobody should feel boxed out of blogging.
Update 2: To Elisa Camahort: Yes, if you have looked at the longer document on blogs as “the people” you will see that I completely agree that our existing measuring scales pose many problems. One for me is that quantity is not quality: there are some amazing blogs out there, that, as far as I can tell, have no audience.
Originally posted January 28, 2006 at PolicyByBlog