Tipped by a tweet by Steve Ruble, I was excited to see a post about new polling numbers from the Pew Internet & American Life Project regarding blogging:

  • 42% of all Americans have read a blog at least once,
  • 33% still read blogs,
  • 11% read blogs regularly,
  • 12% have created a blog,
  • 5% blog regularly.

Then I started thinking about these numbers. Wait a minute: more people have created a blog than regularly read blogs? So I went over to Pew’s site and grabbed both their raw data and a study they did two years ago about bloggers and this is what I found:

  • “Have you ever read someone’s else’s online journal, web log or blog?” 42% said yes in May – up just 3% from 39% in a Jan. 06 poll. So basic blog readership has grown all of 3% in two and a half years??
  • Meanwhile, social networks have gone crazy: “Ever used online social or professional networking sites like Friendster or LinkedIn?” 11% said yes in Sept 05, then in Aug 06 16%, now as of May 08 29%. Now that’s growth. (Row 1806 of this Pew raw data spreadsheet.)
  • Ever used is one thing, how about use day in and day out? “Used online social or professional networking sites like Friendster or LinkedIn yesterday?” – 3% in Sept 05, 9% in Aug 06 and 13% in May 08. Less than “ever”, but 400% growth in three years is nothing to sneeze at.

Now do these numbers mean all the blogger-bashers are right and you don’t really have to put aside your inner introvert and start an interesting blog about your product/service and the problems it addresses? Of course not if you want to reach a huge number of people and haven’t happened upon say $10 million to run an interruption-based traditional marketing/advertising campaign. If anything, blogging is not going away and given the demographics of bloggers, it makes total sense to speak to them blogger to blogger:

Bloggers are among the most enthusiastic communicators of the modern age, taking advantage of nearly every opportunity to communicate. Seventy-eight percent of bloggers say they send or receive instant messages. By comparison, 38% of all internet users send and receive instant messages. Again, bloggers outstrip their high-speed counterparts (40% of home broadband users IM) and even internet users between 18 and 29 years old (54% of whom IM). Fifty-five percent of bloggers say they send or receive text messages using a cell phone, compared with 40% of home broadband users and 60% of younger internet users.

Put another way, I’d rather have 10 blogging customers than 20 non-blogging customers because I know those ten will spread the word about my product or service far wider and faster than the 20 who don’t blog.
But the real news is that microISVs and startups ignore at their peril the rapidly increasing world of online social networks. That’s more than just letting all your 116 LinkedIn contacts know you’ve shipped, it’s thinking about and designing an online community around and about your product/service from the get go. And one of the simplest, most productive ways of doing that is by – you guessed it – blogging.
Consider this from another Pew Report in Feb 08:

Our canvassing of longtime internet users shows that the things that first brought them online are still going strong on the internet today. Then, it was bulletin boards; now, it’s social networking sites. Then, it was the adventure of exploring the new cyberworld; now, it’s upgrading to broadband and wireless connections to explore even more aggressively. Yet there are changes in their activities and motives. In the early days, most internet users consumed material from websites. These days they are just as likely to produce material. One common refrain is that they think more change lies ahead and they are eager to watch and participate.

Bottom line: if you want your product/web service to succeed, you need to be remarkable and make it easy for people on the web to remark about it.

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