A year or two ago, there was so much irrational exuberance around blogging that it was a foregone conclusion that within a few years there would be five blogs for every person on the planet, no one would get information from any other source and we would have robots in our cars to make us breakfast on the way to work. Ok, maybe it didn’t go that far but there was certainly no shortage of numbers from the likes of Technorati to make you think that blogs wouldn’t become so prevalent that they would essentially be inescapable. Sure, blogging was swimming against the current created by traditional media but at the rate it was growing it would certainly take over at some point.
Well…not so fast.
Blogging, like many other infallible social technologies (I’m looking at you MySpace), appears to be slowing down and possibly even in decline. Technorati has just issued their fifth annual State of the Blogosphere and the numbers aren’t all pointing to the sky.
Sure, many facets of blogging are thriving. By almost any measurement, blogs now dominate entertainment media, with TMZ and Yahoo’s OMG leaving traditional outlets like People and Entertainment Weekly in the dust. You see it in technology as well. It’s hard for me to think back to the time when the WSJ’s Walt Mossberg could be considered one of the most influential people in consumer tech. Now he’s lucky if he has as many readers in a month as Engadget has in a day.
As with most statistics, the real truth is one or two layers deep. Are there really 133 million blogs? Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb was quick to point out that only 1.1% of them had been posted to in the last 7 days. As he outlines, that’s slightly less than amount of people that have defaulted on their mortgages in the US over the past year or the amount of people that went to the Minnesota State Fair last year. If only 1.5 million blogs are active on a weekly basis, is it really such a juggernaut?
What about SOV or traffic? Here’s what Kirkpatrick says about that:
The average number of monthly unique visitors reported by these bloggers? In the US it’s only 18,000. That means 600 people per day. 600 people reading your thoughts each day is pretty fabulous for the vast majority of people on the planet, but as media goes it’s not very mainstream. Especially if there are only a million and a half people doing it.
It’s starting to sound pretty fringe again, isn’t it? There were about 35% less blog posts this year than there were last year. That’s a significant decline.
By the raw numbers, yes, blogging is becoming an increasingly marginalized media channel. The top 1% may be dominating but I think you can make a case that those blogs are becoming indistinguishable to their mainstream counterparts once they begin relying on advertising revenue.
What I found interesting though was some of the demographic information. About half the bloggers Technorati surveyed made more than $75,000 a year in household income. While this isn’t impressive to a lot of the people that will cover this story, it’s still well above the median household income in the United States (the last census in 2006 had the median at $48,201/year). Maybe this can’t be classified at affluent, per se, but these are certainly people with some purchasing power.
But what about the 600 people who read each of these blogs everyday? Yes, it’s not a huge number but who are those people? They are most likely peers, meaning that they are probably in roughly the same demographic. I’d say a blogger that speaks to 600 people everyday with a median household income of greater than $75,000/year is someone significant, especially to marketers. Does it really matter how many people Fox News reaches if they are predominantly undereducated low-income individuals? I’m not saying that they are but we now have a pretty good idea of who is reading these blogs everyday.
So I would agree that blogging has become more marginalized but I think that is also where the value lies. To go back to my old anti-reach marketing credo, it’s not how many people you’re reaching but who you are reaching. It’s kind of like the picture above in that the fight against the river isn’t as important when you’re mainly interested in the fish.