Growth and Power of Blogs

Jorn Barger, father of the term weblog and subsequently blog, initialized the transition from Usenet discussion board or newsgroup environments to personalized websites that allowed for free expression and self-disclosure by an individualized writer. Over the past decade and a half blogs have grown in popularity, with the most popular ones raking in millions of dollars annually through fee-based structures and advertising revenue. Below the big name blogs though is an ocean of personalized websites providing content ranging from domestic life, relationship venting, analysis of subject-matter, environments that showcase creative works (photographs, videos, design work) that go largely unseen by the average user of the Internet. Rather than evaluate why people view blogs, this week lets discuss why people blog focusing on the ocean worth of bloggers doing it for some other reason besides earning money.

Information from a small sample group highlights that there is a similarity amongst blog writers, principally that they write to provide an expression on something that is internal to them that they wish to provide to the outside world. The medium selected, a blog, provides freedom to creatively layout their thoughts in a manner they are most comfortable with.

Stepping out for just a moment, I want to express my initial desire to write – and one in which I believe a majority of folks who use a blog feel at some point. Years ago I had my own website and domain that provided an opportunity to write things for friends and family. The sole purpose wasn’t only to write, but it was also for me to showcase my interests in a number of subjects, however the real catalyst for making the financial investment in web storage space and a domain were quite powerful.

In 2004 I was enjoying my second year of active duty service with US Air Force. During this time I was a meteorologist with a regionalized weather support center producing Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs) and graphical prognosis charts. These aviation weather products were used directly by mission planners overseas during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Trust me, there is great pride in the work that I did then – and that I still perform regularly as a member of the Air Force Reserves, however at the time I began to take an interest in international politics – which subsequently led to me studying political science in my undergraduate studies. My involvement, and some of my very own self-doubts about our role in occupying a sovereign country initially served as my desire to get my self-contained and restricted thoughts out and in the open. And so it was decided that I would invest money, over a matter of two years it all added up to a whole heck of not a lot in my eyes today but – $225 on a domain and storage space. This investment allowed me to write to friends and family, and anyone else that was lucky enough to find my website, about my role with the Air Force, my current golf game, my desires to improve myself professionally (through education), my very limited travel opportunities and adventures, and even the relationships and friendships that I was making. I was twenty-one heading into about twenty-three year old territory before I did not renew the website. But ultimately, it was an intrinsic desire to satisfy something within myself, a need that I had – to express myself in a way that was not necessarily supported in face-to-face environments.

As I found over this week’s small sampling of fellow bloggers, 4 out of 5 write for themselves – to satisfy an internal desire to express themselves. Additionally, 3 out of 5 made comment this week, or previously, that they do this because they feel some level of restriction in face-to-face interactions that could cause greater conflict in interpersonal relationships if they were to share their thoughts and feelings directly.
Technorati, an internet search engine specifically designed for searching out blogs, publishes an annual State of the Blogosphere report. Since my first attempt at writing publically occurred in 2004, let’s visit a few numbers from that time period:

4 mil. blogs Oct 2004

12,000 new blogs created a day in Oct 2004. One new blog every 7.4 seconds.

Number of Blogs tracked at end of October 2004: Slightly more than 4 Million.
Rate of Growth: The blogosphere in 2004 was 8 times the size it was in June 2003.
Daily Blog Creation Rate: By October 2004, 12,000 new blogs were created a day, roughly a new blog every 7.4 seconds.

Thanks to invesp, a technology company focuses on optimizing customer interactions and encounters in the online sales domain, we have this handy infographic that looks back to 2011. Click the image for the full-size version.


Infographic for Blogs upto 2011

Infographic for Blogs upto 2011

Of note is the impressive growth seen year over year since 2004. From 4 million blogs worldwide in the fall of 2004 to over 164 million in July 2011. The demographics are also impressive, roughly a third of bloggers are hobbyists, and at the time in 2011 only a 2% of blogs would be classified as corporate blogs.

Without question – blogs have grown. Additionally, a majority of blogs continue to be ran by hobbyists, with even a smaller group of bloggers earning direct income from their writings. Zero out of five individuals in my small sample group reported a desire to generate revenue from their blogs. However, when asked if they had contemplated it in the past, two out of five indicated they had but felt it was not worth the time spent trying to figure out how best to go about it – whether from advertising or direct income as a freelance writer providing content to outside third-parties.

Stefanone and Chyng-Yang Jang reinforced the desire of individuals to use Internet-based tools to fulfill social and interpersonal goals in their study “Writing for Friends and Family: The Interpersonal Nature of Blogs,” available through your local academic journal search. They found that blogs were used overwhelmingly to build strong network ties, even taking the place of regular e-mail between friends and family, between writer and established real-world social networks. Additionally, they found that bloggers with many close friends are more likely than those with fewer close friends to use blogs for relationship maintenance and that bloggers with both extraversion and self-disclosure traits have large strong tie social network subsets and more identify blogs as an interpersonal communication tool.

Ultimately I must agree, on a personal level, that yes – indeed – the majority of hobbyist blog for themselves due to an intrinsic desire to provide self-disclosure and to build interpersonal relationships through a medium in which they feel most comfortable. I began writing for my own reasons a decade ago. To some extent, those same reasons hold true today, however I will concede that the primary reason I am writing this blog post – and a few more to come – is not necessarily because I want to, rather it is because I must write due to an academic requirement. Now though, this does not mean that I do not enjoy it. This specific platform is used for personal, professional, and academic reasons. Taken to a higher level, my internal desire to attend graduate school – more specifically a J-school, was the catalyst that put me in a place (the course in which this post is written for) that pressured me to write.

So – think for just a moment – why do you blog?

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