We’re so not vain: only slightly more than one third of us said this blog is about us

Pew’s latest report Bloggers: A portrait of the internet’s new storytellers is based on phone surveys. Is it me, or is the phone a less than ideal way to ask bloggers what they are thinking? “Telephone surveys capture the most accurate snapshot possible of a small and moving target,” says Pew, but I wonder if a web-based survey tool with IP tracking wouldn’t do as well, or better.

Maybe that is why the number of respondents here is so small — only two hundred and thirty-three bloggers. So keep in mind Pew generated all these numbers (“87% of bloggers allow comments on their blog”) based on talking to less than three hundred bloggers on the phone, and the margin of error for their numbers is plus or minus seven percent.

That puts the number of bloggers who cited “To make money” as a major reason for blogging within the margin of error. Seth Godin was onto something when he said that blogging is the new poetry. (“Just as we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about how all those poets out there are going to monetize their poetry, the same is true for most bloggers.”)

So, blogging really is about conversation (“77% of bloggers have shared their own artwork, photos, stories, or videos online, compared with 26% of all internet users”) and people don’t intend to shut up any time soon (“eight out of ten (82%) of bloggers think they will still be blogging a year from now”). In other words, Pew’s report doesn’t really reveal anything new for people who have been following blogs.

The report has minor weaknesses, aside from the phone thing: not listing WordPress as an option for blogging tools (which is probably why more people listed “Something else” than any specific tool), and not questioning how “only 18% of bloggers offer an RSS feed of their blog’s content” even though nearly all blogging tools automatically generate RSS feeds by default. Granted, you need to be a geek to even notice or care, but, well… I am, so I do.

I want surveys to ask more interesting questions, such as:

  • Do you publish material under a Creative Commons license? Why or why not?
  • Would it help, hurt, or have no effect on your career if your boss or coworkers read your blog?
  • Do you consider yourself to have a clear, a fuzzy, or no line between your professional life and your work life? Is your blog a factor in your answer?
  • Have you posted a photograph of yourself on your blog? If you are involved in online worlds, does your avatar look like you?
  • If you were forced to change one, would you get a new URL or a new cell phone number?

If you are a blogger, feel free leave your answers in the comments. I really am curious.

6 thoughts on “We’re so not vain: only slightly more than one third of us said this blog is about us

  1. No, because I would prefer than copyright laws be fixed.
    I don’t know. I don’t share it with co-workers though.
    Fuzzy. No
    No and no.
    Cell phone #. No question.

  2. To follow-up — there is no real problem with the methodology used in the survey, or the small number of blogging respondents, assuming that the survey was conducted according to the methods described, it should be representative. If you have representativeness, a small sample or subgroup is not really a problem.

    That said, response rates in the survey industry are down across the board, and I suspect that bloggers are LESS likely than non-bloggers to hang up on telephone surveys (I have no data, it’s just my gut instinct — most bloggers I know personally hate phone interactions). It’s particularly bad when you have this kind of subgroup variation in response rates if the difference is in the very group you are trying to study! There are statistical fixes for the broad problem with response rates, but not for specific problems like blogger/non-blogger differences in response rates — this is what would make the survey unrepresentative.

    So, I guess that’s my extremely long-winded way of saying: I agree, the results of this survey probably don’t reflect bloggers as a group.

  3. I was hoping you’d comment, given your expertise. (I also wondered how you’d answer the questions, so thanks!)

  4. * Yes, I publish under a creative commons license because I have had things (photos) taken without my permission in the past, and there isn’t another option until the copyright laws are fixed.

    *Everyone close to me knows I have a site. It’s better if your family/boss/coworkers know in advance, rather than finding out themselves. (Of course, you give up some freedom that way.)


    *No. Never will. (I do link to my Flckr page, though.)

    *Cell phone.

  5. I don’t think blogging is about conversation – do you write posts so that you can get comments and respond to them? Blogging is more like monologueing (sp?). It’s a soapbox. A public diary.

  6. Matt — some posts I write expecting to get comments, but most, I don’t. But comments are only part of the conversation. There are the emails I get, contacts from other social software, and being part of the larger, if indirect, conversations happening on the web — other bloggers linking to my posts, or bookmarking them in del.icio.us, or getting referrals from Technorati or Google searches.

    Sure, blogging can be soapbox or a public diary, but it can be all different kinds of conversation, or something else entirely. Blogging engines make web publishing and interaction remarkably easy, and what we make of that technology is up to us — so not suprisingly, we won’t all make the same thing.

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