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Panpa Bulletin : March 2006
50 | PaNPa bUlletiN March 2006 techNology MatterS StePhen QuInn blogs represent a fasci- nating new develop- ment in media con- sumption and practice. It is too early to see whether they are a revolution or simply a distraction. But they are grow- ing. It is difficult to estimate how many blogs (a word combined from web and log) exist because the number seems to keep increasing. The Pew Internet & American Life Project (http://www.pewin- ternet.org) produces schol- arly research about the cyber world. Pew reported in 2005 that by the end of 2004, blogs had established themselves as a key part of online culture in the United States. Two surveys in November 2004 showed that 8 million American adults said they had created blogs. Readership of blogs jumped 58 per cent in 2004 and late in 2004 represented 27 per cent of Internet users. (Note though that some of this huge growth was because of politi- cal blogs written during the US presidential campaign of 2004). One in eight Internet users had posted comments or other material to blogs. To put that 27 per cent into perspective, that's more blog readers than the total circu- lation of all America's daily newspapers on any week day (total average circulation on any weekday is just over 50 million copies). Blogs are easy to set up and maintain. A 'blogger' cre- ates an account with a free or paid blogging service via the web. It's as simple as filling in a form. Ownership of a blog gives you access to a web location from where you can update your blog as often as you like. Anyone with access to the web can read the blog. Ben Hammersley set up more than 20 blogs for The Guardian newspaper in 2005. He believes that blogs make personal publishing possible. "Home pages and personal pages on the web were dif- ficult [to create] because you needed to master html," he said. "Blogs were much easier to work with because they are aimed at teenagers, especially girls." Most blog research shows that the biggest single group of bloggers are aged 12-24. In November 2005, Pew reported that half of all American teenagers had created a blog or webpage, or posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations "Which makes sense," Hammersley said with a chuckle, "because teenagers probably know more about technology than 45-year-old journalists." The popularity of blogging is probably explained by the fact that it is the easiest way to publish online, and many peo- ple have opinions they want to express. Blogs are available in a wide variety of flavours. Some people run them as newsletters or bulletins for their organisations. Academ- ics use them for teaching. But probably the biggest group of blogs are personal di- aries, where people vent their frustrations about life and the universe. As with newsgroups, the quality of information in blogs sits on a long continu- um from erudite offerings to lunatic ravings, though often more at the latter end of the continuum. One of the most popular sites is LiveJournal (http:// www.livejournal.com/). Its home page details the number of blogs associated with LiveJournal and the number of people active at any given time. As of February 2006, Live- Journal hosted 9,423,550 blogs and about a quarter were ac- tive at the given time. Mem- bers were posting 200,000 items an hour, or about 330 a minute. Noted Hammers- ley, "LiveJournal's software is much more sophisticated than most newspaper publishing software." How to fnd blogs Technorati.com is prob- ably the best way to track the 'blogosphere', the term that describes the blog universe. Technorati tells us what blog- gers consider important, and what ideas are attracting the most attention. It claims to report within eight minutes of a blog being published. As of early Febru- ary 2006, Technorati.com was tracking 27 million blogs and 2,000 million links. Only three months earlier, the figure was 20.9 million sites and 1,700 million links. Used wisely, Technorati is an excellent research tool for journalists. Use it to discover what people on the Internet are saying about you, or your company or products. But remember that blogs are more influential than they deserve because Google ranks sites based on how many people link to each site. Blogs link to each other, so this produces high rankings for bloggers. Next month, I'll look at blog variations, such as mobile phone blogs (moblogs), podcasting and video-blogs (vblogs). Stephen Quinn is the associate professor of journalism, deakin University blogs: a publishing revolution? Stephen Quinn looks at the growing phenomena of blogs and considers how journalists and editors can use it to their advantage. “because teenagers probably know more about technology than 45-year-old journalists.”