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February 15, 2006
Blogs Bogging Down?

Mark Tapscott links to a Gallup survey that suggests that the blogging explosion has plateaued. After experiencing exponential growth in readership and exposure for two years, blogosphere penetration in the general population flattened in 2005, showing no growth at all:

However, according to recent Gallup data, it seems the growth in the number of U.S. blog readers was somewhere between nil and negative in the past year," Gallup said.

The data upon which that statement was based was drawn from Gallup's annual Lifestyle survey conducted Dec. 5-8 2005, which found nine percent of internet users saying they read blogs frequently, 11 percent read them occasionally, 13 percent read them rarely and 66 percent never read them.

Those figures are virtually unchanged from the results of the same survey one year ago, according to Gallup. Although the response options varied slightly on the two surveys, Gallup said the results were so similar that "it is reasonable to draw some inferences. The main inference is that blog readership did not grow in 2005.

Mark questioned whether we may have seen the last of the ground-floor days, where bloggers could count on double-digit growth, bringing new readers and greater influence to citizen journalists. If so, that could portend dark days for blog alliances and individuals who based their ventures on the ability to attract more and better advertisers to fund their ventures. The flattening of the growth curve certainly suggests that.

However, the data look more pessimistic than reality. It doesn't take the context of that growth into consideration, a particularly important point in assessing the potential of the blogosphere. In 2003, the first year of explosive growth, we had begun a war in March, driving many across the political spectrum to take advantage of the new technology. In 2004, we had a presidential election on top of the ongoing war, an election that somehow missed the summer vacation that such contests normally take. These events drove both bloggers and readers to the blogosphere.

In contrast, 2005 did not introduce any particularly new events. The war continued, and its partisans (yours truly included) continued their debate. The Iraqis held three open elections, but only the first really engaged the public at large. The year had its share of big stories, but not singular new events or political campaigns. And yet, the blogosphere managed to maintain its interest to American readers. The percentage stayed the same, but in an off-year, one should have expected a significant fall-off of traffic. That did not occur.

Now with a new election cycle to fight, people will take a renewed interest in the blogosphere. I predict that we will see significantly more penetration into the general public -- perhaps not as dramatic as the growth from 02-03 or 03-04, but bet on a noticeable expansion.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 15, 2006 7:43 PM

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