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5/12/2005
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What's A Blog? Many Web Users Don't Know

If you're reading this blog, you're part of a minority among Internet users. Despite the hype, most people don't read blogs. In fact, some surveys suggest a majority of Internet users haven't even heard of blogs. Hard to imagine, right?

If you're reading this blog, you're part of a minority among Internet users. Despite the hype, most people don't read blogs. In fact, some surveys suggest a majority of Internet users haven't even heard of blogs. Hard to imagine, right?The Internet marketing advisory firm eMarketer issued a report Thursday showing that blogging, despite its hype this past year-especially during last year's presidential campaign-remains relatively immature as an information vehicle to reach people. It cites a January study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project showing that 62% of U.S. Internet users aren't familiar with blogs. Though not as dramatic, other recent studies show blogging is far from reaching its potential. A March Gallup study, for instance, says nearly half of those surveyed aren't familiar with blogs.

"Blog readership may have gotten an unsustainable boost from the unusually contentious 2004 election," Ezra Palmer, eMarketer's editorial director, writes in a commentary accompanying the report. "The latest Pew data and other anecdotal evidence suggest that blog readership has crested, at least temporarily. Blog readership growth probably will slow this year. It will take a significant amount of growth just to make up for the loss of short-term political readers who logged off post election day."

But don't count blogging out. Its influence on other media is overwhelming. It's become another source, albeit an unfiltered one, for the dissemination of news. And the demographic of the blog reader is evolving. According to Pew, blog readers are more likely to be young, male, well educated, and Internet veterans. Yet, more recent studies show a greater-than-average growth in blog readership among women, minorities, and those between 30 and 49.

That's a potential market to tap, not just to those wanting people to listen to their views, but for companies wanting to drive revenue. Still, it will be some time-years-before the economics of blogging will make sense for most companies. "Blogging is an explosively popular social phenomenon that is spilling into the business world," Palmer writes, "but thus far the financial and economic impact of blogging has been minimal."

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