July 19, 2006

Why we blog.

A survey:
About 77 percent of blog authors, or "bloggers,'' said they post to express themselves creatively rather to get noticed or paid, according to the report, released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
I'm surprised the number is that low, especially considering the likelihood of saying this as a modest or disingenuous characterization of what you're doing if you haven't got many readers. But maybe not. What would novelists in a survey say about why they write? I think the delusion that they've got a best-seller in the making is pretty widespread. But we bloggers are a saner lot... right?


SippicanCottage said...
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elliot said...

All writers write to be read.

(Even if their only readers are themselves.)

HD_Wanderer said...

"I blog because I got tired of the sunburns and mosquito bites I got while standing on the highway overpass and screaming at the passing cars."

That's the funniest thing I've read in a long time. Thanks.

I write to speak my mind, to say what I'd like to say without fear of annoying people around me. On my blog anyone can read or leave without consequence. In real life I have to continue dealing with friends, family and coworkers, so it's best no to annoy them with random blathering about anything that grabs my attention.

Too Many Jims said...

"About 77 percent of blog authors, or ``bloggers,'' said they post to express themselves creatively rather to get noticed or paid, according to the report, released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project."

What a terrible way to charecterize the study (and that is not even getting into the fact that there is apparently a missing "than" after the "rather" in the sentence).

The sentence may lead a reader to the conclusion that 23% of bloggers do so for the money. In fact, only 7% of bloggers (according to the study) cite "to make money" as a major reason for blogging and another 8% cite it as a minor reason. Plus the construction of the sentence lead me to conclude that it was an "either or" question. In reality, there may be people who responded that both self expression and making money were major or minor reasons for blogging.

pdf: http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP Bloggers Report July 19 2006.pdf

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Jim. That's important. I'd put myself in the 77% that blog first for self-expression. Part of expressing yourself is having someone to listen to you. I've always wanted readers and I've cared about making money since nearly the beginning, but both of these things are completely subordinate to self-expression.

nina said...

At what point would you not blog? If you knew that no more than five people read your blog? 500? Two? If this were irrelevant, then why do most of us track the number of readers? Does it matter if your stats go down? Are you happy if they go up? Audience -- large or small -- is vital to blogging. Otherwise you'd keep a journal and be done with all this creative expression stuff. You can write what you want there as well -- no one will mind. And vlogging can be replaced with speaking to yourself in front of the mirror.
No matter what anyone says, blogging is substantially about addressing an audience.

Ann Althouse said...

Nina: Some of it is just knowing someone could read it. I know how I felt writing my first blog post, when no one had read anything yet. Just the idea that it was there for anyone to read was immensely exciting. So the readers are important... even at 0 traffic.

AJ Lynch said...

I have always enjoyed writing and blogging is much easier than doing the overpass thing or scrawling graffiti on highway and brige abutments.

Paddy O. said...

I wonder if it would have made a difference if the survey made note of how long each of the respondents have been blogging.

In my experience setting up websites and blogs those who are quickest to ask about ads or other sources of revenue generally burn out after a few months.

Those who do it for self-expression, with the potential for an audience but not the demand for one, stick with it through the highs and lows of post inspiration.

Novelists and bloggers who stick with it almost have to be in it for the expression, always with the hope for a breakthrough, not necessarily because they're doing it for the money but because it would be so cool to do it and get money. Getting money for such a thing requires work, but it also requires good timing, and good connections, and a bit of other intangibles which may often leave someone deserved left in the boondocks.

Of course, now I question why I just left this comment on a quite popular blog. I don't think it's for the money.

El Mas Chingón said...

I'd have to say I do it for expression. I'm in the process of putting the final touches on a manuscript I wrote last year but blogging is an outlet. I have one to follow my favorite hockey team and there's three others I contribute to.

Steve H. said...

But we bloggers are a saner lot... right?

Not I.

johnstodderinexile said...

The wording of the Pew survey (like the wording of most surveys) seems inept. What is the difference between "to express yourself creatively" and "to get noticed?" There's a semantic difference, but not much of one. Imprecise language in a survey kills the survey's value.

Also: Doing something "to be noticed" has a negative connotation. When I was a kid and acted like a jerk, my mother would accuse me of "just trying to be noticed." I'm sure my mom wasn't the only one to use that rebuke.

Do people express themselves creatively in order not to be noticed? The fact that you're not writing a best seller doesn't mean your work is not meant to be read. My blog gets less than 1 percent of the hits your gets, Ann, but I'm still thrilled that I get a few hundred hits each day, and that I get more now than I did two months ago. I have readers! (By the way thanks for putting me on your blogroll.)

The only meaningful distinction that Pew should have explored is: Do you blog to get money (directly or indirectly), or do you blog for enjoyment?

amba said...

One blogger's mixed motives (from an e-mail I wrote to RLC):

To tell you the truth, I not only love blogging for its own sake, but at one time hoped it might be a way to resurrect a writing career, or start a new one; that it might lead to some real-world gig -- a column or something, even occasional. But, no. I've got that noncommercial seal of approval (big L) on my forehead, I don't have any expertise, I've never been able to be deliberately provocative (I used to know Erica Jong, and the spectacle was awesome), and . . . it's just a very big, very competitive world out there. Just to catch that other Great Eye, you need excellence, you need connections, and you need a specialty, or else you need a stunt. To turn a blog into a career move would be just as much a full-time job as any other. And I've got a full-time job: caretaker.

And yet. Having a circle of friends and peers who read you and respond immediately is, if you can't live on it economically, so much more life-giving emotionally than a "job." I think it's a real throwback to tribal days, when your your audience was as big as the firelight would reach.

VW: blafyr

Finn Kristiansen said...

I would agree with Nina's comments about the importance of an audience.

I suspect that we all want an audience, if we are honest, but we differ on the size. Some of us are fine with one or two, and others feel quite unsatisfied unless we are reaching a vast crowd.

We probably all want validation of either our viewpoints or writing skills, via praise, comments, readership, or, cash. I would doubt anyone does it for pure self expression.

SippicanCottage said...
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Ruth Anne Adams said...

If you're writing in bathroom stalls, "pithier" isn't quite the right spelling.

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