David Weinberger comments on David Sifry’s statistical analysis of the blogosphere. These analyses are full of numbers, but I think people in the ‘old’ blogging industry are failing to look at the fundamental demographic changes that must be lying behind the figures. I’m not talking about more asians, or more europeans – I’m talking about a much more fundamental shift than that.
There are lots of blogs now, sure, but it’s not like the old days. The demographics are now utterly changed. Blogs are increasingly written by teenagers. The subjects are increasingly personal and diary-like, of interest to only a small group of friends.
Increasingly, people want to blog about things that are personal to them. They don’t want to be ‘authoritative’. They might care about the War and about the world, but they don’t write about it. The blog for fun and friends, not to build a rep or share their opinions with the whole world.
Now, this is obviously a very limited sample – rigorous qualitative analysis it is not and we could come up with counterexamples -. But it tells me that the blogosphere these days is as much to do with boyfriends and dancing as it is about discussing serious stuff.
Dave Sifry mentions that a lot of the mega-growth in the last three months is coming from companies like MSN Spaces, as much as from old-school blogging companies.
It will be interesting to see the statistics on this. To me it signals a big change, similar to the change on Usenet when the AOL users showed up. We need to really try to understand who the new bloggers are and what makes them use blogging software (which they are likely to just regard as an integral part of their email and home page, rather than as a separate free-standing piece of software.) As much as blogs are coming to prominence, they are also beginning to blend back into the street furniture of the Information Superhighway.
And that’s great if you ask me. The blogosphere is reflecting real life. It isn’t the blogosphere we once knew, but that’s no harm.
However it brings up a lot of issues for how the blogosphere is researched and how products are developed for it.
In a few years we will begin to really understand this blogging thing. What we’ll probably realise is that us old twenty- and thirtysomething guys were just fooling around, that we didn’t really understand this medium at all. We’re sitting here trying to imitate newspaper leader-writers. These young chicks are just going to write what they see and feel, and that’s what personal publishing is really going to be about.
Things are beginning to change. It’s not just geeks anymore.