By THOMAS HARGROVE and GUIDO H. STEMPEL III
Despite the news media’s fascination with the so-called blogosphere, a national survey has found that only about one in eight American adults currently uses Internet blogs to get news and information.
A survey of 1,010 adult residents of the United States by the Scripps Survey Research Center of Ohio University found that nearly a quarter of young adults say they read blogs at least once a week, compared to just 3 percent of people 65 or older.
Blogs are most popular among well-educated single people, especially those without children, who live in major urban areas or along the high-technology centers of the West Coast. Blogs are least popular among residents of Northeastern states, among blacks and among residents of rural areas.
"The tools for self-publishing on the Internet are getting so much easier," said Chicago-based blogger Andy Wibbels, author of the book "Blogwild! A Guide for Small Business Blogging."
"The best part of blogging is that anybody can say anything. The worst part, of course, is that anybody can say anything."
The survey asked: "How many days each week do you get news from a blog on the Internet?" Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they never use blogs to get news, 7 percent said they read blogs four days a week or less and 5 percent said they read them five days a week or more.
"I’m not sure that rate of usage is set in stone. For now, the significance of blogging is that it influences the influencers," said David Kline, co-author of "Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business and Culture."
"Look at the political campaign for U.S. Senate in Connecticut. The blogosphere had a pretty clear effect on the outcome of the vote. And political bloggers impacted both politicians in the race, affecting what they talked about during the campaign."
Although blogs comprise a minority of Internet usage, experts report they are growing almost exponentially.
According to Dave Sifry, founder of the "Technorati" Web site that monitors and measures blog traffic, there are currently more than 52 million blogs worldwide. Together, they receive 1.6 million new postings every day. That works out to nearly 19 postings every second.
Sifry estimates that the blogosphere is doubling in size every 200 days.
The survey found that blogs are more than twice as popular among single people with no children than with married couples with children. Internet experts agree that this is due to time constraints imposed by the demands of family life, while childless couples and singles have time to patiently read some of the 175,000 new blogs created every day.
"Blogs can be a supplement to the regular news, a counterpoint and a way to be skeptical about what is happening," said Wibbels.
The poll also found that people who use blogs are significantly more likely to believe in anti-government conspiracy theories. Nearly half of those who read blogs say they suspect the federal government may have been involved in the assassination of President John Kennedy or the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"This kind of conspiracy-mongering has existed long before the Internet," Kline said. "But, let’s face it, bloggers are skilled amateurs who have a greater disposition to believe in conspiracies."
The survey was conducted by telephone July 6-24 at the Scripps Survey Research Center under a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
(Thomas Hargrove is a reporter for the Scripps Howard News Service. Guido H. Stempel III is director of the Scripps Survey Research Center.)