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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Monday, March 01, 2004

CyberJournalist.net: Blogs still rare, but foster community

CyberJournalist.net: Blogs still rare, but foster community

44% of Net users create content online

By Jonathan Dube

One of the great promises of the Internet always has been that anyone can be a publisher online. Now a new study shows that promise is being fulfilled. Fifty-three million Americans -- nearly half of all adult U.S. Internet users -- have created content online by posting to Websites, blogging or sharing files, according to findings by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. And while Weblogs are still a very small -- but growing -- proportion of online content, they're showing a remarkable ability to foster online community.

With all the buzz about Weblogs these days, some might be surprised by how small a role Weblogs have played in online content creation. Only 2% of Internet users in this survey reported writing a weblog or online diary. And of those, only about 10 percent update their Weblogs daily, while most update their blogs once a week or less often.

It's clear from this and other studies that creating or reading Weblogs is still only a very small part of how people use the Internet. Still, this survey was conducted between March 12 and May 20, 2003. Other surveys by Pew, including one in early 2004, show that between 2% and 7% of Internet users publish a blog, indicating that the use of Weblogs is indeed growing.

But while only a small number of Net users write blogs, a slightly larger number of Net users -- 11 percent -- say they visit blogs written by others. And of these readers, a third report posting to or commenting on the blog entries that they have read -- an encouraging sign for Weblogs' ability to foster online community.

Imagine 30 percent of newspaper readers responding to articles they've read. No other media form in history has created so much feedback and interactivity with its audience.

How Content is Created

Here's a closer look at how all the content is being created online. Fourty-four percent of the nation’s adult Internet users (those 18 and over) have done at least one of the following:

• 21% of Internet users say they have posted photographs to Web sites.
• 20% say they have allowed others to download music or video files from their computers.

• 17% have posted written material on Web sites.

• 13% maintain their own Web sites.

• 10% have posted comments to an online newsgroup. A small fraction of them have posted files to a newsgroup such as video, audio, or photo files.

• 8% have contributed material to Web sites run by their businesses.

• 7% have contributed material to Web sites run by organizations to which they belong such as church or professional groups.

• 7% have Web cams running on their computers that allow other Internet users to see live pictures of them and their surroundings.

• 6% have posted artwork on Web sites.

• 5% have contributed audio files to Web sites.

• 4% have contributed material to Web sites created for their families.

• 3% have contributed video files to Web sites.

• 2% maintain Web diaries or Web blogs

Who Creates the Content

Pew found that content creators tend to be younger, highly educated and more urban and surburban than the average American -- similar to the makeup of the general Internet population. Among those online, all age groups are equally likely to create content. Here's a more detailed look:

In analyzing the numbers, Pew found that most content creators tend to fall into one of three distinct groups:

• "Power creators" are the Internet users who are most enthusiastic about content-creating activities. They are young – their average age is 25 – and they are more likely than other kinds of creators do things like use instant messaging, play games, and download music. And they are the most likely group to be blogging.

• "Older creators" have an average age of 58 and are experienced Internet users. They are highly educated, like sharing pictures, and are the most likely of the creator groups to have built their own Web sites. They are also the most likely to have used the Internet for genealogical research.

• "Content omnivores" are among the heaviest overall users of the Internet. Most are employed. Most log on frequently and spend considerable time online doing a variety of activities. They are likely to have broadband connections at home. The average age of this group is 40.