The size of citizens’ media

The size of citizens’ media
: The latest Pew Internet study starts to reveal the size of the growing citizens’ media movement.

Pew says that 44 percent of Americans — more than 53 million adults — have “used the Internet to publish their thoughts, respond to others, post pictures, share files and otherwise contribute to the explosion of content available online.”

: 21% of Internet users say they have posted photographs to Web sites.

: 17% have posted written material on Web sites.

: 13% maintain their own Web sites.

In multiple surveys, Pew has found that between 2 and 7 percent of adults have created blogs.

That is much bigger than I would have guessed. I never expect the creation — or even reading — of weblogs to reach a majority or anything close to it. I look at it another way: What is the proportion of Americans who, until now, ever wrote for a newspaper or wrote a book or appeared on TV? That’s really tiny. These new tools have opened up communication to those who want it and they are discovering it. Most people hate writing; most don’t think about serving a public. But now those who do can.

Pew also said that 11 percent of Internet users read blogs and that number is also much, much larger than I expected. Blogs are very new; they are niche; the niches are starting to add up to the size of a cable channel.

Finally, Pew said that 34 percent of those who read blogs post to them. This is a very interactive form (for those who allow it).

Remember last fall I posted AOL head Jonathan Miller saying that his users spend two-thirds of their time with content created by other users.

Citizens media is becoming an industry.

: Meanwhile, USA Today reports on the Pew study and asks one of the utterly unscientific polls it made famous: Do you blog? Total: 21 percent: 16.7 percent, as if now, say they blog and an additional 5.6 percent say they are blogging this.

: Charles R. Martin, the commenter and emailer who alerted me to the latest from Pew, adds this: “Remember when we were hearing that reading was going to be an obsolete skill? And letter writing…”

: I just added this in a comment at Lost Remote:

Put it in TV terms: weblogs have an 11 percent share (13 million viewers); not bad especially for something that is so new and that has absolutely no marketing behind it.

Compare the number of weblog writers to the number of writers in major media: between 2.4 and 8.4 million. That’s an explosion of content from the people.

Look at the demographics in the Pew study; they are also impressive.

Who ever expected more than a percent of America to want to write and communicate with a public? Who expected a tenth of America to be reading these niche products of citizens’ media?

  • Matt

    One thing to consider with these polls — they call household phones to acquire the data. I haven’t answered my house phone in ages. A lot of other people who are publishing on the Web might not even have a house phone.

  • The A.P. disagrees with your enthusiasm, Jeff. (big shock there).

  • Since I use the home phone line to surf the internet, no sales/marketing OR survey calls get through!
    I have contributed letters to the editors, been covered by newspaper and television and gotten 197 votes for City Council (out of 14,000+).
    The blog is a better way to get your message out and see, practically immediately, what effect it has (comments)!
    See San Antonio Express News, January 29, 1996 – my adventures in “government land” start on page 6A.

  • “the niches are starting to add up to the size of a cable channel”
    I’m uncertain this kind of addition is meaningful. The *collective* audience numbers for tiny company or recreational newsletter might be larger than any single national newspaper. But it would be easy to read too much into that.