Monday, August 21, 2006

What is a blog?

Much like this weekend's opening of the film Snakes on a Plane, blogs are more hype than profit, according to a survey by Jupiter Research. Only 7% of American adults write blogs and 22% read them, according to the survey.

"We understand that while they're powerful new tools, the bulk of human interaction is still high-touch rather than high-tech," said Brad Fay, chief operating officer at Keller Fay.

These results make it seem like blogs are for the hardcore and remain alien to adults. Are these results accurate?

Once given a taste, it's easy to become immersed in the blogosphere and forget about traditional media. The internet is a murky sea of RSS to wade through, and the term "blog" is so darn hip (and weird sounding - remember Google?) that making it into the lexicon of the less-plugged-in seems to be, well, not so successful. To extend that challenge to "podcast" and "YouTube" is even more difficult. Then there's the issue of trust.

But you know what? I think these results are flawed. And it's not because the researchers miscounted.

In my opinion, many more American adults read blogs than are reported. Why? Because many blogs aren't labeled "blogs." On major news sites - CNN and Sports Illustrated to the New York Times and Salon - much of the "blog" content comes off like a column. How do you tell the difference?

What is a blog, anyway? Is it the Blogger/Wordpress visual template? Is it the consistent content? Is it the communal comments? I once posed the question to a room full of classmates and founder Patrick Phillips, sparking a lengthy, complex discussion that ended with this: the blog is incredibly hard to define - more a spectrum of characteristics than a rigid set.

So how do you define "blog" to set guidelines for the survey - and then relay this definition to the respondents of the survey?

When no one's obligated to call their blog by its name (this one certainly isn't), it's hard to categorize content. So is it a surprise that most adults haven't heard of blogs?

No. But I'll bet my money they've read them.

Let me ask you: what is a blog?

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