Teenagers are losing interest in blogging, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Media coverage of the report – released yesterday – suggests that teens are more interested in short items, such as texting, status updates and so on. However, like much of the discussion about blogging we are not necessarily being told the truth. There are some inconsistencies, which are not immediately obvious.
For instance, the report reveals that teenagers are not using Twitter very much; so how does that square with the supposed interest in short messages? If teens were mainly interested in writing short messages they would swarm to Twitter – and they haven’t.
Furthermore, the study shows that the proportion of teenagers who blog has fallen in two years from 24% to 15%. At the same time, say the researchers, the over 30s blog more, with an increase in the numbers of bloggers from 7% to 11%. But take a look at the details of the study and you will see there is a margin of error of almost 4% in the statistics. That means the teens level of blogging could have stayed roughly the same, from 20% to 19% while the adult level of blogging could have gone down from 11% to 7%. In other words, far from teens giving up blogs, it may be the older generation.
As ever, headline statistics never tell us what is really going on. Indeed, many people may well say they don’t blog; yet they write “notes” on Facebook (the same thing) or they post “messages” in Ecademy (the same thing) or they write “stuff” on MySpace (the same thing). To many people “blogging” may imply setting up their own blog as part of their own website, or over at Blogger or WordPress. The question you ask people has an impact on the results you get as well. Furthermore, the Pew study was based on familial data; it was interviews with parents and their teenage children. So, if your Dad is a blogger is that going to be a cool thing for you to do? Perhaps, but perhaps not. The relationship that exists between the participants in the study could also have an influence on the results.
The Pew researchers are careful to make clear the limitations of their study and provide full details of what they did and how they obtained their results. There is statistical information as you would expect with any professional research. The problem is, the results suggest that blogging is on its way out with younger generations. And that then could put off people from blogging in the first place.
Consider growing up in the Middle Ages. If you could write, you would have written on dried animal skins or on parchment perhaps. Then, when paper was introduced into Britain some people would have moved from writing on skin to using paper. If we’d done a study at the time we may well have said that writing on animal skins was getting less popular. But what we wouldn’t have seen so easily was that writing itself was becoming more popular because more people were using paper. Today, we look at studies which show that blogging is losing its popularity; but what we fail to notice is that writing online is more popular than ever before because people are no longer “blogging” but “Facebooking”. Teens may be “blogging” less (they may not) but they are certainly writing more than their parents’ generation did when they were teenagers. Online content production is at an all time high; don’t let anyone lead you into thinking that it is becoming less popular.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+