Technorati has just finished their gigantic State of the Blogosphere report which had more facts, figures, pie and bar charts than one could possibly digest in a single sitting.
I’ve noted some of the highlights from the past 5 days and their relative importance for those that seek to use their blogs as a communication medium for the Gospel.
First, a quick primer:
Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere is an annual study looking at the trends and themes of blogging. This year, they’ve done something different by polling bloggers and asked them how blogging has shaped their lives, personally, professionally, and financially.
Some important facts to grant us context for why we should even engage in the blogosphere:
- comScore MediaMetrix (August 2008) predicts there are nearly 78 million unique visitors to blogs in the US out of a total audience of about 190 million.
- eMarketer (May 2008) suggests that there are about 94.1 million US blog readers in 2007, about 50% of internet users!
- Universal McCann (March 2008) suggests that about 77% of active Internet users read blogs.
These numbers could probably stand alone as to why the evangelical community must engage with blogs as a communication medium: Their reach has been proven, their readership is too big to deny. Internet users are used to reading material in a blog-like fashion, and it can only increase.
Some other great facts from Technorati:
- A truly global phenomenon: Technorati tracked blogs in 81 languages in June 2008, and bloggers responded to our survey from 66 countries across six continents.
- Here to stay: Bloggers have been at it an average of three years and are collectively creating close to one million posts every day. Blogs have representation in top-10 web site lists across all key categories, and have become integral to the media ecosystem.
- Not a homogenous group: Personal, professional, and corporate bloggers all have differing goals and cover an average of five topics within each blog.
- Savvy and sophisticated: On average, bloggers use five different techniques to drive traffic to their blog. They’re using an average of seven publishing tools on their blog and four distinct metrics for measuring success.
- Intensifying their efforts based on positive feedback: Blogging is having an incredibly positive impact on their lives, with bloggers receiving speaking or publishing opportunities, career advancement, and personal satisfaction.
If you’d like to read even more from the Introduction portion of The State, feel free to do so!
Day 1 – Who are the Bloggers?
From their research it appears that actual bloggers are typically more educated and affluent: 3 out of 4 US bloggers are college grads, and 42% have attended graduate school.
Although this particular section is looking at current bloggers, there are a few things that made me think.
- If a good portion of the bloggers are relatively affluent, then engaging these bloggers with the Gospel will provide opportunity to help them be convicted about how to wisely use their finances, which could have a dramatic affect on financial support for the Church.
- US Bloggers, as suggested by the research, are more educated and affluent than the general population. This could possibly suggest that they are more aware of technological practices in the online space which means that leveraging this collective pool with a Gospel slant on how to effectively use technology for the Kingdom would be awesome. The more the better.
- Majority of bloggers do not live in major metropolitan areas. That’s good. That means that blogs truly spill into all types of regional areas. This is good news for the proclamation of the Gospel everywhere online.
- Blogging is a Global Phenomenon. Yes. That’s good news for us.
- Nearly half of all bloggers have a Technorati Authority. The higher authority means the more people are actively linked that person’s blog content elsewhere on the web. This ultimately means that they have a community already surrounding them and that the spread of the Gospel will not fall on deaf (or non-existent) ears. Excellent.
- Nearly 80% of all bloggers blog “personally”, meaning they blog about personal interests, they share their story, their life. That’s good. It’s like LifeShare.
Engaging the blogosphere with the Gospel can have some definitely positive effects, just based on the current statistical evidence of not only use but how they are being used.
Day 2 – The What and the Why of Blogging
Day 2 focused on describing and answering the question of why blogs have become a significant part of the media landscape, in addition to researching what they are blogging about and why.
Some major points of consideration:
- The topics that people blog about are extremely diverse. I can imagine that there’s pretty much no topic that isn’t being covered in a blog, meaning that reaching different people groups online through a blog with the Gospel is very very possible.
- Sincere, conversational, expert, and humerous are top blogging styles. After thinking on it a bit, this makes sense, because these things are extremely relational. Some people read blogs for sincere commentary, some to create conversations like Ragamuffin Soul, some are reading blogs for expert advice on life and particular topics, and others are just there for entertainment. Pretty much covers everything, right? In addition…
- Self Expression and Sharing Expertise are the top reasons for blogging. Combine the two perhaps? Self-expression of one’s relationship with God through the transforming power of the Gospel in tune with sharing the “expertise” and authoritative nature of the Scriptures? Powerful combination. People want to know about our lives, see one express themselves as well as possible get some advice.
- Personal satisfaction is a key metric for success for 3 out of 4 bloggers. Goes without saying, perhaps. You have to have passion for what you do and why you write. Be satisfied, be fired up, be passionate about blogging, and you’ll keep on going. People will recognize this when they read your blog, so be specific and be passionate!
- Blogging has opened up many unique opportunities for many individuals. I’d love to see a study on how blogging has opened up conversations of the Gospel… I can dream, can’t I?
The bottom line is that if you’re sharing your life through your blog you’re on the right track of being able to reach people with the Gospel message. You may not have necessarily expressed it as such, but, this should provide some ample encouragement!
Day 3 – The How of Blogging
Day 3 covered specifics of how bloggers are blogging, from how much time they are spending to use of tags, categories, analytics, etc.
To start off, Technorati did some research on how much time the average blogger blogs a week. This chart should provide a good visual:
One of the things that’s really been on my heart recently is how much time I spend blogging. My desire is to be the most effective with my time, to eliminate as much “waste” as possible because I’ve got many other things that are important to me, like my family, ministry, etc.
Although there is some pretty substantial evidence that popularity and reach increases as the amount of time spent blogging increases, I’m not sure we necessarily have to believe those numbers in regards to effectiveness. Each evangelical blogger must discern differently how much time they want to invest, but if they do decide to invest, be intentional, be deliberate, and don’t cheat… (I got this from Andy Stanley’s ‘Choosing to Cheat‘ book, which is phenomenal.)
Some other interesting points to ponder:
- Some bloggers blog with help. I’m beginning to appreciate this more and more and my hope is that I can get others to help contribute to blogs. Community blogging is the best.
- Use tools on your blogs. These would include comments (and don’t force people to register…!), archiving, search box, widgets (don’t overload though), photo, video, twitter… etc. Add strategic additions to your content to supplement your main content, not to overload it.
- Build loyalty. Good statistics here, but essentially the challenge is to engage with your audience instead of being just a creator of content, be an social contributor as well. Talk to them, go to their blogs, create conversations, and if you can, meet in person. The Gospel is a personal thing, so become more personal!
- Invest. Many bloggers invest not only time and energy, but also a couple bucks in making your blog world class. I would highly recommend investing some money and getting a professional opinion, a designer perhaps, etc. You don’t have to break the bank.
Day 4 – Blogging for Profit
Bloggers are increasingly using their blogs to promote advertising and to put a little “green” in their pocket. This isn’t a bad thing, but it needs to be done wisely.
I would probably suggest reading this after you’ve built some audience and are interested in using your blog as a source of income. I definitely support one making a living off the Gospel and being a tent maker and such, but let the Gospel be first. If you’re intent is to blog for profit and then share the Gospel, I’d say that’s a little off tilt.
Some interesting facts:
- Average income is more than $6,000 a year. This I find is very hard to believe, and in fact, I don’t believe it’s true. They did say that the value was skewed by those that made $200k or more a year. I’d have to say the average blogger makes nothing.
- The more tools, in person events, the better. This makes sense, to a point.
Blogging can certainly help support the diaper bill if you’ve got the audience, but don’t get it twisted; money is not the point.
Day 5 – Brands Enter the Blogosphere
Intro by Technorati:
Brands make up a major part of bloggers’ online conversations. More than four in five bloggers post product or brand reviews, and blog about brands they love or hate. Even day-to-day experiences with customer care or in a retail store are fodder for blog posts. Companies are already reaching out to bloggers: one-third of bloggers have been approached to be brand advocates.
One of the biggest points here is that bloggers, generally speaking, are more open to marketing from other bloggers. Along the same vein, messages about the Gospel in a blog may receive a wider audience because it’s a blog, period. Blogs are fast becoming a more serious source of information, and that’s a good thing. Let the voice of the people be heard.
One thing that we all must consider though is the relative “brand” of the capital-C Church, in addition to your local bodies.
As the Church engages more and more into this space, are we “branding” it correctly, fairly, or in the right manner?
It’s still up for discussion and I hope more and more people begin to think of the mass affect we are producing at a global level… and if it’s the right message. Stylistic differences aside, there is only one Gospel and it must be spoken and shared!
So, Now What?
There’s still much to be researched, studied, and looked into, but perhaps one of the more pressions questions is what to do about it all? Collectively, too.
It’s obvious that the blog is here to stay. Let’s make sure we’re beinb wise about how we use it, strategic about how we’re engaging, and not forgetful about the Gospel.