Despite a blogger’s often private sense of the nature of his or her blog, the act of keeping a blog (unless password protected or otherwise locked down) is an inherently public act. Blogs are generally kept so that they may be read by others, yet the audience of a particular blog is technically nearly impossible to measure. While Web servers have traditionally collected information about who or what visits them, in this day and age of RSS feeds, many blog readers who might have been counted by server or site traffic logs are now obscured behind the single visit of an RSS feed reader’s URL or IP address.
But we do have a good idea of the size of the general blog-reading population. In February 2004, the Pew Internet Project added a question to our internet activity survey: “Do you ever read someone else’s web log or blog?” At that time, 17% of internet users said yes. Since then, the percentage of blog readers has increased to 39% of internet users, or about 57 million American adults.
“RSS” – most often thought to stand for “Really Simple Syndication.” An RSS feed enables a “feed reader” or aggregator to periodically check particular spots on the Web for new content, pulling that content into one central location for easier reading.
A blogger can gain a sense of audience composition through “on-blog” or “off-blog” means. On-blog measurements include site traffic logs as well as commenting and tagboarding functions where a reader of a blog can post feedback. A comment is generally a response to a specific post, whereas a tagboard is a general space for commenting on the entire blog or website. Off-blog mentions occur outside of the blog and include hearing from someone—in conversation, on the phone, via email or IM—that they read your blog. Readership may also be suggested—though not necessarily guaranteed—by the linking from one blog to another on a blogroll (or list of links to other blogs generally found in the sidebar of a blogpage).
“Blogroll” – a list of links to other blogs generally found in a blog’s sidebar
Given the fact that many types of simple blogging software do not incorporate traffic statistics into their blogging packages, it is not surprising that nearly half of the bloggers in our sample (47%) say they do not know their traffic statistics. One in five bloggers (22%) say they have fewer than ten hits a day in blog traffic, and 17% say they have 10 to 99 hits on a typical day. Just 13% have more than 100 hits a day, though a handful in this group has much larger traffic levels.
Of the bloggers who do know their traffic, male bloggers in our sample are more likely to report higher average levels of traffic. The 10 highest self-reports of blog traffic were all by male bloggers.