A brand new Pew survey of Internet users lets bloggers track the growing audience for their writing. The survey suggests that the total online potential audience (regular Internet users) has reached 40% of the US population, and that 7% of them (8 million) have created a weblog at some time and 27% (32 million Americans) claim to read weblogs. Other research indicates that, excluding the exploding Chinese market, US blog readership is about 40% of global blog readership, which means that the blog writer now has a target audience of 80 million readers worldwide. Of that number, 6 million Americans (and perhaps 15 million worldwide) subscribe to one or more blogs through RSS feeds. About 40% of blog readers have posted comments on blogs.
Other surveys monitored by Phil Wolff’s Blogcount suggest the number of regular Internet users who maintain active blogs is closer to 2% of regular Internet users (2 million Americans, perhaps 5 million globally), and that global blog readership including China is as high as 110 million. These surveys also indicate that the average blog reader stays only 90 seconds per page, and only 40 seconds per page on ‘A-list’ blogs.
But what’s the real competition out there? Extrapolating some work I did last year, only about 20,000 blogs (a mere 0.4% of all active blogs) have a sizeable audience (more than 10 regular visitors and more than 150 hits per average day), and readership in a typical day is only a little more than three million people, each spending an average of about 20 minutes flitting among 15 blog pages.
Using Shirky’s Power Law, and adding in RSS subscriptions to the hit count totals, that would break today’s blogosphere audience down roughly as follows:
If you’re an average A-list blogger (those getting at least 15,000 hits per day), your 150,000 40-second visitors in aggregate are spending 1700 hours per day reading and commenting on your blog. The average B-list blogger (those getting at least 1,000 hits per day) is getting 62 hours per day of 90-second-per-visit aggregate reader attention, the average C-list (150-1,000 hits-per-day) blogger 13 hours per day of aggregate reader attention, and the average up-and-coming (50-150 hits-per-day) blogger 2.5 hours per day. These are not staggering numbers, but certainly an encouraging return on time invested in writing.
Compare this to a daily local paper. According to Encarta, in 2000 the 1500 US dailies printed an aggregate 50 million copies per day with an average readership of 2 people per copy. A Readership Institute survey suggests the average reader spends 15 minutes per day reading the paper. Assuming half of that is spent reading classifieds, ads, comics etc., that means the average US daily paper gets 8300 hours per day of aggregate reader attention. Assuming an average of 50 articles, editorials and columns per edition, that works out to 170 hours’ reader attention per article. Since people tend to exaggerate their newspaper reading, this is probably a high estimate.
What this means is that if blog readership continues to soar (doubling every 18 months) and newspaper readership continues to stagnate, in three years the average B-list blogger will be getting significantly more reader attention than the average unsyndicated US newspaper article or column, and the average A-list blogger will be getting almost as much reader attention as the average US daily paper.
Now let’s look at attention in aggregate. All US dailies combined are getting an aggregate of 12.5 million hours of reader attention per day. The blogosphere combined is getting an aggregate of 1.0 million hours of reader attention per day, and that’s doubling every 18 months, and we haven’t started to bridge the digital divide yet, where 80% of our potential audience lies.
Not bad for ‘a million guys in pajamas‘, huh?
Thanks to Above the Fold for the Pew link. If you’re looking for inspiration on what to write to tap into this huge audience, scroll to the bottom of my right side-bar to find What the Blogosphere Needs More Of. For more of my articles on blogging, go here.