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Social Security and Identity Theft

Skewed Blog Survey Report

Surveys about the internet and particularly blog usage are always of interest and this recent one from the Scripps Survey Research Center of Ohio University grabbed my attention, reporting that “just” three percent of Americans 65 and older read blogs at least once a week.

Three percent of the 65-plus population (about 1.08 million people) can hardly be characterized as “just.” Considering that unlike young Americans, elders who use computers learned how only in midlife, many later than that and others not at all yet, the number is remarkably large. But the wording in the report suggests that few elders read blogs and therefore either elders aren’t keeping up with technology or blogs are not as important as you’ve heard in the media.

In this case, it is the latter drum the writers are beating – to cast a suspicious light on all those nutty people who read or write blogs regardless of age.

Another section of the story discusses a survey question about how many days a week readers get their news from blogs. Since anyone familiar with blogs knows they are rarely if ever sources of hard news, 88 percent sanely answered “never,” but the writers of the story had a different spin to put on that answer as the full quotation shows:

“The survey asked: ‘How many days each week do you get news from a blog on the Internet?’ Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they never use blogs to get news, 7 percent said they read blogs four days a week or less and 5 percent said they read them five days a week or more.

"’I'm not sure that rate of usage is set in stone. For now, the significance of blogging is that it influences the influencers,’ said David Kline, co-author of Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business and Culture.

So now it is obvious that the story and, because it is written by two people within the organization which conducted the survey, perhaps the survey itself, is biased. It is impossible to know, in the second sentence of the first paragraph, if those other two numbers refer to readers looking for news or something else. And the second paragraph reinforces the first idea that interest in blogs isn't as widespread as you’ve heard; it’s just those elite media types who take them seriously.

It then becomes evident that the goal of the story (if not the survey) is to tag all bloggers as members of the tinfoil hat fringe. Here is the coup de grace:

“The poll also found that people who use blogs are significantly more likely to believe in anti-government conspiracy theories. Nearly half of those who read blogs say they suspect the federal government may have been involved in the assassination of President John Kennedy or the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"’This kind of conspiracy-mongering has existed long before the Internet," Kline said. "But, let's face it, bloggers are skilled amateurs who have a greater disposition to believe in conspiracies.’"

So, with apologies to Willie Nelson, don’t let your children (or elders) grow up to be bloggers. You wouldn’t want them to become part of the crackpot element that questions the government, or surveys or how news stories are slanted.


Interesting information. I went to great lengths to raise "crackpot" children who question the government, slanted news stories and just about anything that doesn't seem quite right.
So, with apologies to Hank Williams Jr., "I'm just carrying on a family tradition."

Wow, that's some serious bias. I'm not necessarily representative (almost certainly not), but blogs and blogging are at the very core of my internet life. What people take from blogs depends very much on what their interests are. If you like conspiracy theories, you're going to gravitate to the kinds of blogs that talk about them. If you're a news buff, a judicious selection of blogs will not only include appropriate links, but give you excellent recaps, interpretations, and insights that you're not necessarily going to get from traditional news sources.

Also, we have to remember that 95% of anything is garbage, including blogs and their readers. So it's the garbage that will come to the top in surveys and thus get the attention.

I find most surveys about "how blogs are (or aren't!) changing the world" are skewed, partly because they seem to think that a blog must be a) a political rant or b) a lovesick teenager writing in text message slang - gr8!

Neither your nor my blog falls into either of these categories - nor do all the thousands of other food blogs, photography blogs, travel blogs or some of my favourites like Millie Garfield or The Language Log. I read blogs at least 6 days a week, but I certainly don't treat them as my primary source of news, and I'm not much one for conspiracy theories! Until those designing the surveys lose their preconceived ideas of what blogs are, the structure of any questionnaire will always be flawed.

The survey report is suspect in other ways I didn't touch on my story. It is unclear whether the writers interviewed Mr. Kline for his quotes, or if they lifted them out of context from Mr. Kline's book.

And whether that final quote from Mr. Kline is out of context or not, on what evidence does he say that "skilled amateurs" have a greater propensity to believe conspiracy theories? And greater than who else? It is impossible to take this story and Mr. Kline's quotes seriously without better sourcing and citations.

Many news stories are slanted. This one is done more clumsily than most.

“…national survey has found that only about one in eight American adults currently uses Internet blogs to get news and information.”

Surveys can prove anything those who conduct the survey want to prove and a survey of ONLY 1,010 adults doesn’t prove much other than that many people can answer survey questions.

Unlike the authors of the article, maybe the other seven adults know that most blogs are opinion, not a news source.

I just conducted a survey and found that every adult in my household likes chocolate and does not believe the results of surveys!

I have to admit that initially my blog reading related mostly to interests in quilting and books. My daughter always gets news on-line, but until recently, I continued to rely on the newspaper . I now regularly check various news sources.

I don't, however, read the "news BLOGS" and maybe I should check them out. Who does read the "blog news"? What are they like? I would assume that they are even more biased than other sources and that reading them would require more than a grain of salt.

My husband is a news blog junkie!! I read some of them. We find that they are on the cutting edge of real investigative journalism. You have to have a measure of intelligence and skepticism because there are a lot of wacko things being said. But in these times where are you going to go to hear the truth - not the main stream media. We were totally put off by Katie Couric's softball questions of W. Oh, and we are in our late 60's.

What a fine example of inane busywork that survey appears to be, as well as another example of agism.

Bloggers like you, Ronni, inspire, connect, inform, and generally give hope. Please continue.

With much gratitude to you. Sue

Sounds like that survey is based on nothing at all. He probably just made it up. He might as well have used the old cliche, "Some say" or, "Most believe" and skip the survey all together

Blogging is only in its infancy, and is already elbowing the major media. The line is blurring. Let's face it, those 'reporters' are skilled amateurs who have a salaried disposition to believe whatever their magnates tell them to believe.

Arthur C. Clarke wrote that 99% of everything is you-know-what & I'm guessing that applies to this survey very well.

I'd say that's tabloid "journalism". Susan

I'm not a blogger but read this and other blogs every day. These guys make me laugh...they think they know something, and they couldn't be more wrong. I think Robert has their number!

In reading the text of the news item for which you provided a link, I found this:

"The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points." In my experience, 3% is the top margin of error for legitimate acceptance by most, with results increasingly suspect the higher the percentage.

The results of the study should be taken lightly at best. Ronni's blog piece and others comments made here about the reliability and validity of this study are well taken.

Unfortunately, the main stream media jump on these surveys 'cause they need fodder about which to write. Too many people accept what they write. Those who don't unquestionably accept what these "experts" tell us are discounted.

This is a perfect example of all the misinformation that gets spread around, some intentionally for self-serving purposes.

Their website is difficult to find reports, although the data are available. However, the numbers of adult Americans, with or without Internet connection, who use blogs at least weekly to read news, may be accurate. But the story could have been better written; believeing in government conspiracies doesn't depend on the Internet. Maybe believing in government conspiracies drives people to the Internet to confirm their beliefs?

Pew has better reports--but still,
significantly more younger adults use the Internet than older adults, by nearly three times.

Related surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the blog population has grown to about 12 million American adults, or about 8% of adult internet users and that the number of blog readers has jumped to 57 million American adults, or 39% of the online population.

How big is the US Internet population?

*68% of men are internet users, compared with 66% of women. Because they make up more of the population, the total number of women online is now
slightly larger than the number of men.
*86% of women ages 18-29 are online, compared with 80% of men that age.
*34% of men age 65 and older are online, compared with 21% of women that age.
*60% of black women are online, compared with 50% of black men.


Just to clarify (in case anyone is still interested), the reporter who quoted me conflated two different issues I was discussing -- 1) the fact that "skilled amateurs" (i.e., no-professional journalists) now have a voice and influence in the national discourse, and 2) the fact that blogs can and do fuel conspiracy-mongering of all types.

The main point I tried to make to the reporter (which may have been lost) was that even if the absolute numbers of people who read political blogs are still small, blogging is still having a real impact on politics precisely because bloggers and their readers tend to be more active and influential than other citizens.

The fact that one can find all manner of wild and unsubstantiated ideas floating around on blogs (and on the Web in general) does not diminish blogging's growing importance in national political life. It just means that blog readers (and indeed consumers of all media) need to exercize critical thinking to try to separate fact from fiction.

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