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September 11, 2006

Listen up marketers: 24% of Gen Yers read blogs

We recently published a short piece, “Marketers: Keep A Keen Eye On Gen Yers” that looks at how these young adults (aged 18-26) use the Internet differently from their older brethren.

Here’s the short executive summary:

Gen Yers — 18- to 26-year-olds who came of age with broadband, cell phones, and iPods, among other things — stand apart from older generations because of their hands-on approach to the Web. Marketers trying to anticipate future consumer trends should tune in to Gen Yers. As these do-it-yourselfers become a primary consuming audience, they will carry with them their cross-channel shopping enthusiasm, active blog usage, and reliance on the information-scouring powers of Google.

One key data point that stood out for me: 24% of Gen Yers read blogs, which is twice as often as the 12% of Gen Xers (ages 27-40) and three times the 7% of Young Boomers (ages 41-50) that read blogs. So skeptics of blogs should suspend their disbelief and look to at least one bellweather demographic to get an idea of how widespread blog readership can potentially grow in the future.

So if you’re a marketer that targets Gen Yers, you should at a minimum be monitoring what your audience reads. Tools to monitor the blogosphere include paid services like Nielsen BuzzMetrics and WebSideStory’s HBX or do-it-yourself sites like Technorati. And an excellent “how-to” resource is this iMedia Connection article, “How to Measure Blog Influence”.

This then begs the question whether marketers should have a blog themselves to connect with blog readers. I usually answer with a qualified "yes", with the huge caveat that companies shouldn't have a blog just to have one. The better question to ask is whether you are interested in engaging in a different type of dialog that this generation seeks in its regular interactions -- one characterized by give and take and a culture of generosity. All too often, I talk with marketers who see blogs as yet another channel through which they can foist their existing marketing messages. So Gen Yer marketers, I encourage you to tap into the power of blogs but beware as this group can sniff insincerity out in a nanosecond.

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Comments

Jeremiah Owyang

Charlene

I'm listening. Does the measure of blogs include social sites that have blog like features (like myspace?)

Joe McCarthy

Hi Charlene,

I saw your post referenced on the Naked Conversations blog. I am confused about how these statistics square with those published in a number of recent reports by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which suggest much higher levels of blog readership among Gen Yers (45%, according to my calculations).

I reference a number of these reports (and a number of other sources of statistics on the blogosphere) on a recent blog post on Participation in the Blogosphere: Reading, Writing and Commenting (http://gumption.typepad.com/blog/2006/09/participation_i.html), along with some more specific questions.

I tried to trackback to this post, but it has not appeared, and I also see you have disabled embedded HTML tags in comments (a pet peeve of mine, http://gumption.typepad.com/blog/2006/09/love_is_the_kil.html), so perhaps some filters are getting in the way. In any case, I figured I'd post a comment here to see if you have the time and inclination to help me better understand some of the issues you've explored in far more depth than I have. Thanks, in advance!

Joe.

Jack

While I certainly agree that blogs are popular among Gen Yers today, I think it is important for web marketers to not lose focus on the future of the web. We are living in a time of rapid change and the first off the mark in the race for web dominance in any area will have a decided advantage. For those who are not presently blogging, I'm not so sure that their time wouldn't be better spent in research and development of tomorrow's trend rather than getting bogged in a blog.

CellphoneSavant

Very itneresting. Thanks for the post. I look forward to your future work.

Ferodynamics

27-32 is not "Generation X". As far as I know we don't have a popular buzzword, due in part to the Roe v. Wade population drop starting in the 70's. I've been calling it "Gen X-1".

I'm 31. From Wikipedia, according to the Douglas Coupland novel: Gen-X "reached adulthood in the late 1980s". In 1989 I was 14.

To give you a feel for how "we" use the Internet, gen "X-1" might stay in touch with a few old classmates by email, but not often. We are too old to have a .edu email address (for Facebook) because nearly all of us finished college before Facebook started. The few of us that blog probably had a connection with the technology pre-Internet. Hardly any of us had used a computer mouse in high school, the few "computer nerds" used DOS, and most of us wrote school papers by hand.

John Dodds

It really is crucial for you to give us a definition of blogs as used in this finding. I noted when Guy Kawaskai hosted a panel of Gen Y'ers discussing their online usage, they all admitted to having MySpace or Facebook and yet none felt they had a blog.

They don't use these "blogs" as blogs, they use them as social organisers and as such the way their eyeballs and mind interact with the screen is very different from that of someone intently reading a blog. The implication for marketers is very different in this scenario than in one in which the readers are interested in the special interest subject of the blog. I'd be very interested in your clarification of this.

Charlene Li

Jeremiah, Joe, and John: You all have excellent questions around the same issue -- how do we define blogs and how does this square against the other reseach out there?

First, the definition. The question on blog reading/writing was asked as one of a long litany of online activities -- "Please indiciate how often you do each of the following activities online". The activities used were "Read blogs" and "Publish or maintain a Weblog (blog)". The responses were daily, a few times a week, a few times a month or less, or never. Our figures included anybody who had used it at all (excludes the "never" group and any non-responses).

So we don't make a distinction between blogs on platforms like Typepad versus "blogs" on MySpace, facebook, YouTube, etc.

In terms of our results versus Pew, we've seen Pew numbers skew higher in terms of adoption across the board. For example, Pew says that 47% of online adults were using instant messaging in their January 2005 survey, whereas we have it at 34% for our survey also done in January 2005.

One of the reasons for the different results may be methodology. Pew's adult survey results came from a series of telephone surveys between Jan-June 2005 with a sample size of 6,403 American adults. The data used in this report was based on a mail survey of 66,707 US and Canadian households conducted in January-February 2006.

One final point about the growth. I don't have it all broken down by age, year over year, but here are the stats for all online adults. In 2005, 1% published a blog and 2% read blogs. In 2006, 4% published a blog and 12% read blogs.

Hope that helps.

luk

Bonjour

pourriez vous traduire votre blog en plusieurs langues.

merci.

Chris Nelson

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