More and more Americans are tuning in to Web logs--even if they don't know exactly what they are.
The number of blogs and the use of blog readers rose rapidly last year--but a majority of Americans still do not know what a blog is.
A report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, called the "State of Blogging," discovered that readership of Web blogs--essentially, Web-based diaries--spiked 58 percent last year, with 27 percent of Internet users, or 32 million people, saying that they read blogs. Twelve percent of people who read blogs also chose to post comments on them.
Blog creation is also growing. By the end of 2004, seven percent of U.S. adults, or more than 8 million people, had written a blog, according to the study.
The results of the study, published Sunday, were drawn by surveys with Internet users done in November.
Blog publishing is having an effect on how people read on the Web. Pew researchers found that five percent of Internet users have content from blogs or Web sites delivered via RSS aggregators or XML readers. Instead of skipping between different Web sites, an Internet user can use a reader to collect several different information feeds in a single program.
The emergence of politically oriented blogs helped spur blog readership, the Pew study found: about nine percent of Internet users said they read political blogs during the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign.
But despite the rise in usage, "blog" still is not a household word. Only 38 percent of Internet users know what a blog is, while the rest are not sure what the term means. (Web surfers' curiosity about the term prompted dictionary maker Merriam-Webster to list "blog" as its word of the year for 2004.)
Blog creators tend to be young men who have broadband and are Internet veterans. Fifty-seven percent of bloggers are male and are relatively well off financially, with 42 percent living in households with income of over $50,000.
Blog readers are more "mainstream" than bloggers themselves, the study found. The majority of people who read blogs are male and younger. But the past year has seen greater-than-average growth in blog readership among women, minorities, people aged 30 to 49, and those with a dial-up connection.