The Trouble with Blog Influence Statistics


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It may be ironic, but I’m not a big fan of statistics when it comes to blog readership. Not because I’m not interested, but because I’m not convinced the average person understands exactly what a blog is. Even many of us who think we DO understand what a blog is have a hard time agreeing with one another on definitions.

Case in point: Seth Godin. He disabled comments on his blog long ago, yet some say comments make a blog. On the other hand, The Chicago Tribune has comments on their articles. Is The Chicago Tribune a blog? Others still refer to forums or message boards as blogs. Do they qualify?

A recent study by Mediamark Research & Intelligence (pdf) found that 10.1 percent of U.S. adults reported to having read a blog in the last 30 days.

And, if you think that number’s small, only 3.4 percent of adults actually wrote a blog post in the same period. There goes the theory that blogging democratizes the web. It seems there’s still an equation of the few influencing the many, but just who comprises the few has shifted a bit. If you’re curious, I heard about the study from a Marketing Charts email newsletter. Good stuff here.

I tend to think the number of people reading blogs is actually much higher. However, I’m prone to believe the statistic on the percentage of bloggers is right on. Why, you ask? Because I’m willing to accept that someone who’s blogging probably knows they’re blogging.

The irony for me is even though the reported number of blog readers seems relatively small, the press release for this study notes blogs relatively sizable impact on consumers:

“This is the latest evidence of the impact a small group of people can have on society at large,” said Anne Marie Kelly, SVP, Marketing & Strategic Planning, at MRI.”The influence of blogs on mainstream media reporting has long been clear and now the government is taking steps to ensure consumers know the motivation behind blog product endorsements and recommendations. Yet, relatively speaking, very few consumers read or write blogs.”

Wait… I’m confused.

If you missed that part in the middle, read it again: “The influence of blogs on mainstream media reporting has long been clear…” Really? So many people working in social media struggle to make this case, why is it such a given for the FTC and the organization behind this study?

If the numbers are so small, why do blogs have such an undeniable impact to those conducting the study? Especially if we consider that the same 3.4 percent who write blogs probably make up the 10.1 percent who read them.

Math isn’t my forte, but if I examine the numbers, this means that 3.4 percent of the population are very influential over a remaining 6.7 percent. So one third of a very small segment of the population is very influential over another relatively small segment of the population not even twice its size. Big deal! Yet, this press release from the study announces the “broad” impact of bloggers.

For the record, I believe the impact of blogs goes way beyond what this study indicates for a few reasons I’ve written about before, but I would really like to hear from you.

Am I missing something here? What do you make of these numbers?

And, perhaps more importantly, how can we ask better questions to understand the true impact of blogs on culture as well as consumer behavior?

How should we really measure influence?

Photo by Dave ®

Shannon Paul
PEAK6 Online
Shannon Paul works as the communications manager for PEAK6 Online, parent company of, OptionsNewsNetwork (, and where she oversees the integration of social media communication into PR and marketing strategies for the companys three brands that include an online retail stock and options broker, a web-based options news and education site, and an online community that allows people to learn about the stock market through investing in virtual stock portfolios.


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