Blogs Become Mainstream

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Blogs Become Mainstream

Consider this statistic: The term “Web log” was coined in December 1997. Today, some 35 million people read blogs. In other words, eight people have begun reading blogs, on average, every minute of every day for the past eight years. That’s one every seven-and-a-half seconds. And there appears to be no end in sight.

According to a recent article in AdAge, the time that employees spend reading blogs during working hours collectively equals 2.3 million full-time jobs. On average, they spend 40 minutes a day, or 3.5 hours per week, doing it. That’s 9 percent of the workweek! In 2005, the time American workers spent on the job reading blogs amounted to 551,000 person-years.

Technorati, a company that tracks about 20 million blogs, reports that the number of Web logs on-line has quadrupled each year for the past three years. If growth continued at this rate, by early 2009 there would be a blog for every single person on the Internet.

With this new Internet-within-the-Internet growing so rapidly, media companies are trying to figure out how they can make money from it. For example, America Online recently bought Weblogs, Inc. for $25 million. But, no one is yet sure what AOL is going to do with the site, which hosts 100 blogs on a diverse variety of topics.

At about the same time, Verisign bought Weblogs.com for about $2 million. Fittingly, Verisign announced the purchase on its company blog.

It all has the familiar ring of a bandwagon phenomenon, much as Web sites themselves did in the mid-‘90s. Everyone had to have one, but few companies knew what to do with them. Whether you call it micro-publishing or user-generated content, Web logs are still too new for mainstream companies to understand their full impact. However, it’s clear that individual users are going to contribute a great deal to the content that general audiences see in the coming years.

One example of this type of phenomenon is the purchase last March of Flickr by Yahoo. Flickr is a service that lets users upload photos and share them on the Web. Since the $30-million purchase, the user base has increased by 400,000, to 1.4 million. This blog-like phenomenon is encouraging Yahoo to open up some of its other products to user input. And that may be changing the way we define what a media company is.

For example, Intermix Media, which owns MySpace.com, was recently purchased for $580 million by News Corp. MySpace has 27 million registered users, who essentially “hang out together” in virtual space...

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