First, let me say that I love research. But lately it seems as if there is a lot of it out there and few are offering critical thought around how to interpret all of these results.
I am not immune to this. As we hurry through our days, with client work piling up on the desk, it is tempting to report on new studies without spending too much time analyzing them.
Just last month, Jupiter Research released some survey results, which had several bloggers sounding the alarm.
On my bookshelf is an interesting book titled, How to Lie with Statistics, the title of which I used for this post.
The book, first published in 1954 is quaint, but it reveals a hard truth. Studies and statistics are often skewed to suit the purposes of those that report them. The author of the book, Darrell Huff, writes, “Never be a sucker again.” He warns to always look for a bias, because there almost always is a one.
In our business, surveys and statistics are the proverbial “foot in the door” with media and bloggers, especially if the research shows an up-and-coming trend – like blogging for instance.
So, imagine my surprise (not) when this week my RSS reader is full of news new surveys and studies about about blogs and blogging and more criticism that bloggers are spewing out the results of surveys with no analysis.
So, here is my roundup of recent surveys with some critical commentary:
Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet’s New Storytellers
First, there was the new survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project
(full report in PDF format).
The survey found 54 percent of self-identified bloggers were under age 30, equally divided between women and men; 55 percent of bloggers blog under a pseudonym; 84 percent of bloggers describe their blog as either a “hobby” or just “something I do, but not something I spend a lot of time on”; 59 percent of bloggers spend just one or two hours per week tending their blog, with only one in ten spending ten or more hours per week; and, 52 percent of bloggers say they blog mostly for themselves, not for an audience.
Pew knows how to conduct a survey and I generally trust their methodology and results. The limitations of this study are spelled out in the pdf version above. They called back “self-identified” bloggers, of which only 71 percent completed the survey, and they had a small sample (n=233). They also pumped it up with an additional 380 or so people in a subsequent survey. They also say they have a representative sample, which is a good thing.
The bottom line:
This is a reasonably accurate picture of the total population of U.S. bloggers, but it doesn’t take into account that a small percentage of bloggers carry a disproportionate amount of traffic and links.
And while we are talking about influence and popularity
Influence and popularity on the topic of “blog marketing”
Onalytica, following up on an analysis they did last February, has now released an analysis listing blogs with influence in the area of “blog marketing” (full report in PDF format)
Popularity, defined as the sheer number of blogs and other sites that link to you, is not necessarily an indicator of influence, or how likely a particular blogger is to be a thought leader.
I must admit I am partial to the idea of adding influence numbers, along with Technorati’s popularity ratings, to get a clearer picture of who we are talking to out in the blogosphere. However, Onalytica doesn’t quite get us there.
First, they determined the “players” in the “blog marketing” field by doing a simple search for that term. Then, they looked at how these sites interlinked (I must admit I was confused about this part). So, if you follow this logic, if you start a blog and be sure to use the term “blog marketing” in every post, plus have other bloggers that use the same term link to you, then you may beat out Josh Hallett, who was the highest rated blogger for the term “blog marketing.” I did a quick search on his site, and indeed, there were quite a few posts that came up with this term.
The bottom line:
As much as we like Josh (who had nothing to do with the survey), Onalytica has a service to sell, and they have conducted this survey to show off their capability while not spending a lot of time or money on it. The analysis concludes: “We don’t do PR, advertising or communication but we often work with agencies and consultancies to help them provide their clients with both better and new services.” I hope their client work goes a little deeper than a simple searches on terms and also includes a human component.
“Corporate Blog Learnings — The Discovery Age.”
Porter Novelli and Cymphony have conducted a survey of “corporate blog owners.” At this time there is no PDF available of the survey report. However, I signed up for a free webinar tomorrow that will highlight the results and that will include ideas for leveraging and monitoring blogs (something that Cymphony and Porter Novelli will gladly help you with, I'm sure).
63 percent of corporate blog owners surveyed reported starting their blog because they felt they needed to participate in the medium rather than to satisfy a specific need; 76 percent indicated that they have noticed an increase in media attention and/or Web site traffic; 37 percent blog at least once or multiple times per day, 39 percent blog several times per week and 24 percent blog once a week or less; 57 percent reported not having blogging guidelines in place; 42 percent indicated that there has been at least one specific post that has affected the company or a brand and in the vast majority of cases it has had a positive affect, and; 71 percent are not happy with the level of interaction on their blog(s).
Since I haven’t seen the full methodology of this survey, it is hard to say how accurate it might be; however, it was a self-selected online survey, the most notoriously incorrect type of survey. What is the definition of a corporate blog owners? What are the sizes of the companies? How long have they had a blog?
The bottom line:
Cymphony provides a disclaimer in the blog, “While the survey results should be considered strictly directional and cannot necessarily be said to project to the total target universe, they are logically consistent with Cymfony's and Porter Novelli's experience and knowledge of certain trends in corporate blogging.” In other words, “take our word for it.”