Who Reads Blog? Apparently, “Almost No One”

I’ve been writing about or working within the Internet since 1995 so I’ve got a pretty good handle on the key trends. That said, it’s amazing how much new information and insight you get from listening to Jeff Cole, the director of the Center for the Digital Future, which has been conducting a comprehensive study on Internet usage since 1999. I’ll write a more complete post tomorrow but one thing that resonated with me was Cole’s take on blogs.

“Almost no one reads blogs,” he said today during a lunch-time presentation in Toronto put together by eBay Canada. “The audience for most blogs is tiny….We think most bloggers have achieved the anonymity they rich deserve.”

For someone working for a blog networking company and passionate about blogging, that’s troubling to hear. But Cole is right – most of the 55 million blogs (and counting) out there don’t get many readers but that’s okay because people write blogs for all kinds of reasons beyond being popular. Still, it does make you realize the enthusiasm for blogging overshadows blog readership – at least for now. My take is bloggers are ahead of the curve as many people seeking information on the Web are still dabbling with the blogosphere. However, that will start to change as more people get comfortable about blogs, spend more time reading blogs, and start to realize there is a rich world of insight, comment and information available at no cost.

I think Cole is making a valid point about an industry/community that tends to filter or brush aside criticism or suggestions it’s not as important or popular. As much as the blogosphere likes to think about itself as an emerging medium, it has a long way to go before it enters the mainstream. Hopefully, future studies will start to suggest blog readership is gaining momentum, which will good news for bloggers, and selfish-speaking, blog networks.

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  • Gary King

    One of the most important things about bringing blogs to the masses is to help people better understand how feed readers (and thus, feeds) work, otherwise most people don’t return to a blog once they’ve read what they want.

    Nowadays, a large percentage of results of my Google searches are from blogs, and so I have a good chance of visiting a blog for what I want. The problem is that, once most people visit a blog post for what they need, and if they like the blog’s content, they aren’t aware that they can subscribe to the blog.

    Just my $0.023216 CAD (after accounting for the exchange rate.)

  • David Beckemeyer

    I would agree with Gary. While it’s certainly true that blogs are probably not “read” per se anywhere near the amount some in the blogger community believe, the fact is people hit blogs all the time when searching for answers, and for the average person that don’t really know the difference between a “blog” and any other web content, nor do they care. Few of them want to read a blog regularly. Most people don’t ready anything ‘regularly’ whether blogs or big-media. They read what they want, when they want.

  • Mark Evans

    All bloggers think people want to read them all the time…:)


    The issue is just not how many, but WHO reads blogs. I know the people in Ottawa and journalists read blogs, so if you do develop a gathering, people will take what you say seriously. If there are stories about blogs in the newspaper, it’s because someone is taking them seriously.

  • E Guy


    I was also at Jeff’s presentation today. I did not think that Jeff said that almost no one reads blogs but instead the latter part of your quote was more consistent with Jeff’s comments…that the audience for MOST blogs is tiny. Those very few bloggers that gain a substantial audience and reputation tend to move into more traditional media (I know, there are exceptions and one person we know that did the reverse ;) ). Jeff’s point was that most bloggers do not write blogs for others to read but write them for self expression. Publishing content is the end goal not necessarily readership.

  • Mark Wells

    I was suspicious of this story, especially given the lack of statistics. Did Jeff Cole share any readership figures? You could say the audience for community weeklies is “almost no one” if major metro dailies are your rule. Doesn’t mean the weeklies aren’t important to their audience or unprofitable for that matter. I’m sure the same applies to blogs.

  • San Wilcox

    I think a blog is just another way to present yourself and, yes, whilst it may not receive a huge readership it may make all the difference when it comes to someone finding out about you. As Gary says a lot of people regularly use Google, including HR people and prospective clients. I know that, through my blog, people can get a pretty good idea about me without ever having met me and I think that thats a great thing for a PR student trying to stand out in a crowd.

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  • Alex Bowles

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that ‘nobody reads any particular blog?

    As constructed, the statement is an enormously misleading characterization of the influence blogs (as opposed to particular bloggers) can have.

    It’s like saying people don’t count as people unless they have a certain number of friends. You could conclude, for example, that because ‘nobody’ in America has 20,000 friends, there’s nobody in America except for a few celebrities, and a bunch of tumbleweeds in between.

    More importantly, the view misses the forest for the trees, in that it ignores the cumulative audience for content that moves from blog to blog. As a producer, commentator, or author, I don’t care if my message reaches 1,000,000 million people via 1,000 sites each read by 1,000 people, or 100,000 sites each read by 10 people.

    Actually, on second thought, I’d prefer the latter course, as each audience member in this scenario is likely to have richer connections with other audience members, and will therefor have more engagement with the material via discussion. And given deeper involvement, they’re more likely to share the content with other people they know who, though also members of narrow audiences, are members of different audiences.

    Jeff Cole may want to take a look at his USC colleague Jon Taplin’s blog, to see exactly how this narrow-but-deep principle works in practice.

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  • Bo

    We had a professor at our university that was sooo hyped up on blogging and personal branding…saying that “this was the future!” Years later, at a cocktail party, I overheard someone ask about that particular professor – whether or not he was still blogging and if he made any money doing it (like he told us he would)…the other person said, and I quote, “I know he never made any money doing that crap, and I got so tired of him posting stupid sh_t all the time via twitter that I unsubscribed from his blog.” Too funny.

    • Mark Evans


      For the vast majority of people, blogging is not a money-maker. However if you offer some kind of value, there are different forms of compensation that don’t involve money. cheers, Mark