By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 20, 2006; D05
They consider themselves digital natives.
They're young. They're addicted to instant messaging and social networks. And they're more apt to dish about the drama at last night's party than the president's latest faux pas.
Bloggers have become influential fixtures in cyberspace, but the term covers about 12 million people who write Web logs, known as blogs. The Pew Internet & American Life Project yesterday released a survey of bloggers aimed at getting a better grasp on who they are and why they do what they do.
More than half of bloggers are younger than 30, and a majority use their blogs as a mode of creative expression, the survey found. Money-making possibilities motivate only 15 percent of bloggers, and most blog on a variety of topics, with 11 percent focusing on politics.
They are also less likely to be white than the general Internet-using population, and more than half live in suburban areas, according to Pew.
"Bloggers in general don't intend to have a lot of impact," said Amanda Lenhart, who directed the survey. "The motivation comes from within; it tends to be very personal. They're not out to change the world."
But blogs are changing the way people, particularly young adults, communicate. About 60 percent of bloggers maintain their Web sites to keep in touch with friends and family, and half of them blog to network or meet new people, the survey said.
Blogs are also gaining readers, even if it's fewer than 10 a day, which was reported by nearly 25 percent of the bloggers surveyed. The number of people regularly reading blogs has doubled in the past two years, and more than 49 million blogs are now on the Web, the blog-tracking service Technorati Inc. said.
"Of all the bloggers out there, there are only about 10,000 that have an audience beyond their friends and families," said B.L. Ochman, a business blogger who tracks online trends.
"It astounds me that people are willing to do this stuff without getting paid," Ochman said. "I come from a generation that gets paid for our work."
Although advertisers are slowly shifting dollars into the blogosphere, the majority of bloggers say they maintain their blogs for themselves, not for their audience.
About 33 percent of bloggers see blogging as a form of journalism, the survey showed.
"The average blogger is a 14-year-old girl writing about her cat," said Alexander Halavais, an assistant professor of interactive communications at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.
Typical bloggers are not ranting about politics or trying to be hard-core journalists, he said. "The survey shows that blogging is really a community-based activity and a way of connecting with people."
LiveJournal is the most popular blog-hosting site, followed by MySpace, Blogger and Xanga. Text and photos tend to dominate blogs, but a growing number of bloggers are adding audio and video content. The typical blogger spends less than five hours per week posting material on a blog, the survey shows.
Most bloggers maintain their sites as a hobby, an encouraging concept to Halavais.
"It's not just the hard-core geeks and news junkies doing it," he said. "It's a good thing for our culture as a whole to have such a wide variety of people writing."
The number of bloggers will continue to grow in coming years, Lenhart predicted. Eighty percent of the survey respondents plan to be blogging a year from now.
"There's a new blog every five minutes," Ochman said. "Now everybody's got a printing press."