Courtesy of the ever-interesting 2 Blowhards, some statistics gleaned from the magazine American Demographics:
According to a study commissioned by AD with research firm Ipsos-Reid, only 17% of American adults are aware of blogs, and only 5% claim to have read one. The awareness of blogs skews towards men; 21% of male Internet users report they’re hip to the blogosphere, while only 13% of women are. Financially, visitors to blogspot.com are either rich or poor; those making under $25,000 or over $100,000 a year are over-represented, while middle-income visitors are under-represented.
These numbers strike me as intuitively right, though I’m a bit surprised at the underrepresentation of middle-income visitors. It’s certainly been my experience that most people don’t yet know what a blog is. On the other hand, what the numbers don’t tell us is exactly who those 15 million American adults are, though I have some guesses. The income spread, for instance, strongly suggests that they are either well-to-do or young (since younger people are both less likely to be making a lot of money and more likely to be comfortable with the Internet).
If you’re interested in blogging about the arts, that should make you sit up and take notice. Given the well-established fact that the Internet is an ideal way to reach highly motivated niche audiences, it stands to reason that Web surfers with an interest in the arts are likely to stumble onto an arts blog sooner or later. Bloggers typically link to and write about one another (that’s a big part of what blogging is all about, as 2 Blowhards recently and rightly pointed out), and it follows that such interaction is bound to encourage significant growth in the art-related sector of the blogosphere, especially now that younger people are increasingly inclined to look to the Web as a source of news and information.
My own experience may be relevant in this connection. I first heard the word “blog” some three years ago, and like most blogwatchers of that period, it was Andrew Sullivan who first got me in the habit of looking at a blog or two each morning. Not long after I started visiting www.andrewsullivan.com, it occurred to me that it would be possible to launch an arts blog that worked more or less the same way as his political blog. What stopped me in my tracks was that I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to start such a site (the user-friendly software employed by most of today’s bloggers had yet to be invented). Within a few months, I got sidetracked by the need to finish writing The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken, and my still-inchoate plans were filed away, though not forgotten.
The tremendous growth of the blogosphere in the past year revived my interest in www.terryteachout.com, and when I met Megan McArdle, who writes Asymmetrical Information, she persuaded me that it was time to give it a try. (In other words, blame her.) At that exact moment, Doug McLennan of artsjournal.com called me cold and offered to start a site for me. Within a week, “About Last Night” was up and running.
The surprising thing (or maybe not) is that it wasn’t until after “About Last Night” went live that I first encountered any other arts blogs. Think about that. Here I was, a potential blogger with a serious interest in the medium, yet I didn’t know of the existence of even one arts blog. It wasn’t until I started getting e-mail from fellow arts bloggers and clicking my way through their blogrolls that I finally discovered what was already out there, and how good so much of it was.
All this indicates to me that arts blogging is a phenomenon waiting to happen, in much the same way that political blogging gradually built up to a critical mass, then suddenly mushroomed in the wake of 9/11. The difference, of course, is that arts bloggers can’t count on a cataclysmic event to stimulate interest in what we’re doing. We’ll have to publicize ourselves, not only by linking to one another (though that’s important) but also by reaching out to potential readers who don’t yet know what a blog is. That’s why I always include the www.terryteachout.com URL in the shirttails to the pieces I write for the print media. That’s why I remind you each morning to tell someone you know about this site. People who come here will go elsewhere, too.
Am I having fun yet? You bet. But I want lots more people to come into the pool. As I wrote in this space a couple of weeks ago, I believe that serious arts journalism in America is destined to migrate to the Web. If you’re reading these words, you’re part of that migration. Don’t keep it to yourself.