11 percent of Britons are bloggers

Does anyone know of any recent stats on blog usage in Europe? I asked on Wednesday following the release of such stats for the US by the Pew Internet project.

Yesterday, The Guardian provided some answers with news of Britons’ activities with blogs as published by the ICM research firm for Microsoft’s MSN Spaces.

Selected highlights:

  • The ICM report suggests that, with 27 million internet users across the UK, the country now holds nearly 7 million bloggers – equivalent to nearly one in nine of the population. [That’s almost 11 percent, according to the latest population numbers.]
  • One in five people were blogging to express their views, while 6 percent said they did it to campaign for political issues.
  • The most popular subjects for blog readers were technology, music, news, film news and sport.
  • Four out of five of those surveyed still trusted mainstream media more than they trusted bloggers. Two-thirds said they took what they read on blogs with a pinch of salt.

One interesting parallel from this research and the US study shows that 60 percent of bloggers in the UK say their writings are to express themselves and are not a form of journalism. The figure for the US is 65 percent.

The next research I’d like to see would be on other European countries, notably France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Anyone?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Ian Betteridge

    I’d really like to see the actual numbers behind that study, plus find out the methodology behind their sampling – is there a link to the actual survey anywhere (with methodology of course – after all, what’s good enough for Jupiter ought to be good enough for ICM, eh :) )? Over 1 in 10 of the entire UK population seems awfully high.

  2. Carl

    I’d treat the figures with a pinch of salt. Just step back and ask if it makes sense. Don’t forget that survey comapnies are in the good news business, so hyping soemthing like blogging is good business (sells more reports to people who want to hear that blogging is big business).

  3. Carl

    Oh, fancy that….the study was commissioned by MSN Spaces. I think it’s yet another example of “self-surving survey proves need for survey sponsor’s products”.

    And tech journalists swallow stuff like this all the time because they too are in the innovation hype machine.

  4. neville

    I deliberately didn’t mention that, Ian, ie, what about the methodology :)

    There doesn’t seem to be a copy of the actual research report publicly available anywhere. Nothing on ICM’s website nor on MSN Spaces or Microsoft’s.

    So Carl, you’re probably right to suggest taking it all with a pinch of salt even if your comments seem pretty cynical.

    Still, while the Guardian’s report (and the BBC’s) is pretty light on substance, I think the stats are useful if only because there aren’t any other meaningful numbers around that shine a spotlight on what’s happening in the UK.

  5. Tim Worstall

    I’d ask two questions about the methodology.

    1) Are they counting “dead blogs”? Those where someone hears about it, starts one up and then three weeks later realises that no one is readin and thus goes off to do something else?

    2) Are they counting authors with multiple blogs? For example, I run three which are constantly updated. But there’s another 10-15 (I can’t actually remember) floating around there in cyberspace which I’ve started and then dropped.

  6. Anna Farmery

    I live in the UK and I just cannot believe these results. None of my friends blog, and when I say I do (and podcasting is even worse) they look at me with totally blank faces! Half the problem is the lack of WiFi and slower take up on broadband. I also had another thought, I wonder whether it has anything to do with the UK have such a high working week in terms of hours? Less time at home? The opt out on working week hours from the EU Directive has a huge part ot play I feel…. suffice it cannot be as high as this report suggests!

  7. neville

    Anna, my friends’ circle is greater than what the survey appears to be suggesting in numbers terms – about 15% of my friends in the UK are bloggers, either personally or on behalf of who they work for.

    But Carl is probably right in saying that we ought to take the whole thing with a little pinch of salt. The survey report itself still doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, so all you have to go on is what you read in the papers and in blogs.

    And as we all know… :)

  8. neville

    Everyone, I’ve found the actual report on the UK blogging survey.

    It’s called “Blogging Britain Inside the UK’s blogging phenomenon” and it’s published by MSN Spaces. Doesn’t mention ICM anywhere (the research firm The Guardian’s story says did the research).

    Very interesting that there is no indication at all on how the research was conducted and when, who was interviewed, who actually did the research, etc – no disclosure of the methodology, in other words. Every figure and stat cited says as its source “MSN Blogging Britain report.”

    There are two names listed to contact for more information – both at the Red Consultancy PR agency – so I’ve written to one of them with some questions.

    I found the report, by the way, via a link in a post by Shane Richmond at the Daily Telegraph. Here’s a direct link to the report :


  9. Martyn Davies

    To paraphrase an old joke: if you take 8 of your friends out and ask them if they blog, and they all say no, then the blogger must be you. Oh crap, it works, the blogger is me.

  10. Carl

    What’s so cynical about my comments, Neville?

    Are you saying that when it comes to innovation (or blogging) we should switch critical thinking off, as we all did in the dotcom fraud (er…boom, sorry).

    The point is that survey companies are in the hype machine, along with PR people, journalists, analysts, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. They all have a vested interest in hyping up new ideas because it’s good for fund raising and good for business.

    I can point to any number of stories like these every day -self-serving surveys sponsored by technology companies. They’re swallowed by credulous journalists who don’t bother to ask about the methodology, the results or the fact that it was sponsored by a company with a huge vested interest in putting out a particular message supportive of its own products.

    There’s a real danger in believing hype like this when you start to invest in it and unscientific nonsense like this survey is your only point of reference.

  11. neville

    You use a broad brush to paint everyone, Carl. Then a sweeping statement like this:

    survey companies are in the hype machine, along with PR people, journalists, analysts, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. They all have a vested interest in hyping up new ideas because it’s good for fund raising and good for business.

    If that’s how you see things, no wonder you’re cynical.

    Anyway, in the case of this particular survey, the absence of credible data on how it was conducted makes it look very much like a piece of PR fluff. I wrote to the PR agency at the weekend with some questions. No reply. Nothing else to go on at the moment other than media and blogs (and see my earlier comment re that).

    I’m reserving any judgment for the moment on what label to stick on MSN Spaces and their agency.

  12. Carl

    Read “Diffusion of Inovations” by Everett Rogers and look for the chapter about “Pro-innovation bias”

  13. neville

    Ah, I did wonder whether an interesting experience or two might have been an influencer. Ok, excused :)

    I’ll look into that book, thanks.

  14. Carl

    Less of an “interesting experience”, more of a Damascene conversion. In contrition, I devoted a chapter of a book to the subject of hype and innovation.

  15. Derek Hodge

    The Daily Telegraph Blog post says that the survey was conducted by ” online market research firm Tickbox” a firm that does research by signing up a panel of people online then offering them the chance to win prizes by filiing in surveys.

    The chance of obtaining a representative sample of UK internet users by this method is not high.

  16. Anna Farmery

    Don’t know whether you saw this headline in the Daily Telegraph today
    “Forty-three percent of UK households have no internet access says a new report from the Office for National Statistics”.

    Frightening but also tends to suggest that the survey was inflated which is more my thinking. Blogging in the London area high, but elsewhere I would suggest much lower.

  17. neville

    I mentioned in an earlier comment that I’d dropped a line to the PR agency for some more info about this survey.

    I did hear back. Not much enlightenment but what I got was this –

    Q: Who did the research? (The Guardian’s reporting says it was ICM.)
    A: ICM did do it.

    Q: When was the research conducted?
    A: April/May 2006.

    Q: How many people were surveyed?
    A: 750 internet users.

    Q: Were interviews face-to-face or by phone, email, etc?
    A: Online.

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