Why less blogging is a matter for national concern
A feature article by Graeme Philipson titled The Lost Art of Blogging in the Sydney Morning Herald last Tuesday covered some of the analysis I released before the Future of Media Summit, comparing Australian blogging behaviors compared to the rest of the world.
The article quotes me as follows:
“Of the top 25,000 blogs globally, around 9000 are in English”, says Mr Dawson. Of those, only 75 originate in Australia. But there are 420 million native English speakers in the world. “With Australia’s population of 21 million, we comprise 5 per cent of English speakers. But with 75 blogs out of 9000, we comprise less than 1 per cent of English blogs. We are underrepresented by a factor of six or so.”
“I think one key reason is lack of bandwidth in Australia, and of its high cost. Australian internet connections are slower than they are in the rest of the world, and Australia is almost unique in capping usage at quite low levels.”
The article goes on to run through some of the other reasons I suggested on why Australia may be lagging in blogging activity. (Though as I’ve noted before, I believe Australia’s lagging in online activity and network thinking should be a matter of national debate.)
Later in the article:
“But listening to Mr Dawson explain his figures, and to Andrew Eckford from Nielsen/NetRatings talk about some of the other findings, one thing struck me.
They constantly talked about Australia being “behind” the rest of the world. Mr Eckford had some interesting data about usage patterns of social networking sites such as MySpace, and said that the growth rates in Australia were “lagging”.
These sort of comments are based on the assumption that blogging and the use of social networking are good things and that lower rates of adoption or slower take-up speeds are consequently bad.
We can complain about Australia’s slow and expensive internet connections, and we can point to them as reasons for our lower usage rates of various internet activities such as blogging. But we should not then automatically assume that because we do not blog as much as loud Americans or chattering Chinese or talkative Thais that this is necessarily a bad thing.”
At the press briefing where I ran through all of this, we also discussed the economic impact of connectivity. I am planning to do a more thorough economic analysis of the impact on the economy of Australia and similar countries from lower internet bandwidth and use of online technologies. For now, I’d like to make just a few points.
In a highly modularized, connected, global economy, broad familiarity with online tools is a prerequisite for being able to engage with clients, suppliers, and partners around the world. Today, much of that engagement is happening through social media tools. Those who are the most in touch with the latest emerging ideas in any space are most likely to be accessing blogs and the critical thinkers in their field, not just mainstream media. Social networking platforms enable making connections with leading thinkers and partners. More importantly, the best way to engage in networks and to learn is to engage in discussions with the best people in the field globally. The best way to do that is by blogging, by actually engaging in conversations with others rather than just observing them. Australia is one of the most geographically isolated significant economies on the planet. If we are not good at connecting online – for which a prerequisite is broad familiarity with and usage of social media – there is a real risk that we will be left behind economically and culturally.
So yes, more blogging is a good thing, and the current state of blogging and the use of online technologies in Australia is a matter for real concern.
I don’t see how bandwidth could be blamed for a low uptake of blogging. One of the beauties of blogging is that it is text based and relatively lightweight. Sure there could be issues with the use of rich media socially-oriented sites such as YouTube, but that is definitely separate from blogging.
Furthermore, the category “blogging” is a term that tends to obscure a widespread adoption of social networking tools. There are many social networkers who would never consider themselves as bloggers, yet do actively engage in online and social media in a range of forms — from Flickr, Facebook, MySpace and Tumblr through to Typepad, WordPress and other more robust, dedicated blogging platforms.
Hi Gavin, thanks for your thoughts. On the second point I agree, though in many cases these are also less used in the same way as blogs.
On the first point, see my post for data and thoughts on this….: https://www.rossdawsonblog.com/weblog/archives/2007/07/global_comparis.html