Friday, 9 November 2007
4 million bloggers in UK
From The Guardian:
From surfers to tea fans, Britain's blogging army is now 4m strong
Whether anarchic gossip or brazen billboard, an obsession takes shape
Bobbie Johnson, technology correspondent
Friday November 9 2007
It began a decade ago as the occupation of a handful of computer obsessives. But writing from bedrooms, lounges and internet cafes across the country, Britain's community of bloggers has grown to an army of nearly four million, according to a survey out today.
This legion of British bloggers are keeping track of their lives through online diaries, social networking services and other websites, creating a thriving network of internet communities reflecting the breadth of the country's interests.
There is also a growing professionalism, since for many there could be money and fame to be made from their daily musings. Among their number are surfers, bespoke tailors, politicos, tea connoisseurs, and, inevitably, a number of diarists keen to unveil their love lives.
The survey was commissioned by the online company Garlik, which aims to give citizens more power over how their personal information is used digitally. It asked a representative sample of 2,000 internet users about their online habits. Of Britain's web population of 26 million it found that 15% kept a blog. Of those running a personal website, almost one in five were blogging at least once a day - the high water mark for an internet phenomenon that is transforming the way people voice their opinions.
The rise of the weblog began 10 years ago as the pioneers started publishing lists of websites they had found. Over time the subjects bloggers wrote about broadened out to politics and culture.
"The line between a blog and a website has finally blurred enough it's often hard to tell if you're a blogger or not," said Jon Silk, of the PR firm Lewis. "Users of sites such as Facebook and MySpace are all bloggers."
While some sites remain true to the internet's anarchic DNA - as displayed in blogs such as Pimp That Snack, where people show off giant chocolate bars they have cooked at home - others use the web to promote their expertise.
"Most of my readers used to be from America, but now they're in the UK. Britain's really started to grab hold of it," said Michele Obi, a 26-year-old Londoner who blogs at the MyFashionLife website. The site, which tracks catwalk designers and street fashion, is tipped increasingly as an industry resource. "I started as an outsider, but now I'm doing things like attending London fashion week."
At the other end of the fashion scale, Savile Row's Thomas Mahon has helped spark mainstream interest in bespoke tailoring with his blog English Cut.
Similarly, those who indulge in niche pursuits are finding ways to talk to their peers through blogs. Surfing remains a minority sport in Britain, but sites like Surfcore, which rounds up surfer blogs, are now proving popular destinations for those wanting the latest news.
Popular hobby blogs, such as the tea-drinking website Nice Cup of Tea And A Sit Down, are able to count thousands of fans: a Facebook group linked to the site has more than 115,000 members.
Indeed, some believe that the huge adoption of blogging in the UK owes much to the social networking craze. Celebrities such as the singer Lily Allen, who writes an outspoken MySpace diary, have helped popularise the concept and Britain is often at the heart of such growth: Facebook, with 50 million users worldwide, counts London as its biggest city source, with more than 1.5 million registered. "I think the UK is probably the best example of how rapid the viral growth of sites like this can be," Facebook's spokeswoman, Brandee Barker, told the Guardian.
Digital word of mouth also means authors can find themselves, surprisingly, wielding power. Paul Staines, with the nom de plume Guido Fawkes, has built a reputation for breaking Westminster taboos, publishing gossip and last year naming an alleged lover of John Prescott, adding to the pressure over the former deputy prime minister's private life.
A sex writer known as Abby Lee, who shot to fame thanks to her graphic online diary Girl With A One Track Mind, turned her blog into a book which this year became a bestseller.
Increasingly, too, marketing gurus are understanding that bloggers can be used to spread their own messages.
Last year the drinks retailer Threshers circulated vouchers giving 40% off all wine among a small number of suppliers. But Hugh Macleod, a marketing consultant for South African vintner Stormhoek - and a blogger - put the voucher online for anyone to download, and the offer spread rapidly around the country. The stunt eventually led to thousands of people taking up the offer and running many Threshers shops dry.
This, say some, is the natural evolution of the blogging phenomenon. "People are getting used to publishing every facet of their lives on the web," said Mr Silk. "As a result advertisers are tapping into social networks to spread their messages - and when a friend sends you something to look at, you normally do."