The numbers behind a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project leave little room for doubt: Blogging has lost much of its cache with American teens over the past few years, just as it has caught on with people over 30.
What’s behind those numbers is open for debate. So far, most of the media coverage has pointed the finger at Facebook.
Seventy-three percent of American teens online use a social networking site today, up from just 55 percent in 2006 and 65 percent in 2008, according to the survey, “Social Media and Mobile Internet Use Among Teens and Young Adults.” Of those teens, 71 percent had a profile on Facebook, which is the most-used social network among Internet users of all ages.
Meanwhile the number of teens who say they blog is now just 4 percent, down from 28 percent in 2006, suggesting that teens have traded in their blogs for Facebook.
It’s not a far-fetched conclusion. Facebook is “oriented toward status updates, posting photos and commenting on other people’s photos,” many of the same activities that constitute blogging, noted Aaron Smith, one of the researchers who contributed to the report. So it makes sense that teens are “getting the blogging out of their system” through status updates, pokes, and wall posts.
But there is another interpretation: The natural tendency of teenagers to lose interest in fads once they are discovered and adopted by their parents.
“A lot of this is just the standard adoption curve,” said Smith. “The younger people who picked up blogging when it was new and hot have now kind of moved on to text messaging and social networking sites. Meanwhile, older adults who hadnÃÂ¢Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã¯Â¿Â½t necessarily picked up blogging when it was the hot and young thing to do have become more comfortable with it, as you can see from the surge in mommy blogs and people blogging about health conditions and such.”
Changes in hardware are responsible as well. Eighty-one percent of Internet users between 18 and 29 now access the Web through mobile devices, which are designed for short bursts of text rather than long, blog-style composition. “Mobile phones don’t lend themselves to a paragraph-length discussion on a blog,” said Smith. By comparison, only 63 percent of 30 to 49 year olds online and 34 percent of Internet users over 50 access the Internet from a mobile device.
Other findings in the report include a confirmation of earlier studies suggesting that Twitter is the exception to the rule that young people adopt new technologies first. Only eight percent of Internet users between 12 and 17 use Twitter at all, the report said. That number rises to 10 percent for teens 14 to 17 and drops to 5 percent for those 12 to 13. The platform is more popular for high school girls, ages 14 to 17, of whom 13 percent use it. One-third of young adults use Twitter, the report said, which is more than any other demographic.
The report was culled from two surveys conducted from June through September 2009 with a total of nearly 3,000 Internet-using respondents.
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