Publishing Online Very Personal: Study

By: Sean Michael Kerner

Are you documenting your life on the Internet? Chances are good that you are if you own a digital camera or know how to blog.

According to a study issued Sunday by the non-profit Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than 53 million Americans have used the Internet to publish content. The study showed that Americans in large numbers are sharing files, pictures and posting content through online discussion groups and blogs .

Blogging has received a lot of media focus, however according to the Pew study, it is not the most significant form of content creation.

“We were pretty surprised by the blogging number,” Amanda Lenhart Pew Internet Research Specialist and one of authors of the report told “We thought it was a lot lower than expected. Nevertheless it’s still somewhere between 3 and 9 million people and that’s nothing to sneeze at.”

Topping the list of content creation avenues at 21 percent was posting pictures to Web sites for sharing. The study found that 17 percent of Americans have posted some form of written material, feedback or discussion on the Web. Pew also found that 13 percent of American Internet users maintain their own Web sites. The act of running a live Web cam involved a full 7 percent of users, which ranked it ahead of blogging.

According to Pew’s Lenhart, the appeal of personal content contribution is that it’s very active.

“What we find in a lot of the attention that is paid to the Internet focuses on the extracting of things from the Internet,” Lenhart said. “This is about giving back and expressing yourself on a wide stage without going through the traditional filters.”

Content contributors were evenly spread among both women and men. Content contribution activity however seems to vary depending on age group. The age group of those that are contributing content was broken down by the Pew study into three different user groups. Power creators at an average age of 25 are the most likely to blog. Older creators at an average age of 58 are the most likely group to have built their own Web site and be doing genealogical research. Content omnivores, at an average age of 40 are avid Internet users for a variety of activities.

Pew’s Lenhart told that technology has a lot to do with the tremendous adoption of personal content publishing. She sees the trend of content contribution increasing as the availability of broadband access and user experience continue to grow.

“The easier the tools become to use the more people will use them.” Lenhart said. “I think that’s why we’ve seen the increase; it’s getting easier to do.”

Lenhart mused that once everything becomes as easy as blogging or sharing photos online, that the Internet public should see proportionate increases in the rest of the content creating world.

“I think that the desire and the joy of creation is out there and it’s just a question of tapping into that,” she said.

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