Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Age of Blog (Or: Are We That Important?)

What's the importance of pagan blogs? This is a question posed by blogger Teo Bishop (Bishop in the Grove) on his Facebook feed yesterday. It came about because of a sentiment expressed at Pantheacon by pagan blogger Jason Mankey (Raise the Horns on Patheos) that in the grand scheme of pagandom, pagan bloggers aren't that big of a deal. No word yet on whether pagan podcasters rank in the realm of influence for Mr. Mankey.

I shared the question on my Facebook feed as well to mixed reaction. Some said that it was the content of the blog that weighed meritous or not. Other folks, like Sophia of Divine Community, agreed with the sentiment, stating that 'the vast majority of Pagans have no idea what's going on in the blogosphere.' But it was Rommy Driks who shared what would most likely be my reaction: yes and no.
See, Rioters, the thing is our community is small. Really small. But, it's still a community. There's still somewhere between a few hundred thousand, upwards of a million of us in the United States alone. Spread out amongst over 313 million people, that's not a lot, but it's still a sizable number. Nothing to sneeze at.

And, if the above sentiments were said even 5 years ago - that people aren't that interested in blogs, they'd be right. A 2006 Pew Research Center study found that only 81% of Americans access news in some way. Of that 81%, only 23% of people got their news online. And of that, only 4% got information from blogs and 3% from news magazines (something like Patheos, Slate, etc.).

Fast forward just a few years, however, and the story changes. Hey look! A pretty infographic:

Or, if you prefer less pretty pretty colors and more numbers (and anything from Pew Research), here are numbers from both 2010 and 2012.

In just the last 5 years, the number of people that read blogs daily for information has tripled to 12% of the population. More people get their news and information online than from a print, television, or radio source. Also, PODCASTS have entered the picture, where they weren't even registering as a viable source of information 5 years ago. (And, at 5%, they're outpacing where blogs were at that time.) And, sure, blogs still aren't competing with social media outlets for news like Twitter or Facebook, but I conjecture that it's a bit of a misnomer. When I publish a blog, it gets shared via facebook, twitter, Google+, and more. People put the blog RSS feed into their readers and consume it on an app, on their tablet, etc.

When I'm watching my news programs, there is invariably a reference to some news blog that broke or added to some news story. Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Bill O'Reilly...you name your talking head, and they're referencing bloggers.

Shrink that down to the scale of Paganism. Sure, our blogs may not have the numbers of other parts of the population, but they're no less powerful, no less influential. References to bloggers and blogs, specifically, have creeped into the references section of quite a few recently published pagan books, directing people, not to other books, but to online resources. If you do a web search for terms like 'Pagan', 'Wicca', 'Witchcraft', etc., you'll get taken to your typical Wiki sites, but then on the same first page you're directed to places like About.com...which will then direct you to blogs.

I'm going to reach a little bit here, but let's just say that our population mimics the greater population's intake of news and information. Let's do some addition. Let's say that, like my blog, other blogs are being shared via social media. The ideas put out there also appear on Fan Pages, Like Pages - whatever Facebook is calling them these days. Let's say, also like me and my contemporaries, our blogs and links and information are going out over a Twitter feed. So let's add those up. 20% social media + 3% Twitter + 5% Podcasts + 12% blogs = 40%. Bloggers and podcasters like myself influence that little string of online intake a bit more than someone that does just one or the other, but they're all referencing the ideas of bloggers and other folks who publish news and opinions online. And, as we've seen, that number is only growing.

But let's just say for the sake of not inflating statistics and doing that whole 'confirmation bias' thing that 20% of people get information regularly from pagan blogs/podcasts, etc. That's 1 out of every 5 people. 1/5th of our population. Do you really think that the opinions expressed by bloggers and podcasters to 1/5th of the Pagan population don't seep into conversation? Do you think they don't influence the books published, the messages put out there, or the ideas propagated at your local witchy shop? 

We're already being referenced in your books. Hell, there's going to be a book just about the opinions of pagan podcasters.

We're not that important?

I humbly disagree.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

2 comments:

  1. Anecdotal experience suggests to me that those numbers are very inflated when it comes to the Pagan community. I'd have to do actual research to prove this, though! But don't forget - even if 20% of the community is reading blogs: there are a LOT of blogs out there. The numbers of blogs are astounding and grow exponentially every year. Even if people are reading blogs, the likelihood that they're reading any *individual* blog is incredibly small.

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  2. Actually, I have seen the effect of pagan blogs on a newbie pagan and She was VERY excited about finding them for several reasons, the big one being finding someone who actually knew something of witchcraft/paganism who was willing to be open. She also mentioned that finding them made her feel less alone in her craft search. She identified personalities and quoted them regularly and made recommendations on who to follow/ listen to and who to pitch so to speak.

    I think that you may have a point, but it hinges on the quality of the blog I would think.

    Bloggers, in Mr. Mankey's opinion, may not be a big deal right now, but I think the medium is going to blow up in manners unexpected within the decade.

    How I am gonna deal with that??? I have no idea o.O I guess I'll just keep writing and see what comes. It's the only pretend sane thing to do ;)

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