South African blogging survey results released

2008 December 2
by Ismail Dhorat

24.com ran a blogging survey between October 24 and November 7,nearly 20% of the 5000 active bloggers in South Africa participated in one of the largest survey’s of the blogosphere. According to Arthur Goldstuck of World Wide Worx – South Africa’s leading independent technology research and strategy organisation – as of January 2008, there were about 4000 active South African blogs that received more than 10.5 million page views and over 1.8 million unique users each month,

“South Africa’s blogosphere is thriving, fuelling micro-publishing communities of like-minded individuals. This is publishing democracy in action,” says Matthew Buckland, General Manager of online publishing and social media at 24.com.

Virtual community, real world connections

“Far from being techies living in a techie world, bloggers are people who dabble in a virtual world, but very much value real world interactions,” observes Buckland. While the blogosphere involves active engagement within a virtual community, interestingly, about half of all bloggers have met other bloggers in-person offline through blogging.

Growing trend: MOBs

According to the 24.com survey, almost three-quarters of the respondents (73.4 percent) have attended a meeting of bloggers, or MOB. Among those who have attended a MOB: – 25.9 percent have attended once; - 39.9 percent have participated in more than one but less than five; and - 34.2 percent have taken part in more than five MOBs.

Urban, white and mature

According to the survey, there is an even split of men and women blogging, with 58 percent between the ages of 25 and 44 and 95 percent with either English or Afrikaans as their first language. Cape Town and Johannesburg/Pretoria are seemingly the epicentres for blogging in South Africa, accounting for more than 75 percent South Africa’s active bloggers.

Internet veterans

Although many bloggers are newbies – with over 20 percent having blogged for less than one year – South Africa’s blogosphere currently includes some sophisticated Internet users with:

- More than two-thirds having been on the Internet for at least a decade;

- One fifth having blogged for three or more years; and

- Over 40 percent having written at least one blog prior to their current one.

Wealthy, with kids

Among the respondents, 42.5 percent earn more than R20 000 monthly with more than 15 percent earning more than R50 000 per month. Interestingly, 58 percent of South Africa’s bloggers are married or live together and 46 percent of them have children.

Blog for fun, not money

Blogging, for the most part, is not currently about making money. According to the survey respondents, 60.7 percent blog to express themselves or have fun, while only 7.9 percent have a commercial motivation. More than 88 percent of the respondents admit to making no money from their blogs. Of those who earn money from blogging, around 85 percent of them earn R1 – 1000 and 15 percent earn between R1000 and R3000 each month. As far as other perks go, more than 24 percent have received free products, event invitations and/or free services as a result of their blog.

Investing time and passion, not money

It seems that blogging is an online hobby for most bloggers; a highly individualistic outlet and a significant time investment to thoughtfully and passionately express themselves. In fact, more than half of bloggers make one to five posts weekly. Although nearly 50 percent of bloggers contribute to just one blog, over 15 percent of bloggers claim to contribute to four or more blogs.

As far as investing financially in their blogs, over the past 12 months, 83 percent of South Africa’s active bloggers spent R1 – 2000 and just 16 percent spent R2001 – 10000. In terms of the time commitment involved in blogging,

- 65 percent spend between one to 10 hours each week on their blog,

- 52 percent blog throughout the day and

- 52 percent of those spending ten or more hours a week have children.

Traffic not important to most

Personal popularity and audience traffic do not seem to be huge drivers for bloggers. Although one fifth of bloggers claim to receive more than 30 comments on their blog each week about 47 percent receive five or fewer comments on their blog each week. (A comparable number of comments are made by individual bloggers on other blogs during the week.) Only about 5 percent of bloggers in South Africa claim to have a monthly audience of more than 10 000. In terms of actively driving traffic to their blogs, 36 percent of bloggers admitted to not doing so. Among those who do, the most popular blog promoting tools, outside of word-of-mouth, are local services, Amatomu (30 percent) and Afrigator (24 percent).

Personal style, satisfaction

While most do not make much money blogging, the majority of South Africa’s bloggers feel that blogging has had a positive impact on their lives, with 37.9 percent indicating that they derive personal fulfilment from blogging and more than one fifth see their blog as a space to express themselves. In terms of categorising their blog:

o 68 percent of the active bloggers in South Africa see their blogs as “personal”;

o 26 classify their blog as “professional” (about their industry and profession); and

o Only six percent participate in a corporate blog on behalf of their company or organisation.

Interestingly, almost one quarter of respondents (23 percent) blog in more than one of the above categories. In terms of style, bloggers’ personalities are uniquely reflected in their respective blogs, ranging from contemplative and quirky, to inspiring, informative and newsy.

“Whatever you want to call them – outlets for modern-day diarists, writers, hobbyists, parents, industry experts, critics, activists, philosophers and observers of society and trends – blogs are self-empowering and an opportunity for individuals to contribute to the national zeitgeist,” adds Buckland.

Blog platforms and inspiration

Almost 40 percent of the respondents to the survey use the 24.com blog platform for their blogs, followed by WordPress.org / WordPress.com (29 percent) and Blogger.com (20 percent). In terms of finding material for their blogs, while the bulk of their inspiration comes from personal experiences (48%), bloggers have multiple sources including:

- Local and international media sites, and media releases (24 percent);

- Local and international blogs (14 percent);

- Suggestions from friends and readers (10.5 percent); and

- Events attended (10 percent).

Anonymity and new connections

“It would seem that paradoxically, meeting people offline is a driver for congregating virtually in the blogosphere.” Among those who have met other bloggers in-person offline as a result of blogging, the types of interactions they have enjoyed include:

- A new friendship (35.6 percent)

- Shared interest groups (24.9 percent)

- Business / professional (24.3 percent)

- Charitable / community work (11.1 percent)

Interestingly, more than 55 percent of active bloggers identify themselves online. Among those who do not, the main reasons given for remaining anonymous are privacy (48 percent), wanting a separate online persona (27 percent) and personal safety (19 percent). Interestingly, 40 percent of the bloggers who do not use their real identity online claim to have met someone as a result of blogging.

The future of SA blogging

Although a relatively small portion of South Africa’s total online audience, members of the country’s blogosphere contribute toward a connected community of like-minded individuals. While the audience for blogs is currently small, the level of sophistication of bloggers in the country is rapidly increasing. For example, almost 40 percent have embedded videos (either their own or from a video service) on their blog(s) and over the past year more than 15 percent of bloggers in South Africa have made a blog post from their mobile phone.

“Blogging is set to become more of a mainstream phenomenon in the future, especially as better revenue models emerge for bloggers and as more affordable broadband access becomes available. With larger audiences, bigger communities and increasingly diverse participants, I would expect South Africa’s bloggers to also make more friends, influence the opinions of others and mobilise other citizens to act, speak and participate, both on and offline,” concludes Buckland.

Via News 24

*UPDATE: IMOD has a post questioning the accuracy of this survey

** UPDATE 2: A slide on the original presentation indicated that no bloggers earned above 3000, This figure is actually 2.9% and the slide has since been updated. Updated Slide

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