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03 November 2004

VoIP Adoption - 1.0

VoIP is a major innovation that is having a major impact on the telecommunications world. Yet, surprisingly little information is available in the public domain on adoption, usage and attitudes towards VoIP.

In February 2004, the Pew Internet & American Life Project published a DataMemo on VoIP reporting on a study of practice, perception, attitude and familiarity with VoIP telephony: 2204 adult Americans were interviewed; 1388 were Internet users; 1 used VoIP at home. If adoption is absolutely minimal, familiarity with and disposition towards VoIP are much more developed. The Pew survey found that 11% of Internet users have already made a VoIP phone call; 27% have heard about the service, and among them 13% have considered adopting VoIP for home use. When projected in relation to the US Internet population, these percentages correspond to 34M users who are aware of VoIP; 14M who have tried it and 4M who are interested in using VoIP at home.

The Pew report describes the demographics of those who are familiar with the VoIP concept as corresponding to the "classic early adopter profile": the largest age group consists of people between age 25 and 34, well-educated and well-off, curious about trying new things, able to handle technical problems, a majority of male, long-time Internet users. They are more numerous to access Internet at home or at work using a high-speed connection than the overall Internet user population.

In May 2004, Jupiter Research surveyed U.S. Broadband consumers on their use of advanced voice-based PC communication services. Participants (n=812) were asked "which of the following voice services have you used at least once in the last six months?" and had eight possibilities to choose from. The most frequent answer was "none of the services" (56%), followed by "never heard of them" (26%). Some people indicated they had used "Voice with IM or chat" (11%), eventually in the context of games (3,5%) or with CRM (2%). Very few said they had used VoIP, either as main line (3%), as secondary line (2%), or in PC-to-phone calls (2%). It is difficult to project this number on the overall population, because the available statistics on Broadband concern household, and not consumers. What emerges quite clearly though is that VoIP penetration is very low even among the more advanced users in terms of Internet access.

Another way of approaching the question is by looking at the numbers of VoIP subscribers. Global estimations however, vary widely. The Pew report quotes Gartner estimation of 150.000 U.S. VoIP subscribers in 2003, and predictions of 1M by the end of 2004 and 6M by the end of 2005. Jupiter Research is more conservative, and talks of 400.000 U.S. households using VoIP telephony by the end of 2004.

Data from VoIP service providers are, on the other hand, difficult to collate. However, they point out formidable adoption rates.

Worldwide, Skype celebrated a year ago, October the 22nd, 1.5M downloads 51 days after the launch of the service and 100.000 simultaneous users. A few days ago, October the 20th, Skype celebrated 28M downloads for 12.9M users and 1M simultaneous users.

Quoting November 2004 analyses from Faultline, in the US Vonage had 7.500 subscribers when it started operations in 2002. Subscribers grew to 85.000 in 2003, and are now 300.000.

A last example from the Netherlands, via Eurotelco blog:

UnitedGlobalCom, parent company of UPC, stated that its residential trial of VoIP in Rotterdam had achieved a 22% penetration rate on the service with minimal marketing......Considering that UPC Netherlands has 2.3M customers and 2.4M two-way homes passed, a 22% level of uptake across its Dutch footprint suggests something like 510k VoIP subs over time.

Finally, always via Eurotelco, have a look at Xten X-lite Free World Dial-up user map

Where: US and Global
When: 2004

Two factors influencing online spending patterns

Buying products and services online has become common practice among Internet users. According to eMarketer, in the US there are 155.6 Million Internet users. They were 147M in 2003; 138.3M in 2002 and 122.8M in 2001). The majority of them, that is 74%, buys online. They were 73% in 2003; 71% in 2002 and 67% in 2001.

In More Broadband usage means more online spending, Sean Michael Kerner quotes comScore analyses that show a strong effect on online spending of two factors: broadband Internet access at home and Internet use history. Compared to dial-up Internet users, broadband users spend online 50% more (average quarterly online spending is 311$ vs. 217$). Internet newcomers (less than one year), on the other hand, spend online about half of what long-time (10 years) Internet users spend (in the past 6 months, this corresponds to 700$ vs. 400$).

Where: US
When: October 2004 (published)

Personal/Digital Video Recorders adoption - US - 1.0

Sean Michel Kerner's TV 2.0: HDTV, Program Guide and DVR Outlook mentions results from a Jupiter Research survey of domestic TV and Music digital equipement that sets DVR penetration at 4% of US households. This compares to 55% DVD players and 22% Home theater systems penetration. Intentions to buy confirm this trend. There are more respondents who intend to purchase a DVD Player (10%) than a DVR (4%).

Where: US
When: September 2004 (published)

02 November 2004

How do « ordinary bloggers » blog ? And Why ?

Ethnographic investigations of « ordinary blogs and bloggers» by B. Nardi, D.J. Schiano, M. Gumbrecht and L. Swartz provide insight into the practices, experiences and motivations of individuals and groups who publish a blog for a small audience.

The investigation combines interviews with 23 bloggers (age ranging between 19 and 60, 16 male and 7 female, higher education, a majority of students) and content analysis of a 9-day sample of their blog activities. It was carried out between April and June 2003, in California and New York.

In the 9 days, was published an average of 80 posts. Some bloggers published several times per day - in one case about 27 posts per day – others published every few days. The publishing process is a source of pressure: both creative pressure: bloggers feel that at times they have plenty of things to say, at times nothing much; and audience pressure: bloggers feel they have an audience expecting regular, good postings, and an obligation towards them. Participants speak about feeling burnout, and having stopped blogging for a while.

Posts had an average length of about 10 lines of text (209 words), with some posts comprising 494 words and others 80. There is real work around language to find the right “tactful” tone for direct and rich communication within a format that is quite limited. Compared to other digital communication formats, such as discussion lists, some participants appreciate the particular form that interaction takes with blogs. It is described as “interaction-at-one removed”; as “gentler, more reflective” and “constructive”: bloggers encourage comments on their posts and reciprocate by commenting others’ posts.

On the main page, blogs linked to surprisingly few blogs. The mean was 1, and range between 0 and 6 links. Individual posts instead on average included a link, with a range between 0 and 5 links. Links seem to be a differentiator between “ordinary blogs” and “topic-oriented” blogs as analysed by J. Bar-Ilan, who found that these blogs have many links both on the main page and within each post.

The bloggers interviewed say their preference for blogging over a web page because it is more dynamic “the rhythm of frequent, usually brief posts, the immediacy of reverse chronological order”, more focused “ the little distraction it provides”. As one of the participants put it: "You don't hear their voice in the same way".

Nardi and co-researchers identify four main non-exclusive motivations for publishing a blog.

For some participants, their blogs are personal diaries that describe to their family and friends the events, the projects and the experiences that happen in their life. Almost “real-time”, archiving and access from any web point are mentioned as very important features. A blog is perceived as a “superior alternative to sending mass emails” because it is freer and less intrusive: bloggers can publish when they feel it, readers can read when they feel like it, with no obligation to respond.

Other participants publish their blogs to raise and take position with respect to what they consider important public issues. They analyse and argue on issues that they feel "obsessive" or "passionate" and offer "a point of view, not just chatter". Politics, ethics and medical research are among the topics discussed. The blog works as an "outlet" for thoughts and feelings, and provides a framework for “working through issues, to let off steam”.

The act of writing, as art and craft or as a support for thinking, is also one of the motors of blogging. Blogging is a means for exploring and developing writing skills. As one participant says the discipline of blogging "forced him to keep writing”. Blogging is also a means to probe, articulate and convey one’s thinking on the public arena. It is partly a reality check, partly an interaction with the audience. And some participants describe the relationship they have with their "regulars" readers. Archiving of posts is again a central feature as some of the posts may be part of larger publishing endeavours.

A last reason for blogging is being part of a community. The publishing process becomes intrinsically collective, as people interact through blogs. "Blogs are natural community tools for people whose practice is to write and comment on the writing of others: researchers, poets, journalists, and to a lesser extent software programmers...and who typically obtain recognition from their written words".

Blogging as social activity, or, would you let 900 Million people read your diary?
B. A. Nardi, D. J. Schiano, M. Gumbrecht 2004 (CSCW, 2004)

"I'm blogging this". A closer look at why people blog
B. A. Nardi, D. J. Schiano, M. Gumbrecht, L. Swartz (to appear Communications, December 2004)

An ousider's view on "topic-oriented" blogging
J. Bar-Ilan, WWW 2004, 2004

Where: US
When: April - June 2003

01 November 2004

How many people publish, read or contribute to blogs?

To try to answer this question, I found quite a lot of data from 2003, some from 2004, most from the US. The sources and the methods used are disparate, but at the end some convergence emerges.

Active blogs
In June 2003, Blogcount estimated the number of active blogs (update during the previous 30 days) to be roughly 2.4 to 2.9 M. Most of these bloggers (1.6 M) use one of three Blog hosting services: LiveJournal, Blogger, DiaryLand. The same year, Jupiter makes an estimation of blog publishers to 2% of the total online community and of blog readers to 4%. Several Internet observatories put the total online US population at approximately 160 M. Blog publishers would thus be around 3.2 M, and blog readers 6.4 M. Both the publisher and reader communities are formed by people who have been online for more than 5 years. However, they differ in income (higher among readers than editors) and gender composition, readers are mainly male.

An estimation of the active blogs at 3 M +/- .5 finds support in the October 29th 2004 statistics from LiveJournal.com. On a total of almost 5 M, 1.350 M have been updated in the last 30 days; 870.000 in last 7 days; 340.000 in the past 24 hours. There are thus about 2.6 M active blogs. We also learn about some specificities of LiveJournal.com blogs. They are published using free accounts (98,1%), by a large majority of young female, between age 14 and 22, with a peak between age 16 and 19.

Very active blogs
It doesn't come as a surprise that the number of very active blogs, that is blogs that are updated daily, is much smaller. Drawing on the same statistics, we learn that they correspond to 340.000, around 14% of all active LiveJournal.com blogs. Recent statistics from Technorati (October 6th 2004) register an average of 300.000 posts a day in September and October, with picks of 400.000 posts a day for the 4 M blogs that Technorati tracks. It seems to me relatively safe to estimate the number of very active blogs in the 350.000 +/-50.000 range.

A much more conservative estimation of the number of active blogs however exists. It comes from Perseus' 2003 analysis of 3634 blogs (hosted by BlogCity, BlogSpot, Diaryland, LiveJournal, Pitas, TypePad, Weblogger, Xanga). Perseus puts the total number of blogs on these services to 4.12 M. The analysis reveals that 66% of them have not been updated in the preceding two months. This corresponds to 2.72 M blogs either permanently or temporarily abandoned. Of these, 1.09 M blogs had been created and never updated. The remaining 1.63 M blogs had been active for 4 months on average: 132.000 blogs for one year or more, with 13.600 blogs later reactivated. Looking at the 1.4 M blogs updated in the previous two month. The large majority are active blogs updated every 14 days. Among them, 105.000 are updated more frequently, at least once a week. Very active blogs updated daily are instead fewer than 50.000.

Who's right then?
Evidence from the Pew Internet & American Life Project national survey of 2515 American adults on the theme “Online content creation and publishing” supports the larger 350.000 +/-50.000 estimation of the number of very active blogs. The survey, which took place between March and May 2003, surveyed blogging as one of the forms of online content creation and publishing. Five questions dealt with three different levels of participation in blogging: creating and maintaining a blog; reading other people's blogs; reading and contributing to other people's blogs.

The report indicates that 2% of Internet users say they write a web diary or web log. This corresponds to approximately 3.2 M Internet users. The updating frequency varies from every few weeks (39%); weekly (31%); less often (20%); every day (10%). Very active bloggers are again estimated at about 320.000 people.

Blogs readers
Many more Internet users visit other people’s blogs. They are 11% of the Internet users, approx. 17 M people. This result is also reported by BizBlog, in a 2003 survey for an email services agency: 10% of the respondents (1691) described themselves as regular blogs readers. Going back to Pew, the blogs visited belong to friends (52%) and people never met (46%). Family blogs are visited less frequently (25%).

A more recent portrait of who blog readers are comes from blogads online survey taken by 17.159 blog readers. The majority of respondents were male (79%), over 30 (61%) and earned more than 45.000$ a year. Their digital life is quite extended: they read news online (54%), buy books (50%) and plane tickets (47%) online, make online contributions to causes or candidates (50%). One in five is also a blog publisher.

The blog readers who answered the questionnaire share a very critical view of traditional news sources: television (worthless 37%, somewhat useful 45%), newspapers (worthless 14%, somewhat useful 41%), magazines (worthless 12%, somewhat useful 42%), radio (worthless 13%, somewhat useful 39%). And, not surprisingly, a very positive view of blogs: 55% consider them extremely useful and 31% useful. More generally Internet is the main news source (54%).

They read blogs because they provide news they cannot find anywhere else (80%); because they appreciate the viewpoint (78%); because news come in faster (66%) and because they perceive blogs as more honest (61%).

Blogs readers and contributors

The Pew reports finds that, among blogs readers, 34% also post contributions to the blogs they read, what is equivalent to approx. 6 M people.

Converging results coming from a quite diverse range of studies of blogging suggest an answer to the "How many" question. We can estimate that there are between 2.5 M and 3.5 M active blog publishers, whose blogs are updated at least once a month. The very active publishers, those who write on their blog daily are between 300.000 and 400.000. There is much less data, and also less convergence, about the number of blog readers. Jupiter puts blog readers at 6.4 M, whereas the Pew Internet Project's estimation is almost three times higher, at 17 M. I found only one piece of data about readers/editors. The Pew Internet Project finds 6 M blog readers who post comments to the blog. Finally, there some indications about demographics. We learn that bloggers - publishers, readers, editors - have a relatively long online experience, of over five years. Some economic, age and gender differences have emerged between publishers on the one hand and readers on the other. As well as evidence that blog hosting services have developed distinctive audiences.

Where: US
When: 2003 - 2004


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