More than 53 million American adults have used the Internet to publish their thoughts, respond to others, post pictures, share files and otherwise contribute to the explosion of content available online.
A new survey and report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project find that 44% of U.S. Internet users have contributed material to the online commons.
While blogs or personal online journals have captured the attention of the technology community, most of those who have made contributions have done so in less cutting-edge ways. Here are some of the things American adult Internet users have done:
The Pew Internet Project has asked in its surveys at various times during 2003 and early 2004 about blogging. Those polls of Internet users have shown that somewhere between 2% and 7% of American Internet users have created blogs and about 11% of Internet users are blog readers. These are not hugely impressive figures, but they are hardly trivial. They mean that anywhere from 4 million to nearly 9 million Americans have created these diaries.
“One of the earliest observations about the Internet turns out to be true: anyone can be a publisher on the Web,” said Amanda Lenhart, Research Specialist at the Project and the lead author of the report. “The online commons is full of virtual chatter and teeming with self-made content. It ranges from the simplest vanities like pictures of ‘me and my puppy' to the most profound kinds of political argument--and everything in between.”
Online content creators are evenly divided between men and women. They are especially likely to be students, to have broadband connections at home, and to enjoy high levels of education and household income.
The report, entitled “Content Creation Online,” argues that the most eager and productive content creators break into three distinct groups:
Power creators are the Internet users who are most enthusiastic about content-creating activities. They are young--their average age is 25--and they are more likely than other kinds of creators do things like use instant messaging, play games, and download music. And they are the most likely group to blog.
Older creators have an average age of 58 and are experienced Internet users. They are highly educated, enjoy sharing pictures, and are the most likely of the creator groups to have built their own Web sites. They are also the most likely to have used the Internet for genealogical research.
Content omnivores are among the heaviest overall users of the Internet. Most are employed. Most log on frequently and spend considerable time online doing a variety of activities. They are likely to have broadband connections at home. The average age of this group is 40. Though content creation is usually a small and personal act, its impact is beginning to be felt on a larger stage.
“Beyond the pure fun of creating something to share with others locally or globally, the Internet is finally living up to its promise to empower the individual,” said Lenhart. “The world is changing in major ways when anyone with a modem can do the same thing as the most sprawling media company, the most powerful politician, or highest-paid entertainer.”
The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that examines the social impact of the Internet. It is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and does not advocate any policy outcomes.