On the influence of blogs: a Jupiter Research survey

Another entry based on a source found in Marie-Catherine Beuth’s blog. It’s a US survey on the influence of blogs vs. social networks, carried out by Juniper Research. I couldn’t find the detailed results – other than this press release – so no in-depth analysis here, just a point that caught my attention:

“One half (50 percent) of blog readers say they find blogs useful for purchase information. Blogs sway more purchases among readers than social networks: more frequent blog readers say they trust relevant blog content for purchase decisions than content from social networking sites.” (1)

This is interesting, as other surveys tended to find that Internet users did not overly trust “blogs”. For instance:

– in North America, this Forrester survey reported that blogs rate the worst as trusted sources: 30%

– in France, this TNS survey gave blogs the lowest rating for trustworthiness: 4.5/10

So what’s the difference between this new survey and the two previous ones?

Jupiter Research looked at a narrower group: “blog readers” (who read a blog more than once a month). The two other surveys I mentioned investigated a broader population: “Internet users”.

In other words, regular blog readers tend to trust what they read in blogs – or half of them do at least. They know blogs: they read theirs.

This does not seem to contradict the two other surveys, which look at all Internet users – not just blog readers. Isn’t it normal not to trust “blogs” (a notion that can mean many things) when one doesn’t read them?

That’s all common sense; but the two surveys I mentioned bothered me because they tended to discredit “blogs” – that broad and poorly defined constellation.

At this point:

Question: Should we conclude that blogs influence their regular readers but not so much their “accidental” readers (who chanced on them for instance through a search engine)? This is an important point in my view, as blogs are often considered influential for their SEO power (e.g. precisely in search results). And the survey seems to make a distinction between the regular reader, who trusts the blog, and the “tourist”, who may be a bit more suspicious or critical.

Note: Taking an interest in the influence of blogs is good, but taking an interest in all sources of influence is better. So it’s worthwhile pointing out that surveys show that the most trusted source is the Other, the acquaintance (word-of-mouth). Then comes a variety of sources with similar ratings: professional media (despite all the bad press they get), brand sites (really) and consumers opinions (e.g. reviews on shopping websites).

Conclusion: What the Jupiter survey is actually telling us is that a blog is a medium, i.e. a publication tool that has a trusting audience. You read a blog because you trust it – and therefore it may influence you. As simple as that.

(1) To which one may add sector-specific findings:
“Outside of technology-related purchases, for which 31 percent of readers say blogs are useful, other key categories include media and entertainment (15 percent); games/toys and/or sporting goods (14 percent); travel (12 percent); automotive (11 percent); and health (10 percent).”

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