The numbers talk: What to make of blogs?

In speaking with clients about how to think about blogs, blog monitoring and blogger relations, the most common sentiment I hear is, “OK, we know there are people out there blogging about my space, but who reads them?”  Many are aware of “events”, such as the CompUSA situation, where a dissatisfied customer flames a company on a blog, an A-lister sees it, it explodes onto Digg, and it ends up on CNN.  But, there still is an underlying skepticism that a situation like this won’t affect them.

So, I read with interest an Ad Age story on Monday that had some interesting data from several highly regarded survey organizations.  The body of the piece cited some numbers I felt provided some of the most compelling evidence of the growing influence of blogs:

One of the big reasons blogs have such impact is their credibility among readers. In a February poll from We Media and Zogby Interactive, 72% of adults said they were dissatisfied with the quality of American journalism today. Another 55% said bloggers are important to the future of American journalism, and 74% said citizen journalism will play a vital role, according to the poll.

And this:

Consumers are also taking bloggers’ word before they buy. A late 2006 Ipsos MORI survey found that blogs were a more trusted source of information than advertising or e-mail marketing. One-third of respondents said they had decided not to buy a product after reading a negative blog post, while 52% were persuaded to buy after reading a positive review.

Great stuff.  But the air came out of the balloon when I clicked on the accompanying PDF calling out other research on the demographics of the blogosphere.  In particular, Pew research that said that kids are more likely than adults to create and consume blogs.  Or a separate Pew study that found that 54% percent of bloggers are younger than 30.

It’s this interesting dichotomy of data that speaks to why clients continue to be skeptical.  But they are increasingly curious.  While the evidence may be inconclusive in the minds of many, we firmly believe that the starting point should at least be to know how your company, product and market space is being discussed on the blogosphere.  What you’ll find will surprise you, and not doing so puts you at risk of the same situation CompUSA had to manage this week.

And while the Pew study said that the majority of bloggers are under 30, Terry Heaton, the CompUSA customer and blogger that started the mess, falls in the demographic that B2B marketers most care about.