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Magazines > Information Today > April 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 4 — April 2004

OPINION
U 2 Can B a Content Creator
By Dick Kaser

I've been poring over the results of a Pew Internet & American Life report released last month that attempted to measure the number of "content creators" on the Internet (http://www.pewinternet.org/reports/
pdfs/PIP_Content_Creation_Report.pdf)
.

"The maxim is true," the report writers assert. "Anyone can be a publisher on the Web, and many Internet users are."

But before publishers knee-jerk themselves to death (and before those who dislike publishers laugh themselves apoplectic), Pew admits that its definition of "content creation" is broad—broad enough in fact to include those who have contributed a posting to a newsgroup (UR2Kewl, dude. L).

It also includes those of us who have "posted" stuff to the Web because it's part of our job to feed stuff to the company Web site. Yeah, OK, that's content, but...

Based on the survey questions, the study's "content creators" would also appear to include those who have shared files that are not necessarily of their own creation. Of those who reported to Pew that they have permitted others to download files from their computer, 65 percent admitted that they don't really care if those files are copyrighted by someone else.

Of all the things the Pew study reported, the stats I was most interested in were the ones about bloggers, possibly because I think a good blogger is a good journalist, and that's striking pretty close to the heart and soul of the publication you're reading. None of us around here likes it when we're scooped by someone who the most defensive among us might regard as a digital dilettante.

On the blogging front, the Pew study found many fewer bloggers than other studies have suggested, concluding that only 2 percent of adult Internet users in the U.S. are writing Weblogs. And of those, the report shows, fewer than half update their blogs more than once a week.

Some who would like to see bloggers go away have no doubt delighted at this revelation. But any euphoria should last only as long as it takes to whip out a calculator.

Even only 2 percent of a huge universe is still a large number, certainly a large enough number to include some talented individuals who are capable of challenging established reporters.

Pew doesn't really say how many adult Internet users it thinks there are in the U.S. But the report claims that the 53 million people it classifies as content creators represent 44 percent. Therefore, the total assumed in this study must be 120 million.

Two percent of 120 million is 2.4 million bloggers, a million of whom are updating their Weblogs at least once a week.

That's a lot of reporting.

I dare say, it's at least 10 times more than the number of professional writers and editors employed by all the newspapers and trade publishers in the U.S. That number is just more than 100,000, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The world of publishing (aka old-fashioned content creation) has always been very competitive. It's been true for a long time that many people would like to create content. But surviving in the world of would-be content creators is a very Darwinian experience. Only a few actually hang in there long enough to make a name, get a following, and continue to crank out quality work on a regular basis. (How many Stephen Kings exist?)

I suspect that these laws of creative nature are also going to remain true on the Internet.

So yes, according to Pew, everyone and everybody is making content. But is everyone really a content creator? And is all this stuff really publishing? I really don't think so.

[Author's Note: The report "Content Creation Online" is based on a telephone survey conducted of 1,555 adult Internet users in spring 2003. It's projected by Pew to represent roughly 120 million adult Internet users in the U.S. at a 95-percent confidence level (+/- 3 percent).]


Dick Kaser is Information Today, Inc.'s vice president of content. His e-mail address is kaser@infotoday.com.
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