Thursday, July 13, 2006

Survey says...

It has occurred to me that many readers don't know what I did my thesis on, and even those who do, they don't know what my reseach told me. Now that my defense is done, I will give a brief summary. If you would like to read the paper in full, all 84 pages of it, I will be happy to share it once I finish my revisions.

The introduction of a new medium provides an opportunity for scholars to revisit existing theories of mass communication. Blogging is a medium that has grown tremendously in recent years, from just a few dozen blogs in 1999 to more than 42 million blogs today. One function of blogging is providing opinion and commentary on news from the mainstream media. In this way bloggers act as intermediaries, much in the same way Lazarsfeld described opinion leaders in his two-step flow of information theory. This research examined blogging from the framework of the two-step flow to see if readers looked to bloggers as opinion leaders. Results showed that bloggers were not opinion leaders and blogs were perceived as less credible than mainstream media sources, but that blogs do play a role in opinion consideration and opinion reinforcement.

Despite the hype surrounding blogging, it is unlikely that blogs will dramatically change the way media operates or how the public receives and processes information. It is true that the number of blogs have increased dramatically, from 8 million in 2004 to 42 million today. Additionally, blogs have become easier to use and have increased functionality, now allowing bloggers to post photos and videos. People who have never been computer savvy now have blogs in an effort to keep in touch with their friends and family. However, this research suggests that blogs are more likely to be utilized as an interpersonal communication channel rather than a mass cmmunication medium.

As a mass communication channel, blogs do not have the level of credibility of other MSM sources. Respondents tended to view other mainstream media more frequently than blogs and did not see blogs as an important source of information. It was much more likely that blogs would serve as reinforcement of currently held beliefs, than to motivate opinion change.

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