A Mark Penn piece in the WSJ yesterday has been creating something of a statistical stir online. Penn looks at the available research on blogging and concludes that for 452,000 Americans, blogging is their primary source of income. That means there are more people making a living as bloggers than people making a living as firefighters, Penn notes. That is a big deal. If it's true.
What's behind Penn's math? In an update, the Microtrends columnist explains that an eMarketer report found more than 22 million bloggers in America. OK. Then a Technorati survey of bloggers found 2 percent said blogging was their primary source of income. Two percent of 22.6 million is 452,000.
So there are a few things here:
Is the Technorati poll really representative of the entire blogging population? Technorati says it "emailed a survey invitation to a random sample of Technorati registered users around the world," in explaining its survey methodology. Technorati registered users--particularly those who responded to the survey--are likely the most active bloggers, and if it's 2 percent of the more active bloggers, then it's a much smaller percentage of the total blogging population. Also important, the 2 percent is a global average, not a national one. It's hard to know whether it would be higher or lower in the U.S.
As well, the 2 percent may make their primary income through blogging, but that total may include people who otherwise would have no income--full-time college students, for example, or stay-at-home parents. Couldn't their blogs could be bringing in $200 a year and still be their primary income, as these individuals would likely be answering for themselves, not their households? Comparing their blogging careers to firefighters' careers seems disingenuous, if unintentially so.