Readership of online journals known as blogs grew significantly last year, driven by increased awareness of them during the presidential campaign and other major news events, according to a study released on Sunday.
Twenty-seven percent of online adults in the US said in November they read blogs, compared with 17 percent in a February survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Blogs that cover the tsunami disaster and relief efforts are bound to boost readership further, said Lee Rainie, the project's director.
"The tsunami is one of those cataclysmic news moments where lots of people's perceptions change," Rainie said. "Awareness of blogs will grow dramatically. There's so much attention to the coverage on blogs and Web sites and first-person video as primary news sources."
In the past week, blogs have shared information on giving money and finding missing family members, and several posted first-person narratives and photos from the affected areas. The web of links that are fundamental to blogs made it possible to quickly disseminate information that otherwise would have remained obscure.
Earlier in the year, politics was what drove readers to blogs.
Democrat Howard Dean embraced blogs early, allowing supporters from around the country to organize and talk about the campaign informally, without needing to clear remarks with campaign headquarters. Many bloggers who supported his campaign provided links for readers to easily make campaign contributions over the Internet.
Even after Dean's campaign fizzled, bloggers continued to pundit, and a handful were invited to cover the Democratic and Republican national conventions for the first time.
Time magazine even named its first Blog of the Year, crediting the Power Line blog created by three lawyers for challenging mainstream media and questioning the validity of documents behind a 60 Minutes report on US President George W. Bush's National Guard service. CBS News anchor Dan Rather later apologized for airing the report.
"Blogs have been around for several years, but because of the coverage in the political campaign, a lot more people became aware of the idea of blogging and certainly went online to read blogs," Rainie said.
Though blog readership jumped, the percentage of online Americans who write blogs grew only slightly, to 7 percent in November, up from 5 percent early in the year. Blog creators tend to be male, affluent, well-educated and young; 70 percent of them have high-speed connections at home, and 82 percent have been online at least six years.
The survey, based on random telephone calls with 1,861 Internet users conducted Nov. 4-30, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.