Australia – land of the blogging voyeurs
Let’s face it, we all love to watch. But when it comes to joining in, are we willing to take the leap?
I am, of course, talking about blogging. There has been a spate of published research recently which highlights that Australia, as a nation of bloggers, is a bit of a laggard. Our own research suggests a similar story. So what are the facts?
40% of online Australians claim to have started a blog. This might seem high but many consumers consider their MySpace page, or their Twitter site to be their blog. Furthermore, a large proportion of blogs lie dormant – a spontaneous attempt to express oneself that quickly runs out of steam. In reality, the percentage of online Australians writing traditional blogs regularly is in single figures. Compared to Asia, the number writing their own blogs is extremely low – in many Asians markets blogging is a mainstream activity, with a majority writing regularly.
69% of Australians read other peoples blogs, on average two to three times a week. While this is also considerably lower than many Asian markets, it is still a big number, indicating the interest Australians have in user-generated content.
Hence my suggestion that Australians are the voyeurs of the blogging world.
So why are we so unwilling to participate? In my last blog I suggested that the traditional culture of a country is influencing the online behaviour of the nation. In the six countries we have researched, the more collectivist a country is, the more likely it is to be a strong blogging nation (assuming an acceptable level of internet access). Australia, according to cultural commentator Geert Hofstede, is the world’s second least collectivist nation, or in other words, the second most individualistic nation in the world. In comparison, China is considered the most collectivist nation in Asia and, hence, has the highest proportion of bloggers. So why does the degree of collectivism impact on the likelihood of blogging? A core need of all bloggers is to reach out and connect with other like-minded individuals. They want to help build a community. There are, of course, other factors at play when it comes to whether a nation embraces blogging and other participatory media or not, but the individualist-collectivist dimension is one which shouldnt be ignored.
But why should marketers care?
The obvious implication for marketers in Australia is that those who do blog have the potential to become serious powerbrokers. Bloggers do not typically have a major impact on product decisions at present (there are, of course, exceptions to the rule like www.dooce.com), but their influence is growing, and their readership base is often large. The pool of bloggers to outreach to is comparatively small and those most influential are likely to be approached by a range of brands, if they havent been already.
A second implication relates to the potential success of participatory campaigns in Australia. If consumers are typically unwilling to blog or to post comments, it would suggest any campaign designed to engage with consumers and to obtain, say feedback for product improvement, may struggle to match the response of a similar campaign in a different market.
But is Australia simply a laggard? Will somebody switch the light on and suddenly blogging and participation will increase overnight? Will the ever-increasing popularity of Twitter create a nation of expressive individuals? Whilst Im reticent to try and predict the future, my belief is that there is something about our cultural make-up that will make it difficult for Australia – the land of voyeurs – to become a nation of bloggers.