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How Many Bloggers Use Blogging As Their Primary Source of Income?:
My co-blogger Jonathan Adler notes the Wall Street Journal essay reporting the following about blogging:
The best studies we can find say we are a nation of over 20 million bloggers, with 1.7 million profiting from the work, and 452,000 of those using blogging as their primary source of income. That's almost 2 million Americans getting paid by the word, the post, or the click — whether on their site or someone else's. And that's nearly half a million of whom it can be said, as Bob Dylan did of Hurricane Carter: "It's my work he'd say, I do it for pay."
The idea that there are 452,000 people in the United States using blogging as their primary source of income seems truly incredible to me. The Volokh Conspiracy is a pretty popular blog, but we tend to earn less than minimum wage for our time blogging here.

   If I'm not mistaken, the 452,000 figure is way off. The conclusion that 452,000 people in the United States use blogging as their primary source of income is based on calculations from a blog post at Media Bistro that links to a report by Technorati on the state of the blogophere. The Media Bistro post copies a chart from the Technorati report (see it here) in which two percent of the participating bloggers reported that blogging was their primary source of income.

  The trick, though, is that Technorati's participating bloggers were likely an unusual bunch rather than a representative one. According to the report's explanation of its methodology:
We emailed a survey invitation to a random sample of Technorati registered users around the world. To qualify for the survey, respondents needed to be bloggers over 18 years old. The survey was hosted by Decipher Inc., was in the field from July 28, 2008 through August 4, 2008, and received 1,290 completed responses from 66 countries.
The methodology doesn't tell us how many e-mails were sent out to get those 1,290 responses, or how many of those responses were from bloggers in the United States. Nor do we know if Technorati's e-mail asking for responses promised respondents anything in the nature of free advertising for their blogs (some was given, in the form of individual blogger profiles in the report) which would likely skew the numbers. All we know is that Technorati received 1,290 responses from bloggers who responded to its query. Of the ones who responded from around the world, 2% — about 25 people — said that they relied on blogging as their primary source of income.

  It seems that the WSJ story assumed that this group of bloggers was representative of the bloggers in the United States. The WSJ article thus calculated the number of bloggers making their primary living from blogging by taking one figure they had — that there were 22.6 million bloggers in the U.S. in 2007 — and then multiplying by the percentage of bloggers in the Technorati study who said that blogging was their primary source of income — that is, two percent. Voila, 22.6 million times .02 = 452,6000 people in the U.S. making their primary living from blogging. But the group of bloggers who are enthusiastic enough about blogging and eager enough to take their time to complete a survey is likely highly unrepresentative of the whole.
Brian G (mail) (www):
Let Obama and the Dems think that bloggers are making it lest he start thinking about bailing them out.
4.21.2009 4:41pm
/:
Are you suggesting that a print publication would sensationalize a meaningless statistic in order to make a ridiculous point? You should be ashamed.
4.21.2009 4:44pm
Repurblican (mail) (www):
There aren't enough readers to support a half-million full-time bloggers. Don't know how the CPMs and CPCs, given the traffic, would work out such that all these bloggers could devote all their time to blogging alone without some other source of income.
4.21.2009 4:50pm
swg:
That's a nice little analysis. The story has been getting lots of attention in the blogosphere I spectate, but no one has come up with this sensible explanation for the number.
4.21.2009 4:58pm
Just an Observer:
When do the blog commenters start getting their cut of the swag?
4.21.2009 5:05pm
theobromophile (www):
A different thought: if a stay-at-home mom, for example, makes $1,000 a year off of her blog's ads and her linked Cafepress, that would indeed be her primary source of income (although obviously not the primary source of income for her household).

While I doubt that there are a half-million people out there who are employed (to use the term loosely) that way, it would not surprise me if there were many people out in the world who could count blogging as a primary source of income.
4.21.2009 5:19pm
PeterWimsey (mail):
A lot of bloggers are HS or college students without jobs; if a fairly popular blogger from this demographic is able to pull in $100-$200/month, that might well constitute his primary source of income.
4.21.2009 5:21pm
ohwilleke:
Pretty sloppy for the WSJ. Must be someone from the marketing department.
4.21.2009 5:32pm
James Gibson (mail):
I did want to note that we all know the Internet is the primary source of income for a number of people. Mostly they try and hack into your computer through worms and viruses. Stealing passwords, socials, learning your bank account numbers and when not doing this remotely taking over your computer to send out spam through your Email account. Even twitter was hacked recently by some high school kid trying to drum up business for a twitter alternative. Oh, yes there are plenty of people who make their primary living off the net (not necessarily by blogging, but through the net).
4.21.2009 6:34pm
krs:
Sounds like the beginning of a great infomercial.

Are you tired of your job? Are you tired of looking for a job? Do you want to get paid for spending lots of time on the internet? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, call this number to find out how you can make enough money to support yourself without ever leaving your home! 452,000 Americans are already doing it! All you need is an internet connection and a working keyboard! What are you waiting for? Call now!
4.21.2009 6:39pm
EverydayLiberal (mail):
Just heed the acquired wisdom: behind most outrageous statistics follows an innumerate journalist.
4.21.2009 7:15pm
Kazinski:
I have it on good authority that you can earn $20,000 a month working from home. If they making all that money blogging how are they doing it?
4.21.2009 7:55pm
NickM (mail) (www):
I know a blogger whose primary source of income is his blog. Of course, he's 15, blogs about video games, and his blog income was about $300 last year through Google Ads. His parents are nonetheless very proud of him (it was prominent in their Christmas card letter).

Nick
4.21.2009 8:31pm
ghh:
Maybe they're giving some cash value to the love and respect you earn as bloggers. All the women you get for free have value too. And then there's the free drinks...
4.21.2009 8:47pm
wolfefan (mail):
Mickey Kaus has more analysis on this over at slate.com...
4.22.2009 6:27am
trad and anon (mail):
But the group of bloggers who are enthusiastic enough about blogging and eager enough to take their time to complete a survey is likely highly unrepresentative of the whole.
That's not the only thing: only 1.2 million blogs are registered with Technorati. Assuming, dubiously, that nearly all those blogs are American, that would still only represent 6% of American blogs. The (less than) 6% of American blogs registered with Technorati are probably 6% of the most active bloggers, and thus highly unrepresentative of bloggers generally.
4.22.2009 11:30am
levisbaby:
If Mark Penn said the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, I'd make sure I have plenty of batteries for my flashlights.
4.22.2009 1:51pm

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