While blogging is piquing the interest of mainstream media, youth, academic researchers, and entrepreneurial Silicon Valley, only a fraction of Internet users read blogs and many do not even know what the term means. Reports on how many people read blogs vary (Rainie 2005, Comscore 2005), but even in the United States, less than 50% of Internet users read blogs and many do not even know when they do (Buchwalter 2005). Numerous tools have been built to support blogging and people have extended those tools to do a wide variety of things that may or may not be considered blogging. While the term has been used to hype a new phenomenon, people are not always clear about what it references. Blog is not a self-descriptive term and, as a consequence, blogs, bloggers and blogging are being conceptualized in conflicting and unclear ways by both press and academics. The goal of this paper is to uncover and analyze the variable ways in which the term is being used in order to highlight how relevant social groups are talking past one another and inserting bias into the analysis of blogs and blogging. Rather than arguing for a definitive definition, this paper invites scholars to conceptualize blogging as a diverse set of practices that result in the production of diverse content on top of a medium that we call blogs.
This paper begins by exploring how tool developers, media, researchers, and practitioners have conceptualized blogging. Blogs are often seen as a genre of computer- mediated communication that can be evaluated in content and structure terms. Variations on styles are viewed as sub-genres; these sub-genres are typically devised by drawing parallels to pre-existing genres of textual production such as diaries and journalism.