The maxim is true: Anyone can be a publisher on the Web and many Internet users are. They have contributed to the online commons by creating or contributing to Web sites, posting photos, and sharing files. They are taking advantage of new Web applications like blogging and, in many cases, faster, bigger Internet connections to facilitate their contributions.
In a survey fielded between March 12 and May 20, 2003, the Pew Internet & American Life Project sought to measure the extent of these phenomena. Using a broad and encompassing definition of “content creation,” we found that 44% of adult American Internet users – more than 53 million people – have contributed material to the online world. Content creation in our definition includes creating a Web site, posting material to another Web site for work, family or another organization, posting materials to a personal or another person’s Weblog or online diary. It also includes posting photos, artwork, writing, or audio and video files to the World Wide Web, to a chat room or discussion or newsgroup or to a central server for sharing with others. The average number of content creating activities for a content creator is relatively small – 1.7 activities – and that suggests the most Internet users are content for now to find a small number of ways to make their contribution.
Some 13% of Internet users have their own Web site. Most do not refresh the material on their site very often: 10% of Web site owners post to their sites daily or more often, but the plurality (42%) update their site once a month or less often.
A relatively small portion of other users has contributed information to a Web site. Four percent have contributed to a family Web site, 8% have contributed to a Web site for a business and 7% contributed to a Web site for an organization they belonged to, like a club, a church or a professional group. 30% of all Internet users have visited the Web sites of other families or individuals.
Web cams, short for Web cameras, are small video cameras that are attached to a computer that broadcasts live video or still shots of the person at the computer across the Internet or to a Web page. Some 7% of all Internet users have ever used a Web cam to post live images to a Web site. Somewhat less than half (40%) of Web cam users use Web cams while chatting with someone else.
In this survey, we found that a mere 2% of Internet users in this survey reported writing a weblog or online diary. Earlier surveys and a follow up check in early 2004 indicate that between 2% and 7% of Internet users publish a ‘blog. Within this tiny group, only about 10% report updating their blog daily. Most weblog writers update their blogs once a week or less often.
Even though only a small number of Internet users are writing blogs, a slightly larger number of Net users are visiting them. Eleven percent of Internet users report visiting blogs written by others. And of these blog readers, a third report posting to or commenting on the blog entries that they have read.
Blog readers most frequently visit the online diaries of friends (56% have done so), strangers (46% have visited the blogs of people they have never met) and family members (a quarter report visiting family blogs).
Whether or not they have created original content to the Internet world, a greater percentage (though still not an overwhelming number of users) make content available online. One in five Internet users report posting photographs to the net, and 17% of Internet users have posted writing. Just about 5% of Internet users have posted artwork, audio files or video files to the Internet.
Some user are not just posting for others to view, some are actively sharing files. Twenty one percent of Internet users allow others to download files from their computer, including music and video files. Surprisingly, Content Creators are less likely to say they download music than other Internet users. And as we reported more extensively in our recent Music Downloading Memo, two-thirds of these filesharers do not care about the copyright status of the files they share.
One in five Internet users report visiting online newsgroups, forums where users can post their thoughts to a discussion that takes place over time. More than half of newsgroup users have posted comments to newsgroups, but a mere 4% have used newsgroups as a way to share photo, audio or video files.