Motivations for Reading Online Blogs
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Computer mediated communication (CMC) has brought about a great shift in the way we interact and look for information (Papacharissi and Rubin, 2000). Using the internet, today, users have access to thousands of sources, get information that is presented in a wide range of formats, and can also interact with people anywhere in the world.
With the turn of the new millennium there has been a fundamental shift in the way people all over the world communicate even using the internet. This phenomenal change has occurred with the arrival of the Web 2.0 technology which has enabled increased amount of interaction and community formation. Of all the Web 2.0 applications, one of the most interesting and rising Web 2.0 innovations is weblogs, popularly referred to as 'blogs'.
Blogs are frequently-updated websites by the owner of the site, where multimedia content can be posted. Blogs form a new genre of computer-mediated communication (Blood, 2002). Blog posts are generally in the reverse chronological order and the older posts can be archived. Readers of blogs can comment, rate, bookmark or link to the blog. Such linking forms an entire network of highly connected people (Wilde, 2007). This clustered network of interconnected texts form what is called the €œblogosphere€?. Simply put, the blogosphere comprises of groups of authors of content and their readers/ users.
Blogs are rising in popularity. The total number of blogs in Technorati, a popular blog indexing site had reached a 133 million mark by 2008, with 900,000 blog posts in 24 hours (Sifry, 2008). With such exponential growth, in recent times the academia and industry has taken good notice of the medium.
Research has been conducted on blog writer and reader motivations and final behaviour (Huang, Chou & Lin, 2008).
Studies say that motivation is a function of intrinsic and extrinsic factors (Guay, Vallerand & Blanchard, 2000). Hence one can infer that motivation to use a blog will change with the type of blog. However, studies have not considered blog user motivations in the context of the blog types.
Not much academic research has been done in studying blog readers (Huang, Chou & Lin, 2008). This research is an attempt at developing an understanding of the motivations behind reading of blogs, in relation to different types of blogs. The present study aims at understanding the key drivers that motivate blog reading among Indians and hence develop a model which clearly brings out the association of these motivating factors with various types of blogs. The classification of blogs will be on the basis of reader perception. Hence, it is expected that the study will help developing a consumer-centric classification schema for blogs.
Existing literature in the area of blogs indicates that little research has happened in this field. However, of whatever work has been done, most of the research focuses on the blog itself or on the blogger, and very rarely on the blog reader (Huang et al., 2008). This section talks about the existing body of knowledge on blogs.
Huang et al., (2008), have suggested a good way of classifying the existing academic research on blogs. They say that €œprevious research of blogs has investigated blog categories, motives for use, or motives for writing. Scholars also consider readers' responses after reading blogs, such as trust and interaction€? (p. 351). There are even studies done on the structural and systems aspects of blogs (Wilde, 2008; Herring, Scheidt, Wright & Bonus, 2005; Schmidt, 2007) and blogging benefits (Baker and Moore, 2008).
Looking at studies that have gone into the details of blog categories, a lot of work has been done by blog authors themselves (Herring, Scheidt, Wright & Bonus, 2005). Some of the most important ones which are oft-quoted in literature are those of Blood (2002), Krishnamurthy (2002) and Herring et al. (2005), who have all significantly contributed to the field of classification of blogs.
Blood (2002) classified blogs into three types on the basis of their functions as filters, personal journals and notebooks. Krishnamurthy (2002) went on to classify blogs into four types using two dimensions of a blog's orientation: personal versus topical and community versus individual. Herring, Scheidt, Wright, and Bonus (2005) used Krishnamurthy's categorization and further developed a five-category scheme for classification of blogs on the basis of frequency of updating. Dearstyne (2005) suggests five types of blogs based on their uses. Corry and Mundell (2006) have arrived at a certain blog classification scheme on the basis of the purpose of existence of the blogs. However, all these classifications have either come from content analysis of blogs and do not take the readers' view into consideration for classifying.
There has been a lot of research done on specific genres of blogs. Apart from analyses of personal blogs, extensive research has been done on journalist blogs (Haas, 2005; Lasica, 2002; Matheson, 2004; Tremayne, 2006). Political blogs form another interesting topic of reserahc (Bahnisch, 2006; Bruns, 2007; Singer, 2005). A growing area of research is the role of blogs as organizational communication vehicle through "corporate blogs" (Charman, 2006; Efimova & Grudin, 2007; Kaiser, MÃ¼ller-Seitz, Pereira, & Pina, 2007; Kelleher & Miller, 2006). Yet another practical use of blogs that is being studied is its use for expert communication and personal knowledge management (Ewins, 2005; Halavais, 2006; Walker, 2006) or professionals from other disciplines (Bar-Ilan, 2005).
A second set of research work has been done on the blog users in general and their behavioural patterns. Numerous researchers have tried to look into what are the various factors that go into what users of blog do. Bloggers use blogs for several reasons including using it as a personal journal, as a discussion space, as a collection of links, as an opinion center among many others (Figueredo, 2005). It may be inferred that, due to its multifarious uses, there may be numerous motivations, both intrinsic and extrinsic, that lead to blog usage (Huang, Shen, Lin & Chang, 2007).
Baker and Moore (2008) have studied the perception of social well-being, social support and social satisfaction of bloggers as against those of non-bloggers. They found that bloggers' social integration, reliable alliance and friendship satisfaction increased significantly compared to non-bloggers', suggesting that blogging has beneficial effects on social well-being, especially with respect to perceived social support.
Trevino (2005) has tried to study the reasons why people are in the blogosphere concluded that the most important factor motivating people's presence in the blogosphere is that self-expression. Shen and Chiou (2009) study the aspects that go into blog community formation and the factors which cause an individual to be a part of the blog community. They say that community identification increases willingness to be a part of the community thereby positively influencing an individual's attitude towards the community to remain a member of the community.
There is another body of knowledge which discusses the issue of trust and self-disclosure on blogs (e.g., Qian and Scott, 2007; Ko and Kuo, 2009). Qian and Scott (2007) explore the issues of anonymity and self-disclosure on blogs. This study concludes that bloggers whose target audience does not include people they know offline report a higher degree of anonymity than those whose audience does. Ko and Kuo (2009) reveal that €œself-disclosure of bloggers significantly and directly affects a blogger's perception of social integration, bonding social capital, and bridge social capital, which in turn promote bloggers' subjective well-being.€?
A subset of research on blog users is those on blog writers or bloggers. Some researchers have tried to understand bloggers' motivations in great depth (e.g.. Blood, 2002; Blumenthal, 2005; Herring, Scheidt, Wright & Bonus, 2005; Lenhart and Fox, 2006; Huang, Shen, Lin & Chang, 2007). However, Nardi, Schiano, Gumbrecht and Swartz (2004) analysed this issue in detail. They conducted ethnographic interviews and concluded that bloggers have five fundamental motivations that drive them to blog: €œto document their life experiences, to provide commentary and opinions, to express deeply felt emotions, to articulate ideas through writing, and to form and maintain community forums."
Huang, Shen, Lin & Chang (2007) conducted an empirical study which concluded that interaction by blogging is driven by the motivations of self-expression, life documenting, and commenting while on the other hand, content gathering by blogging is found to be driven by the motivations of commenting, forum participation, and information seeking. They also went on to say that these motivations drive two types of behaviour: interaction-oriented behaviour and information-oriented behaviour.
There is also an attempt at understanding self-presentation strategies that blog writers adopt (Jung, Youn & McClung, 2007). This study shows that the reasons for hosting personal mini-homepages are entertainment and self-expression followed by the professional advancement and passing time.
According to the uses and gratification theory, users are seen as active gratification seekers interacting with the media as opposed to passive recipients of media content (Goffman, 1959). Having said this, blog readers are consuming content, and have the choice to read content that they want to at any given point of time. While all the above mentioned areas of research lay huge emphasis on the blogger, the blog reader, who forms an important component of the blogosphere, has been sparsely researched on (Huang, Chou & Lin, 2008).
Huang, Chou & Lin (2008) tried to study the fundamental motivators behind reading blogs. This research work has arrived at a causal relationship of motives with blog reader responses. After secondary research and exploratory research, the authors have used five distinct motives in their study: affective exchange, information search, entertainment, and getting on the bandwagon. The behaviours that the paper proposes are opinion acceptance, interaction intentions, and word-of-mouth (WOM) intentions.
While looking at the existing literature on blog user behaviour (both blogger and blog readers), it has been found that most of the blogs are of the personal blogs type. However, researchers have not tried to explore behaviour on the basis of blog type.
From the above literature review, it is evident that there is a void in the area of research that concerns blog readers as a category of individuals on the blogosphere. Also, there is no work that has tried to bring a readers' dimension to classification of blogs. Hence, this study will aim at bringing about a relationship between the motivating factors for reading blogs and the various types of blogs that may eventually emerge from the blog-consumers' perspective.
3. Problem Definition
This research aims to study the various factors that motivate reading of blogs corresponding to the various types of blogs that exist. This is a study that will be conducted among Indian blog readers.
3.1. Research objectives
The key objective of the study is to identify factors affecting blog-reading and try mapping them to the various types of blogs in order to better understand motivators that drive reading through this new medium.
This main objective can be achieved through the following objectives.
* To identify the various drivers that motivate blog-reading among Indian
* To develop a customer-centric blog classification schema on the basis of these drivers
4. Proposed Research Methodology
4.1. Research Design
The research design will largely be a combination of exploratory and descriptive methods. Since the model cannot be built without further exploratory research, the study will have a mix of qualitative and quantitative techniques.
The study will be conducted in two stages. The first stage will involve exploratory research which will help arrive at the factors that motivate reading of blogs. The output of this stage of the research, i.e., the list of motivators would be the input for the next stage which would involve quantitative validation of the factors using a semi-structured questionnaire.
This involves understanding the motivating factors for blog reading in order to make a comprehensive list. This list of factors would be obtained from
· Analysis of secondary data
This involves collecting the list of motivating factors in existing literature in the area of blog reading and general online reading.
· Primary research: In-depth interviews
To determine the various factors that influence blog reading among online users in a manner that facilitates respondents to interact freely while giving the interviewer also the scope to probe deeply.
This is the point where descriptive research is carried out. This is done to understand the most important motivating factors associated with different classes of blogs.
· Primary research: Semi-Structured Questionnaire
The questionnaire would carry the factors determined at stage 1 which would be rated by the respondents. Administration of the questionnaire to the respondents would be done online.
4.2. Proposed Method of Analysis
After the questionnaire is administered and the responses, collected, data analysis has to be done in order to arrive at the final model that the research proposes to develop. The following analytical tools will be used in order to arrive at the motivational model.
· Factor Analysis:
Factor analysis has been proposed in order to arrive at the most important set of motives for reading blogs after the exploratory research.
The factors and their relationship with different blog types can be determined through regression.
4.3. Universe Definition
The following are the specifications of the target group.
SEC: A, B
Age: 15 - 30
Element: Indian male or female individual having access to internet at home, college or workplace who are readers of blogs.
4.4. Sampling Structure
The sampling unit in this case is individuals. The sample design is described separately for the two stages as follows.
Stage 1: Qualitative Study
· Sampling Technique
Purposive sampling would be used for conducting the depth interview.
· Sample Size
This would be conducted among 9 individuals.
· Sampling Plan
The respondents would be blog readers selected from the city of Ahmedabad. Recruiting will be done on the basis of respondents' frequency of reading blogs. Hence there will be three categories of blog readers with 3 individuals in each category - extremely regular, moderately regular and irregular readers of blogs.
Stage 2: Quantitative Study
· Sampling Technique
Snowball Sampling would be used for administering the questionnaire. Taking the route of references will ensure response.
· Sample Size
The proposed sample size for the study will be approximately 200. Depending on the number of variables in the final model, the sample size will undergo change.
· Sampling Plan
The geographic dispersion will be taken care of at the stage of online administration of the questionnaire to account for the four major zones (North, South, East & West) of India.
5. Expected Contribution
So far, research has seen blogs mainly from the blog writer's perspective. There is almost a dearth of academic research in the about blog readers. This research will contribute to bridging this gap in knowledge.
Existing research talks about blog reading motivations without taking blog types into consideration. By taking blog types also into account, this research adds a very important dimension to the existing knowledge.
There has been no published, academic research done on blogging behaviour in India. Being specific to Indian blog-readers, the will add to the Indian academic body of knowledge.
Last but not the least, understanding the key factors that influence blog reading specific genres of blogs can help content producers tailor their blogs in a manner which appeals most to their readers. This finding will go a long way in helping brand managers in tailoring blog-based communication for their brands to engage their audiences.
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