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Blogs are beginning to emerge as a key element for local vertical marketing, such as real estate and insurance. Eye Ball Farm, for instance, has developed a blog template for one of its Sacramento insurance clients. It will be used by all 23 agents in the local office and will (theoretically) help foster deeper customer relationships.

But in the scheme of things, local business blogs — and business blogs in general — barely register. Initial results from Bloggers, a Portrait of the Internet's New Storytellers, a new survey on blogger habits by The Pew Internet & American Life Project, indicate that less than 5 percent of the blogger universe focuses on "business" themes. That's the group that I'm interested in.

Another 15 percent of bloggers say they make money on the Internet, but seven of 10 of those do so by "selling items." Fifty percent sell ads, 33 percent solicit funds via tip jars, and 20 percent sell premium content. The survey did not have a question that would enable, for instance, a veterinarian or local attorney to say he indirectly makes money from his blog via its promotional power.

Pew's survey is based on a small but statistically representative base of 233 phone interviews with bloggers. Nationwide, Pew says that bloggers make up 8 percent of the population, or 12 million, and that 39 percent of Internet users, or 57 million, regularly read blogs.

We asked Pew Director Lee Rainie about the results, which seemed under-representative, and from the questions asked, more focused on matters of personal expression than practical things. Rainie agreed that "some of the most interesting, important blogs are business-focused. But in our sample, this was such a small fraction of what we were picking up that I doubt we would have gathered enough data to say anything consequential."

Rainie added that "if anything resembling a 'business bloggers association' or some such professional or trade group comes into existing I would love to query the membership about how they use their blogs and their experiences. In the meantime, you could help us learn more on this front by coaxing your business-focused blogger buddies to fill out the online version of this survey. We might return to the subject if we get a big enough response."

Well, we have our marching orders …

BLOG Question 26: What would you say is the MAIN topic of your blog?

37% — My life and personal experiences (diaries, journals)
11% — Politics and government
7% — Entertainment (movies, music, MP3 blogs)
6% — Sports
5% — General news and current events
5% — Business
4% — Technology (computers, Internet, programming)
2% — Religion/Spirituality/Faith
1% — A particular hobby
1% — Health (general health, an illness)
18% — Other
3% — Don't know/Refused

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