Blogging: growth, utility and concerns In the last two decades, there has been a massive increase in the amount of material being produced on the Internet, particularly in the form of blogs. Blogs (short for “weblogs”) first appeared in the mid1990s and are typically concise articles posted on a host website. While there are no definitive data on blogs globally, estimates suggest that numbers have risen significantly in recent years, from 35.8 million in 2006 to 173 million in 2011.
The rise of blogs has enabled individuals to communicate directly with very large numbers of people, at little or no cost. In more recent years, blogs have been increasingly utilised by think tanks, governments, non-governmental organisations, academics (individuals and institutions), political parties and international organisations (among others) to disseminate information. Part of the expansion and diversification of blogs is due to the desire to reach new audiences and to provide users with alternative ways of accessing material or of influencing people who may be beyond the reach of traditional political media. The unregulated nature of blog publishing has raised concerns about an increasing dominance of opinion over facts and analysis, and the potential for false information to be promulgated in an increasingly “post-truth” world. There have been high-profile instances of blogs being used to present misinformation, and even of bogus blogs re-posting analysts’ material without permission. It is unclear how much agenda-setting occurs in the “blogosphere”.
Equally, however, there is recognition of the increasing significance of research-related blogs in academia as well as in policy spheres. Research-related blogs tend to draw upon the findings of empirical research and, rather than replacing other publishing outlets (such as academic journals), they have become an additional form of dissemination, potentially enhancing the accessibility of research findings in policy and public spheres. Such articles can provide useful and more easily digested research-related material and, although concerns about rigour may remain, blogs that seek to summarise peer-reviewed empirical research.
Growth, reach and recent contributions are more likely to make a solid contribution towards our understanding of migration. Indeed, more generally, empirical research has revealed that the perceived credibility and trustworthiness of the blogger have an impact on readers’ receptiveness to information.