2006 has been a big year for blogs. A really big year. According to Technorati, which measures such things, there are about 49 million blogs now ... and counting.
David Sifry, Technorati's founder, estimates 75,000 new blogs are created every day. That's about one new blog a second. And that's not just here in the United States. China's state media announced in October that there are 34 million blogs in their country, a 30-fold increase from four years ago. China has over 17 million people writing blogs, and more than 75 million people reading them.
The blogopshere welcomed some notable new members in 2006. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, unveiled his new blog in August, reportedly the first ever by a sitting head of state. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Boston's Roman Catholic archbishop, joined the ranks of bloggers in September. He launched a blog to give daily updates on his ten-day trip to Rome. And former Majority Leader Tom DeLay became a blogger this past month, much to liberal bloggers' chagrin. Plus, many new dads became bloggers in 2006, including modern day dads, rebel dads, and start-up dads, to name just a few.
So, what were all these bloggers typing about in 2006? There are plenty of lists of what made some of the biggest news in blogs over the past year, like Yahoo's top searches for 2006 or the Weblog Awards, which rank the best blogs of 2006. But since this column focuses on some of the most popular stories each week, here's a look back at what some of those were.
The stories that generated the most buzz this year were primarily about politicians, Iraq, plenty of celebrities and one very lonelygirl. But what really stands out are the stories that found their way online long before they were picked up by more mainstream media.
Who could forget the online sensation, "Snakes On A Plane?" Long before that movie was in theaters, or reviewed in the mainstream press, it generated a ton of online buzz.
In fact, the movie generated so much attention from bloggers that New Line Cinema went back for five more days of shooting months after it was complete to bring the movie from a PG-13 rating to an R rating to meet fans' expectations. Of course, in the end, the buzz turned out to be much ado about nothing, as the movie suffered in box office sales. But it has changed the way Hollywood markets to an online audience.
One of the most talked about people in the blogosphere this year was Wee Shu Min, largely unknown by many Americans. Wee Shu Min is the 18-year-old undergraduate daughter of a Singapore MP and a college student. When she posted a snarky entry on her blog — and, classist, according to some — in response to a fellow blogger's fears about Singapore's struggling labor market, bloggers went to their keyboards.
Dr. Eric R. Pianka, a University of Texas professor who the Academy named the 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist, was also one of the most blogged about people. Why? Back in April he gave a speech that was characterized as "enthusiastically advocate(ing) the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola." Granted, many other scientists said Pianka's views were completely misinterpreted, but the story catapulted through the blogsophere.
A story that would've gotten little attention in the mainstream media without the boost from blogs focused on a controversy at UCLA. When UCLA police used a Taser to subdue a student studying at the school's library, it was captured on another student's cell phone, and caused an uproar online after the clip made its way throughout YouTube and on blogs.
Of course, the Lonelygirl15 sensation riveted the blogosphere for many months this year, long before most of the mainstream media was paying it much attention.
Lonelygirl15's brief posts on YouTube launched a Web mystery that nearly 2 million viewers followed. As it turns out, the star was not some genuinely lonely girl at all, but rather, Jessica Rose, a "20-ish resident of New Zealand and Los Angeles and a graduate of the New York Film Academy." The masterminds behind her videos are several screenwriters, thought to be the early serialized version of what eventually will become a movie. Stay tuned in 2007.
Stories that captivated the mainstream media also generated many keystrokes in the blogosophere as well. For example, in October, the New York Times had an alarming report about videos showing insurgent attacks against American troops in Iraq appearing on YouTube and Google video. It captured the attention of thousands of bloggers, many questioning whether the sites should take these videos down, as YouTube and Google say they do, or whether it's a free speech restriction
And when the Washington Post reported that new federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves — and to be treated by the health care system — as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon, it was one of the most blogged about stories in May. That approach, and the article, enraged many feminist bloggers.
A Marine's letter home, with its frank description of life in "Dante's inferno," circulated throughout the blogosphere after Time.com posted it back in October. As Time noted, "Perhaps inevitably, the 'Letter from Iraq' moved quickly beyond the small group of acquaintances and hit the inboxes of retired generals, officers in the Pentagon, and staffers on Capitol Hill." With the Iraq war in the news so often throughout 2006, bloggers were eager to post their reaction to such a candid account from someone serving there.
And the best online scoop of 2006? Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's departure came as a surprise to many in Washington and in the media, but not to those reading Comedy Central's blog. The fake news site actually broke the real news of Rumsfeld's resignation on its blog at 12:15 a.m. on election night, a full news cycle ahead of the mainstream media.
Blogophile has been busy in 2006. But 2007 will undoubtedly bring even more exciting developments in technology, whether it's on blogs or vlogs, or on a format we have yet to even imagine. So, stay tuned to Blogophile, which returns on Wednesday, Jan. 10.
Happy New Year!
By Melissa McNamara