While most research to date has tended to focus on those crazy people who write blogs, this article reviews research into the habits and thoughts of those who read blogs. Some very interesting findings, including a few that are surprising:
* Readers have diverse opinions of what makes a blog a blog. Academic definitions generally refer to blogs as frequently modified Web pages with dated entries listed in reverse chronological order. But study participants identified a wide variety of characteristics in what they considered to be blogs. These included both technical aspects like RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds and trackback links, as well as social aspects, including the presence of conversation or personal content.
* Regular blog reading often becomes more habitual and less content oriented. Similar to e-mail checking, blog reading can become ingrained into users' online routine. Sometimes, even the usefulness of the blog content itself can be less vital than the activity of reading or skimming the blog to fulfill a person's particular routine.
*The timing of a blog post is not nearly as relevant to readers as its position among the other entries. Readers are more likely to read the most recent posts at the top of the screen, and are generally less concerned with the exact age of a post. A vast majority of participants said they were not bothered when they were not able to read each and every blog post, challenging a common theory that users tend to feel overwhelmed by the need to remain constantly up to date.
* Blog readers feel a responsibility to make insightful contributions. While past research noted readers expect bloggers to deliver frequent, high-quality posts, the UCI study found readers also place pressure on themselves to produce coherent, worthwhile comments in response to good blog posts.
Now, this is just a preliminary study, as the researchers only tracked the blog reading of 15 subjects. Nonetheless, the article does provide ideas for future examination, and the idea that researchers are continuing to assess the nature of blog usage indicates academia is recognizing the fixture blogging has become in peoples' lives. I especially like the idea of research like this from a consumer perspective - as bloggers and blog readers continue to learn what works and what doesn't (as well as likes and dislikes), the product will continue to improve.