The blogosphere readership five years ago on religious blogs seemed to be college-age students who commented and young readership, especially converts. This level of education has not changed much. Over half of my readership are still either in university, have at least one university degree, or more. This group includes seminarians and singles and professionals.. Reading blogs is merely one way of gaining knowledge as this group is use to doing research and reading . These highly educated and intelligent people have been reading Catholic blogs for years, some tell me as early as 2003, the early days of blogging. Their comments add to the blogosphere at a high level. Many have doctorates and masters degree. This educated group is my largest group of readers, according to my poll.
Point two: new readers are "Joe Sixpack" guys and gals without degrees, who are very interested in the Faith, but have little formal training in religion. Many are married and have nice, big Catholic families, but are struggling with a lack of Catholic identity or culture in their geographic areas. They are isolated and use blogs for on line communities. They are not involved in careers relating to religion; some are in the military. Many are in their early fifties and late forties and therefore, in "Gen X". This group has very poor catechesis and use blogs to learn, as they are not necessarily readers, or scholars. Some are very active in their local churches; some suffer the lack of good pastors.
The third group are the young ones in their twenties and thirties who are highly skilled in getting information on line; read newspapers and periodicals on line (as I do) and use blogs as one additional means of information. Many are not Catholic, but interested and love the interplay of religion and politics, sensing the times. They are smart and savvy and want more information about a variety of topics. These young men and women are interesting, as they tell me, in discussion, that they read and do not comment. Many of those who read my blog fall into this category. They just do not want to make comments, but read the text.
This is the group with blogging ennui. Some have written to me personally of the changes they have seen in the blogosphere-less intelligent commenting and commentators with a need other than knowledge. This first group is not interested in emoting on line.
Two groups-one needing knowledge and the other needing virtual community, have begun to clash on line.
This has nothing to do with specific hot topics, but with this fact: the on line smart ones do not need to vent or feel or seek affirmation on blogs. The first and third group seemed to be formed of smart and socially stable people.
The middle group lacks catechesis and are searching for a different type of religion than group one and three.
They want "friends" and use the blogs for virtual companionship. They are without the skills which help others sift through material quickly and easily. They are not necessarily on Facebook, like the younger ones.
They may not be interested in rational discourse at all. I remember this type when I was teaching and coordinating RCIA (conservatively, mind you). These were the "feely" converts, not those coming in because they had read some of the Fathers of the Church. Sometimes, they could not articulate why they were interested in the Faith, and had to be helped to form an intellectual, adult response to Catholicism.
Many were coming from low-church, non-denominational backgrounds, God bless them.
Conclusion: bloggers, like myself, have to appeal, if we really take this ministry of Catholic blogging seriously, to these groupings. This is almost impossible, as bloggers reach out to a specific readership for the most part.
I am saddened, as their comments helped me more than the others, as they could get into the conversation at a level which pushed the discussion.
Perhaps it is a generational thing-I think it is. The Baby Boomers, who had much better education than the Gen Xs, are simply getting fed up with the blogging thing. The Millenials, who are naturally on line, love blogs, but do not comment. This leaves the blogger to deal with the desparate needs of the middle group-catechesis and fellowship.
We bloggers have a task ahead of us to reach out to all, but especially be aware of a change in blogging readership. Have other bloggers noticed this change?