Last year proved big for blogs and bloggers, according to data released from The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Blog readership jumped 58 per cent between February and November, and comprised 32 million US citizens in 2004. More than 8 million US citizens have created a Web-based diary, and one in 10, or around 14 million US Internet users, has contributed thoughts or comments to a blog.

The figures released by the Pew Research Center are just the latest in a series of studies on the growth of blogs on the Internet, and show that the online diaries are becoming important sources of information for Internet users. Despite gains in popularity, blogs are still the domain of Internet cognoscenti. More than 62 per cent of those surveyed said they do not know what a blog is, Pew said in a statement.

Pew began surveying Internet users about blogs in the spring of 2002, and has charted a steady growth in blog readership since 2003, from 11 per cent of U.S. Internet users to 27 per cent in November 2004.

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Most of these readers, 57 per cent, are male. Less than half of the surveyed blog readers, 48 per cent, are under 30, and a whopping 82 per cent are long-time Internet users, with more than six years experience online.

Internet users who were new to the medium, used the Internet less often or had less education were less likely to be bloggers or blog readers, the Pew study found

Technology used to read blogs is also beginning to take hold. The study found that 5 per cent of Internet users received their news from RSS (Really Simple Syndication) aggregators, or XML (Extensible Markup Language) readers that pull information from blogs and other Web pages.