- NEW: Mobile marketing is next new media frontier
- Study finds that women make up 41% of bloggers, up from 36% last year
- "Blogs are still the center of the social media universe," expo organizer says
- More traditional media outlets are using blogs to build brands
The blogosphere -- arguably the first engine of the new-media age -- is becoming more female, while traditional media is horning in on the blogging action, a new study said Friday.
"It's healthy and it's mature," said Shani Higgins, CEO of Technorati Media, about the state of the blogosphere. "It's becoming more and more blurred with traditional media: Every traditional media source has a blog and is using a blog to create communities around their topics and articles."
Among the findings in the Technorati "State of the Blogosphere 2011" study: More women -- or fewer men -- are blogging, although men still are in the majority at 59%, down from 64% last year, Higgins said.
The annual Technorati study, released Friday at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center, is regarded as the blogging industry's standard-bearer and a measuring stick of its explosive growth over the past decade. The expo is the first and only industry-wide trade show promoting new media, organizers said.
"It cannot be stressed enough that blogs are still the center of the social-media universe," said Rick Calvert, co-founder and CEO of the expo. Of course, Facebook and Twitter might disagree.
Traditional media outlets have been trying to leverage the popularity of blogs to enhance their brands, Higgins said.
"Go to the websites of The New York Times and CNN, any of them. Blogging is a huge component of what is happening," Higgins said. "They are bridging the gap between opinion and real-time happenings.
Traditional media see blogs as an opportunity to communicate in a more conversational voice, she said. Those outlets maintain ethical and professional standards in their online postings, but their blogs do "get to be edgy," Higgins said.
But blogging remains largely a hobby for the vast majority of practitioners, as most can't afford to quit their day job.
Only 4% of all bloggers say that online writing is their primary source of income. And for those who say they do it full-time, only 37% of those pros say their blogging work is their primary income, according to the study.
As for being on a payroll, only 14% of bloggers receive a salary for blogging, with the average pay being $24,000 a year, the study said. The highest reported salary was $140,000.
For those bloggers who get paid for each posting they write, the majority receive less than $50 per post, and only 6% of professional bloggers get more than $250 per post, the study said.
During the conference, many of the 4,000 participants discussed new media's next great leap: mobile marketing.
Smart phone users were told of this unfolding future: They're strolling past their favorite bookstore or restaurant, and suddenly they receive a message about a sale or a coupon.
Or they're walking past a home for sale and want to know more. The smartphone can scan on the "for sale" sign an image called a QR code -- a square graphic conjuring up a resemblance to a jigsaw puzzle -- and consumers can have the listing's details, with a virtual tour.
Some of this future is happening, but it's on smartphones only. As Americans steadily shift from cell phones to such smartphones as iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys, more and more consumers will enjoy -- or dread -- the advent of mobile marketing, conference participants said.
This trend of the digital age was being touted at the three-day expo in Los Angeles, which began Thursday.
"What's funny is that a lot of us have seen 'Mad Men' and the birth of advertising and what was happening back then when TV came along. Advertising follows where the audience is. Where there are eyeballs, ears or attention, marketers are going to follow. And mobiles are the next great frontier," said Calvert.
Yet, the forecasts of how smartphones are the next great frontier are dampened because most Americans don't own a smartphone -- yet.
More than 80% of U.S. adults own a cell phone of any kind, but only 35% own a smartphone, according to a recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
In another indicator of how the technology is relatively new, virtually all smartphones now include a built-in GPS receiver to enable location tracking, but only 55% of U.S. smartphone owners have used their phone's GPS to help get local directions or recommendations, the study found.
The GPS technology is at the heart of "geosocial services" and its applications such as Foursquare or Gowalla, where you "check in" to a location.
It's that technology that will allow retailers to blast out a coupon, discount or other advertisements to the smartphones of people who happen to be in the area -- especially when business is slow and the retailer wants foot traffic, according to conference organizers and sponsors.
Some consumers may have already seen the QR, quick response, codes on pieces of mail or other advertisements.
Expected to become as ubiquitous as the UPC codes now seen on merchandise, the QR code is typically a square with a black-and-white image that looks like a partially completed jigsaw puzzle. It's also called a two-dimensional code.
Scott Monty, global digital and multimedia communications manager for Ford Motor Co., said his firm is going to use the QR codes on the camouflage over the 2012 Escape at the conference. To get a peek under the veil, attendees can use their smartphone to scan the QR code and see an exclusive preview of the car, he said.
The real unveiling of the car will occur later this month at the L.A. Auto Show, Monty said.
The key to a successful QR code is to offer experience consumers want, he said.
"People want to be able to say they have seen or done something first so that they can be seen as an 'experiencer' in their group," Monty said. "They want to seem smart and informed and entertaining, and it's incumbent on us to give them a smart and informing and entertaining experience."
This week's QR code for the Escape will reveal the car's technology, which is being used for the first time in North America, Monty said.
"Bar codes have been with us for a long time and QR codes give us a different level of data. It's more of a Web experience than specific product information," he said.
But many phone users find QR codes a bit alien, he said.
"The challenge right now in using QR codes with mass marketing is that it's not a mass accepted technology yet," Monty said.
Mike Callaghan, vice president of digital marketing of Century 21 Real Estate LLC, said smartphone users are starting to find the two-dimensional codes on "for sale" signs outside houses, and even on business cards.
The codes are also increasingly evident in newspaper ads or on billboards. Smartphone users typically have to download an app to enable the QR code scan technology.
"There are some creative ways to use them in the real estate search process," Callaghan said. "One of the most popular, the one that has a lot of attention from agents and brokers, is to put a QR code on a yard sign and then have the URL link back to property details, images, virtual tours, photos. It's a very immediate way: Hey, I'm out in front of this place, let me learn more, and let me learn literally what's behind the door."