AR – another take on blog credibility

Instead of trying to cope with strangely off-the-base articles, I will just return here briefly to the problem of blog credibility (looking at the pile of articles in the TO READ stack, this won’t be the last time, either).

In a 2008 article of the JCMC, the authors present a survey of blog readers, taken in the final stage of the 2004 US presidential elections. To sum it up very briefly, blogs were found moderately credible (credibility here has also been understood as a construct of believability, fairness, accuracy and depth), but as more credible than any other type of media. Blog reliance was found to be a strong predictor of perceived credibility. The authors also took a look on how various motivations for using blogs are related to perceptions of credibility, and they found that credibility was seen highest among those who were reading blogs often seeking political information, and lowest among those who mostly frequent blogs for entertainment.

A couple of quick notes, then.

* The connection between reliance and high perceived credibility might seem dangerously obvious: surely you are going to read information sources which you find credible (especially when you’re motivated by “political information seeking”), and avoid ones that you don’t find credible, right? Sure, in general. But add the fact that…

* …being openly biased might likely improve a blog’s perceived credibility (i.e. blogs are not perceived credible because they offer first-hand information, or because they strive for some kind of balanced view, but because they offer more in-depth, detailed, and opinionated analysis than other media). These two factors together suggest an opinion-segregation within the blogosphere: one considers particular blogs as credible in part because they are biased; and will read these blogs, but not others, whom they might not consider credible, because of different opinions served.

So, even though the blogosphere offers ample opportunities to point out flaws in argument, to send feedback and to debate, users don’t seem to bother reading views opposing their own; in fact, the net offers even better-than-ever possibilities to filter out anything unwanted and to just focus on information that somehow fits into the preconceptions of the readers. Cass R. Sunstein has been emphasizing the dangers (and, what is often overlooked, also the potential benefits) in his books Repbulic.com and Republic.com 2.0, which I will cover later.

* Implied in the study results is the fact that blogs, no matter how important and/or preferred by readers, still rely heavily on the mainstream media in the primary production of news and information. But how the primary information is covered, reviewed and reflected upon is also very important:

* …as shows the fact that blogs, even though only moderately credible, were seen as more credible than other media; and that it was broadcast television that was deemed as least credible. Note, however, that this is the result of a survey of politically motivated internet users, no that of the general population. What would be interesting to know is whether there is a causal relationship there, and if so, in which way it works (i.e. people are using the internet BECAUSE they think TV is not credible, or they think TV is not credible BECAUSE of all the information they find on the internet). Probably both, I’d say.

Thomas J. Johnson, Barbara K. Kaye, Shannon L. Bichard, W. Joann Wong: “Every blog has its day: Politically-interested internet users’ perceptions of blog credibility” in: Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (13), 100-122.

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