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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References

While researchers are increasingly interested in understanding the social context of weblogs, or blogs, most existing studies rely on analysis of English-language content. This study is a quantitative content analysis of Polish blogs (N=358) aimed at understanding the content elements and user-initiated features, such as hyperlinks, of blogs under the theoretical framework of uses and gratifications. Results indicate that self-expression is the primary motivation for blog posts. Furthermore, Polish bloggers appear to be driven more by self-expression than by social interaction motivations. Additional findings explored the relationship among motivations, gender, and topics discussed in blogs.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References

Scholarship on understanding weblogs (blogs) and the implications of blogged content is underway, yet it relies mostly on blogs published in English. Blogs are online journals where the content is arranged in reversed chronological order (Blood, 2002; Walker, 2003). Most notably, the social implications of blogs have been said to dethrone major politicians (Kurtz, 2005; Shachtman, 2002), raise others from obscurity to popular fame (Ratan, 2003), and serve as an “unedited, published voice of the people” (Winer, 2003). Trammell and Keshelashvili (2005) call elite bloggers who garner an audience the size of some small media outlets the “new influencers.” Yet, these popular, powerful, English-language blogs are not representative of blogs in general (Herring, Scheidt, Bonus, & Wright, 2004).

What is known about blogs, those who blog (called bloggers), and the motivations behind blogging has increased through a series of empirical studies. For example, Herring, Scheidt, et al. (2004) examined popular press claims about blogging and bloggers only to find such claims exaggerated. Specifically, Herring, Scheidt, et al. (2004) conclude, “the extent to which blogs are interlinked, interactive, and orientated toward external events” is overestimated, while “the importance of blogs as individualistic intimate forms of self-expression” is underestimated (p. 1).

As in most other nations, blogging in Poland has received media attention in that country, with major newspapers, weeklies, and magazines publishing stories on bloggers. This coverage often focuses on a narrow category of “blog celebrities” (e.g., Polish A-list bloggers), who are acknowledged as such by the community but are partially a media creation. Commercial media also use blogs as a source from which to sample Polish popular culture, the voice and the views of everyday people. In the media, blogs, along with online forums, have become a popular source for quotes from ordinary people. As a result, bloggers often criticize print publications for presenting inaccurate views that blow some aspects of blogging out of proportion (e.g., exhibitionism). At the same time, media attention serves to fulfill their narcissistic needs (Olcoń, 2003).

Purpose and rationale

The current study examines the untapped space of Polish blogs, including their descriptive elements/content, technological features, and the motivations of Polish bloggers. With current blog research focusing on English-language blogs based in the United States, this study chose the population of Polish blogs as a means to extend knowledge of blogging beyond an American, anglophone view. Furthermore, Polish blogs were selected because of the ubiquitous nature of the medium in Poland, and the ability to discern writer gender from basic text. Using the theoretical perspective of uses and gratifications applied through content analysis, this study seeks to analyze content of Polish blogs and gender of Polish bloggers in relation to motivations for blogging. The findings extend understanding of communication technology gratifications and blog use, and identify the possibility of a relationship between motivations and other variables (e.g., content, gender). In the discussion of these findings, we identify the extent to which Polish blogs are different from what other research has reported on blogs written in other languages in terms of subject selection, form, and blogger demographics.

Internet in poland

Poland became connected to the EARN/BITNET network in 1990 through a connection between the University of Warsaw and the University of Copenhagen. In 1991, the TCP/IP protocol was introduced into the Polish network and the first Internet connection was established with Copenhagen. True growth of Internet use in Poland became possible in 1996, when the national telephone monopoly introduced dial-up Internet access to its customers. At that time, there were about 500,000 Internet users in Poland (ITU, 2004). The number of Internet users has grown steadily since then, from 4% of the population of Poles 15 years old or older in 1998 (Zieliński, 1999), to 23% of the population in the first half of 2002 (TNS OBOP, 2002). In March 2003, 45% of surveyed households declared that they obtained Internet access in the years 2002–2003, 42% in 2000–2001, and 13% in 2000 or earlier (Czapiński & Panek, 2003).

Meller (2004) reported that 7.54 million Poles over the age of 15 use the Internet. Of those users, 53.2% accessed the Internet at home, 26.3% at school, 24.6% at work, 14% at an Internet café, and 14% at a friend’s house. Today, dial-up access still dominates and there are very few users with broadband in the home (Czapiński & Panek, 2003; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003). The largest percentage of Internet users in the population can be found in the youngest age category included in the aforementioned research, 16–24 year olds. This is partially due to the availability of the Internet in all Polish schools, although access is usually very limited (i.e., special computer use classes).

Blogging in poland

Blogs began popping up on the Internet as early as 1997, and there have been several attempts at defining the technology and differentiating the medium from standard Web pages (Blood, 2002; Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004; Trammell & Gasser, 2004; Walker, 2003). Barrett (1999, n.p.) defined a blog as “a small Web site, usually maintained by one person, that is updated on a regular basis and has a high concentration of repeat visitors. Blogs often are highly focused around a singular subject, an underlying theme or unifying concept.” The current technical definition of blog is that it is a Web page with a series of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order (Blood, 2002; Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004; Walker, 2003).

A Perseus (2003) study estimated that there were at least 4.12 million blogs in the English-language (mostly American) cyberspace. Pew Internet and American Life (2005) provided a more recent “state of blogging” report suggesting that more than eight million online Americans write blogs and that 27% of surveyed American Internet users read blogs. Many scholars have begun investigating specific blog genres and the impact of blogs on society (see Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004; Johnson & Kaye, 2004; Trammell & Keshelashvili, 2005; Trammell, Williams, Postelnicu, & Landreville, 2005).

Research on non-English language blogs has just begun. Lumma (2004) reported a low adoption rate among German-speaking nations. Others have begun analyzing Russian and Polish blogs (Cywińska-Milonas, 2003; Gorney, 2004). Academic research on such blogs has been scant, however, and related emerging scholarship has been limited. Of the existing research, much has been conducted from a social psychological perspective (Cywińska-Milonas, 2003; Parzuchowski, 2002a, 2002b).

Blogging was introduced in Poland in 2001 with the start of www.blog.pl, the first Polish service that offered users a Web interface and server space that enabled blogging. This shows a relatively quick adoption of personal blog publishing by a population that has been using the Internet for a relatively short time. Today, there are at least 14 Polish-language blog services. According to data provided by these four services, blog.pl, tenbit.pl, eblog.pl, and blog.onet.pl, each has more than 80,000 members.1 Altogether, there are at least 575,000 registered blogs in Poland today. As with blogs in any language, it is difficult to establish how many of these remain active. Even with large scale Internet use being so new in Poland, Polish blogs have the fourth greatest populous of all language groups (NITLE Blog Census, n.d.).

The most recent Polish blog research has focused on the blog.pl service and is based on personal experiences of blogging researchers participating in the blogging community (Cywińska-Milonas, 2003), unstructured reading (Olcoń, 2003), a survey with self-selected samples (Parzuchowski, 2002a, 2002b). This body of work provides basic demographic data on Polish blog users and basic information on the motivations, topics, and emotional states involved in blogging. Gierszewski collected very limited data on the sociability of bloggers. A more complex view on blogging is provided by Olcoń (2003), who examines such issues as social functions of blogging, ties to offline reality, anonymity, identity, and construction of narrative in the context of current sociological thought on the postmodern condition.

Theoretical perspective

The present study is informed by the uses and gratifications theory. Uses and gratifications (Blumler & Katz, 1974) provides a framework covering “a broad variance of media effects including knowledge, dependency, attitudes, perceptions of social reality, agenda setting, discussion, and politics” (Ruggiero, 2000, p. 25). The uses and gratifications approach is designed to address the needs a particular mass medium fulfills for its users (Blumler & Katz, 1974).

The uses and gratifications theoretical framework is built on the assumption that individuals pursue media-related behaviors based on specific predispositions or motives and social-psychological characteristics. Therefore, it is fundamental to understand the media user’s motivations and resulting gratifications. Guided by this theoretical perspective, user-initiated features and topics discussed on blogs can aid in revealing the blogger’s motives and needs fulfilled as a result.

Morris and Ogan (1996) argued that while the Internet is a mass medium, it can fulfill interpersonal needs. Many interpersonal needs can be gratified by Internet use, including both informational and social needs. The uses and gratifications framework has been used to study motivations for various types of Internet use (Papacharissi, 2002a, 2002b, 2004; Rubin & Papacharissi, 2000). This approach has been used to investigate both perceived motivations through content analysis, and actual motivations through surveys (Kaye & Johnson, 2000; Papacharissi, 2002a, 2002b, 2004; Trammell, 2004).

Through the lens of uses and gratifications, Perse and Dunn (1998) found that computer-related technologies serve various utilities for users. For example, early research found that personal computer use provided entertainment, escape, and diversion, whereas a CD-ROM provided learning and escape gratifications.

As found in more traditional media uses and gratification studies (e.g., radio, television usage), Internet communication provides a mixture of gratifications. Use of the World Wide Web is associated with entertainment, surveillance, and passing time gratifications (Tewskbury & Althaus, 2000). In examining motivations for creating a personal home page, Papacharissi (2002b) found that Webmasters hosted pages for sharing information, entertainment, self-expression, and communication with friends or family gratifications.

Self-expression and social interaction seem to be at the heart of the perceived gratifications for English-language bloggers. Papacharissi (2004) conducted a content analysis of 260 registered, public blogs hosted at Blogger.com. From the results she examined possible gratifications bloggers gained in publishing their blogs. Results suggested that the posts were intended to be read by friends or family (Papacharissi, 2004), thus fulfilling a need for social interaction.

Motivations can be manifested through basic technical and content characteristics (Papacharissi, 2004; Trammell, 2004). That is, employing a technical feature allowing readers to leave comments may signify a social interaction motivation, and discussing one’s thoughts and feelings in the text of the blog may represent a drive of self-expression. Papacharissi (2004) adopted a uses and gratifications approach to her content analysis. Her results were similar to those of Nardi, Schiano, Gumbrecht, and Swartz (2004) in that bloggers were primarily motivated by social interaction. The application of this theory thus supported earlier claims that blogging was an active medium where the blogger is aware of his or her motivations and audience (Nardi et al., 2004).

Sorapure (2003) stated that “audience and purpose are clearly important to online diarists, since these writers obviously and intentionally are creating public documents” (p. 9). This statement assumes that the motivations of the blogger are clear. Insomuch as this is true, the blogger is aware of the potential for others to read perhaps private content. Nardi et al. (2004) suggest that this is the case, even in smaller and lesser-read blogs (i.e., nonelite or blogs with low readership). Similarly, Kitzmann (2003) assert that online diaries are a “potential tool for communication and interaction” (p. 56). Thus, while the user’s motivation may be self-expression, the product can be a vehicle for social interaction (Trammell, 2004). Therefore, there may be differences in motivations for blog readers and bloggers.

Cywińska-Milonas (2003) proposed a psychological categorization of blog types based on motivation: exhibitionist, extrovert, and autotherapeutic. Additionally, self-presentation, self-promotion, and creativity were noted, based on her analysis of Polish blogs. Olcoń (2003) identified five social functions of writing a blog: fulfillment of emotional needs, fulfillment of the need for social ties, sociability, pleasure, and self-expression. While Olcón’s (2003) study was from a sociological perspective, these categorizations bear great resemblance to those in the media use theory of uses and gratifications.

Most blogs employ a diary-like look, although scholars suggest that these “diaries” differ from traditional diaries in that blogs are “unlocked” and online for all to see (Papacharissi, 2004; Sorapure, 2003). Indeed, one analysis found that 51.2% of blogs present a personal account of the blogger’s life, and the results indicated a positive correlation between expressiveness and intimacy (Papacharissi, 2004). Similarly, other research found that 37.3% of the English-language blog posts analyzed contained a record of the day explaining the blogger’s personal experiences since the last posting (Trammell, 2004).

Many blog software services enable the blogger to solicit “comments” as an optional feature. These comments are designed to invite feedback and reactions to postings. However, the implementation of feedback mechanisms remains limited. Trammell (2004) found that only 8% of blogs analyzed in that sample allowed users to leave comments, and Papacharissi (2004) noted that e-mail as the most popular form for asynchronous feedback. Additionally, some bloggers post their instant message user names, which invites real-time contact (Papacharissi, 2004).

For the most part, bloggers keep the templates that the blog services provide (Papacharissi, 2004; Scheidt & Wright, 2004). However, bloggers personalize the sidebar (Scheidt & Wright, 2004). Thompson (2004) found that bloggers who do personalize the look and feel of their blog templates often do so to reflect the topical genre. Apart from the template, bloggers can personalize the site’s look by adding graphics to individual blog posts. Even so, relatively few bloggers do this (Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004).

The present study, which focused on the textual and visual content of Polish blogs and the demographics and underlying motivations of Polish bloggers, is informed by the work of others who have examined motivations for English-language blogging (Nardi et al., 2004; Papacharissi, 2004). Using an ethnographic approach, Nardi et al. (2004) found the main reasons for blogging to be documenting one’s life, providing commentary and opinions, self-expression, communicating ideas, and connecting with others online. Nardi et al. (2004) concluded that blog content and motivations for blogging varied widely, based on the blog. This work opened the gates to allow researchers to investigate the relationship between content that is communicated on the blog and the blogger’s underlying motivations. In this sense, an assessment of what a blogger publishes, the blog’s format and presentation style, employment of technological features and frequency of publishing, and perhaps even the gender of the blogger may all signify the motives of the blogger.

Initially directed by Ruggiero’s (2000) four constructs for assessing motivation, this study employed six a priori categories as examined in Papacharissi (2002b) to gauge motivations of Polish bloggers. The six categories employed in this study are entertainment, information, social interaction, self-expression, passing time, and professional advancement (Papacharissi, 2002b).

Research questions and hypotheses

Based on the existing uses and gratifications research on Internet communication and blogging, the following is posited:

H1: Self-expression will be a greater motivation than social interaction for Polish bloggers.

Additionally, based on the understanding that content or other variables may manifest motivations for blogging (Papacharissi, 2002a, 2002b; Trammell, 2004), this study is informed by Papacharissi’s (2002a) investigation of characteristics of the Web content. That is, the motivation(s) driving the act of blogging may be observable through specific features (e.g., hyperlinks connecting content on the Internet, feedback mechanisms) the blogger employs on the site or through content itself (e.g., expressing thoughts, feelings, or talking about politics) (Trammell, 2004). Given that such characteristics have been found to differ in blogs based on gender (Herring, Kouper, Scheidt, & Wright, 2004; Trammell & Keshelashvili, 2005), this study also considers gender as a potentially important variable. Thus, this study asked:

RQ1: What are the blog characteristics through which Polish bloggers present themselves?

RQ2: Are there differences in Polish blogs based on the blogger’s gender?

RQ3: How do Polish bloggers use hyperlinks in their posts?

Method

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References

This study employed quantitative content analysis of Polish-language blogs using a coding structure based on the work of Trammell and colleagues (Trammell, 2004; Trammell & Keshelashvili, 2005) and Papacharissi (2004). Blogs are operationally defined as Web pages where the entries are arranged in reverse chronological order (Blood, 2002). Similar to Papacharissi’s (2004) uses and gratification content analysis of English blogs and Trammell and Keshelashvili’s (2005) self-presentation study of A-List blogs, only the front pages of the blogs were analyzed, and this entry page served as the unit of analysis. Consequently, each unit could have a different number of posts.

A list of the users of the popular Polish blogging service, blog.pl, was created using a webcrawler seeking subdomains on blog.pl.2 At the time this study was conducted, blog.pl was one of the best known and most widely adopted Web-based blogging software programs in Poland, and it allowed anyone to set up a blog account quickly. Most existing inquiries into Polish language blogs focus on this blog service. This sampling technique is similar to a previous study that analyzed blogs published through the U.S.-based blogger.com service (Papacharissi, 2004). At the time the data were collected, blog.pl boasted approximately 90,000 users.

From the list of blog.pl sites, 500 were randomly selected using a random number generator. Of this sample, 358 blogs were still live and accessible to the public (some blogs were password protected or were placeholders for blogs set up but never started, and were thus excluded from the sample). The front pages of blogs analyzed in this study were collected and examined in August 2004.

Coders used a codebook and code sheet adapted from Papacharissi (2002b, 2004) and webstyle blog content analysis (Banwart, 2002; Trammell, 2004) to analyze the presence/absence of perceived motivations for blog authoring as categorized by Papacharissi (2002b), general topics addressed in textual content, characteristics of the blog and hyperlink practices, technical services, and self-presentation on Polish blogs. The work of Herring, Scheidt, et al. (2004), Trammell (2004), and Trammell and Keshelashvili (2005) informed the investigation of the characteristics of the blog content.

For this study, the webstyle content analysis methodology reviewed how bloggers presented themselves thpough the content on their blogs, including use of interactive and hyperlink features, topics addressed, and underlying motivations expressed (Trammell, 2004). In coding for gender, distinctions could be made between male and female bloggers in their motivations and content presentation methods.

The six categories for assessing motivation were entertainment, information, social interaction, self-expression, passing time, and professional advancement. The front pages of the blogs were read and examined for these motivations by coders looking for cues in the content that a particular motivation was present. To do this, coders referred to the codebook, which had specific examples of how a motivation might be manifested in blog content along with an operational definition for each motivation category.

Entertainment as a motivation included blogging for pure enjoyment or fun or to try a new activity. For example, a blogger may indicate that he or she is blogging because it is fun. The information category included sharing general, personal, or enlightening information to others. For example, a blogger may indicate that he or she wrote a post in order to tell the reader something (e.g., news). Social interaction as a motivation included keeping in touch and maintaining relationships with others, including acquaintances, family, and friends, and addressing or reaching out to readers. In items that exhibited social interaction motivations, bloggers would speak directly to the audience by asking questions or appearing to converse with the reader asynchronously. Self-expression referred to informing others about oneself, providing personal information, and communicating feelings or thoughts. For example, a blogger might discuss something that happened that day and provide an insider’s view of how the blogger felt about the event and what he or she was thinking about it. Passing time as a motivation category included blogging because the author had nothing else to do and expressed this, because it was a normative habit among peers, or because it was a way to occupy time. In many of these cases, bloggers would indicate they were blogging because there was “nothing else to do” or simply state they were blogging to pass time. Professional advancement referred to blogging to promote oneself, to advance or augment a career, or to ask others to assist the blogger’s career. For example, professional advancement motivated bloggers would discuss work and industry-related matters rather than provide a “diary type” account of an event.

The presence/absence of 12 general topics was coded within each unit of analysis as well (Trammell, 2004; Trammell & Keshelashvili, 2005). These included record of the day, sharing long held or recent memories, technical statements, references to current events in society, personal interests and hobbies, family and friends, announcements or updates specifically about blog postings, current projects or work in the blogger’s life, intimate details of the blogger’s life, feelings and thoughts expressed by the blogger toward or about something, expressions of gratitude to readers, and political statements. Distinctions were made between political statements and references to current events in society, specifying that the former expressed an opinion or perspective of the blogger, whereas the latter was an objective reference to current events.

Demographic characteristics, including name, email address, gender, and age were collected for each blogger. The blog type (diary, professional, or group), frequency of posting, number of posts featured on front pages, and number of hyperlinks were also recorded for each unit.

Two trained coders who were familiar with blogs and whose native language is Polish coded the content. The intercoder reliability for the coded content was .93 based on Holtsi’s intercoder reliability formula. Differences were reconciled throughout the training and coding process by continually assessing reliability and correcting coding errors with coders.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References

A random sample of Polish language blogs (N=358) published on blog.pl was content analyzed. 22.3% of the blogs within this sample were considered “dead blogs” where the blogger had not updated the blog in more than eight weeks and left the impression that the blog would never be updated again. For the most part, the front pages of the blogs indicate that bloggers update their site several times a week (42.7%) or several times a month (41.9%). Consistent with previous, English-language blogs (Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004; Papacharissi, 2004; Trammell, 2004), the current sample was categorized as being like a diary or journal (92.2%), as opposed to being used for professional reasons (1.4%).

Due to the structure of the Polish language and grammar, the gender of 82.4% of the bloggers was able to be determined. Females wrote nearly three out of four (74.2%) of the Polish blogs analyzed. Nearly one-fifth of the blogs (19.0%) contained a biography statement about the blogger. This usually had the form of a list of items (such as name, age, favorite color, favorite band, etc.) rather than a description. Predominantly, bloggers excluded a “topic” or “mission statement” explaining the overall theme of the blog; only 2.5% of blogs contained such a statement. While no blogs contained syndication (e.g., RSS or XML) or trackback options, nearly every blog had the comment feature enabled (96.9%). This is likely due to the technical features offered by the blog.pl software.

Only 21.5% of the blogs provided contact information (e.g., instant messaging nickname, e-mail). The mode for the number of posts on the front page of the blog was 7 (M = 8.82, SD = 6.08); the number of posts featured on the front page ranged from 1 to 30.

Motivations

Motivations for authoring blog posts were analyzed in each unit. Coders read each of the posts on the front page of the blog and determined if a motivation was present in the blog. While this does not establish dominant motivation for the overall blog, it does provide insight into the different motivations of Polish bloggers analyzed here.

Papacharissi’s (2002b) constructs of Internet-based publication uses and gratifications revealed that the following motivations were displayed: self-expression (82.4%), social interaction (59.5%), entertainment (51.7%), passing time (24.3%), information (8.4%), and professional advancement (2.2%).

The first hypothesis positing that Polish bloggers would be motivated more by self-expression than social interaction was supported (see Table 1). Self-expression as a drive outweighed the drive to reach out to the external world.

Table 1.  Motivations of Polish bloggers
 Blogs (N=358)Male (n=76)Female (n=219)
  1. Note: Topics were measure dichotomously as being present or absent. Categories do not add up to 100%. Male and female results are based on data when gender of the blogger could be determined.

Self expression80.3%80.3%85.4%
Entertainment52.652.652.1
Social interaction51.351.367.1
Passing time23.723.723.7
Information7.97.99.6
Professional advancement2.62.61.4

This hypothesis proved valid for both males and females in that both genders were primarily motivated by self-expression rather than social interaction. Female bloggers, however, were somewhat more motivated by social interaction (67.1%) than were their male counterparts (51.3%).

Characteristics of the blog content

The first research question sought to investigate the characteristics of the content posted on blogs. In answering this question, each of the posts on the front page of the blog was read and the topics discussed in the posts were categorized (see Table 2). The topics were recorded as being present or absent within the unit analyzed.

Table 2.  Topics discussed on Polish blogs
 Blogs (N=358)Male (n=76)Female (n=219)
  1. Note: Topics were measure dichotomously as being present or absent. Categories do not add up to 100%. Male and female results are based on data when gender of the blogger could be determined.

Feelings/thoughts80.2%72.4%83.6%
Family/friends61.759.265.8
Record of the day57.551.365.8
Interests/hobbies30.750.024.7
Communicate with readers30.227.634.2
Intimate details18.219.713.7
Current projects14.219.712.8
Memory12.67.916.9
Technical in nature12.07.916.4
Thank readers for support6.15.36.4
Recent news/event2.22.62.3
Political statement2.23.91.8

The Polish blogs primarily contained discussion of feelings or thoughts (80.2%). At times, discussion could become very personal with bloggers communicating intimate details of their lives (18.2%). Rarely, though, did Polish bloggers make political statements (2.2%).

Mention of friends or family also dominated the topics covered on blogs. Additionally, bloggers frequently provided a “record of the day” which is most in line with the diary or journal concept in that the author recounts what happened in his or her life recently.

Gender differences

English language blog content analyses are limited by the language’s structure and reliance on blogger disclosure in deciphering the gender of a blogger. However, the Polish language and grammar is structured such that gender is easy to discern when reading posts. This offers an excellent opportunity to explore gender differences among bloggers. The second research question asked what differences were observed based on gender.

When comparing the data here with published reports on English-language bloggers (Herring, Kouper, et al., 2004; Perseus, 2003), results indicate Polish bloggers are more likely to be female than English language bloggers. Additionally, this analysis found that females exhibited social interaction motivations more often than males. In regards to topics discussed on the blog, females provided a record of the day, discussed a memory, and communicated feelings or thoughts more often than males. Conversely, males discussed hobbies or interests more often than females did. These gender differences are outlined in Table 3.

Table 3.  Communication on Polish blogs by gender
 Male* (n=76)Female* (n=219)χ2dfp
  1. Note: Includes items when gender of the responders could be determined.

Motivations
 Social interaction51.3%67.1%6.051.014
 Entertainment52.652.1.0081.519
 Passing time23.723.7.0001.563
 Information7.99.6.1951.429
 Self expression80.385.41.101.191
 Professional advancement2.61.4.5391.383
Topics
 Record of the Day51.3%65.8%4.991.025
 Memory7.916.93.671.050
 Feelings/Thoughts72.483.64.531.033
 Hobby/Interest75.350.016.881.001
 Talk of Technical Feature7.916.43.371.045
 General News/Current Event2.62.33.0301.576
 Family/Friends59.263.81.041.188
 Metablogging27.634.21.121.180
 Current Projects/Work19.712.82.191.100
 Intimate Details about Life19.713.7.2071.141
 Thank Readers for Support5.36.4.1261.486

Hyperlinks

The third research question asked how Polish bloggers use hyperlinks, as hyperlinks can manifest a drive to be connected to others on the Internet or to share information. This study finds that while hyperlinks are heralded to be the “fundamental attribute of the blog” (Blood, 2002), they are not often utilized in the Polish blogs studied here.

The blogs analyzed rarely contained hyperlinks in the posts (8.9%). This finding showed that Polish bloggers used hyperlinks in posts less than English bloggers (Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004; Trammell, 2004). Instead, Polish bloggers relied on sidebar hyperlinks to features such as a blogroll (81.8%) or an archive of old posts (93.6%). When the posts contained links, hyperlinks to posts on other (external) blogs (57.6%), pages within the blogger’s own Web site (18.2%), a friend’s personal Web site (18.2%), multimedia (e.g., Flash, video) (15.2%), and media or news articles (12.1%) were present. The concept of intertextuality was supported in that more than half of the links provided background informatiol on the topic being discussed (53.3%).

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References

The results of this study when compared to previous research on English-language blogs indicates that Polish bloggers are, on most levels, similar to English-language bloggers (Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004; Nardi et al., 2004; Papacharissi, 2004; Trammell, 2004). Both are driven by self-expression as a primary motivation, and the diary-like genre is highly popular. However, subtle differences can be seen between previous studies on English-language bloggers and the current data on Polish bloggers that contribute to an overall understanding of the adoption and integration of this new communication technology across borders.

The study of motives for establishing personal homepages showed that self-expression and social interaction, while not the primary gratifications of media use, were moderately salient motives (Papacharissi, 2002b). As the tools to publish content on the Internet evolved and blogs, which are easier to create and maintain than a personal homepage, have increased in popularity, it appears that the self-expression and social interaction motivations have emerged as dominant motivations. As such, these personal Internet communication tools have evolved from information gratifications to more interpersonal relationship tools, allowing users to express themselves and communicate with friends and family beyond gratifying simple informational needs. The results also support Cywinska-Milonas’s (2003) and Olcón’s (2003) findings that Polish bloggers use this medium as a form of self-presentation and self-expression in a creative fashion to a mass audience, as a sort of individual effort to establish oneself online, especially as a means to strengthen one’s offline persona and image.

This content analysis aimed to understand the motivations behind Polish blogs. However, it remains difficult to establish specifically why blogging is so popular in Poland. Media coverage has presented it as a fact of which to be proud. The number of Polish blogs in comparison to blogs from other countries is in fact less important than the significance of blogging as part of Polish online culture and social life.

More than 800,000 users visited blog.pl in June 2004, which suggests that the number of people reading Polish blogs is much larger than the number of bloggers. Whether reading for a voyeuristic glance into another person’s world or reading a more professional knowledge blog, it is evident that a smaller population of personal publishers are producing content for a larger audience. Overall, blogging and the reading of blogs might be among the most important uses of the Polish-language World Wide Web.

Motivations

The uses and gratifications theoretical application here offers empirical support for conceptual motivations lauded by the press. People blog to express themselves. To go a step further, bloggers may find particular gratifications in expressing and presenting themselves in a forum where anyone can see what they write. This study provides evidence to support such idealistic claims made by the popular press. Furthermore, this study examined other variables that may have a relationship to motivations (e.g., gender, hyperlinking, blog type).

The examination of topics (i.e., characteristics of content) here provided further insight into the manifestation of motivations for blogging. The units examined were filled with stories about school, meetings with friends, family life, hanging out outside, going shopping, and dating. These stories were often presented in little detail, were written irregularly, and in general did not provide a good or complete image of the narrator. There is scarcely any mention of political subjects and public issues, or cultural products such as films or television shows. It is worth mentioning that the research sample included posts written during the time of European Union enlargement and the historical moment of Poland’s accession to the European Community. This event, broadly covered by all media, did not receive any attention from the analyzed bloggers.

Blog narratives were typically limited to immediate, everyday life. Posts dealing with personal issues were often vague and focused more on emotions than on the events that triggered them. This finding is supported by the overall result that bloggers were motivated more by self-expression than social interaction in that they spent more time expressing themselves than explaining events to an audience.

Blogging was strongly tied to the offline world and its social structures. Posts often contain highly specific and contextual information that becomes meaningless to an outsider: names of people and places, for instance. Greetings and thank you’s, which often appear in posts, are another sign of the local nature of such blogs and provide insight into the manifestation of social interaction as a gratification driving blogging. Along this line regarding social interaction, a dominant theme that emerged from these blogs positioned the medium as a tool that is useful in offline life, another communication channel alongside such channels as face-to-face meetings and mobile communication (especially texting). This use of blogging did not seem to be a means for establishing an online presence and identity. Blogging was more of a social game played with friends known from the offline reality rather than a means of building an alternative life in a new, online social environment.

Many blogs showed a conscious understanding that there was an audience reading the posts. Some users lose their blog due to inactivity and start anew, trying out some new formula. One blogger admits at the beginning that while this is her fourth blog, it’s still a “blog without any concept behind it” (notatki.blog.pl on May 5, 2004, http://notatki.blog.pl/archiwum/index.php?nid=7216684).

Previous research notes that media use becomes ritualistic (Rubin, 1994). However, the high abandonment rate found here (22.3%), and that is also noted in other studies (Perseus, 2003), indicates that this use of communication technology has not permeated the user base. Arguably, this is due to the fact that blogging is more active than watching TV or reading a newspaper. Thus, a predictive path model for understanding what leads to active blogging is needed in future research. It may well serve future research to examine the relationship between reader response or frequency of comments posted by readers and the longevity of blogs.

Hyperlinking

This study also examined hyperlinks, building on the understanding of variables that manifest gratifications or could be associated with motivations for writing online content. When hyperlinks were present, findings indicate these personalized online Polish journals are also not linking to content within their own Web site, consistent with English-language analyses (Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004; Trammell, 2004). Rather than being motivated by self-promotion, the bloggers’ linking habits are consistent with social utility motivations (e.g., link to external blog posts, friends), outweighing informational ones (e.g., link to media articles). Like the English-language bloggers Papacharissi (2004) described, those in Poland present the bulk of hyperlinks on the sidebar in the template through a blogroll. However, Polish bloggers exhibited more affinity for the blog community than the English language bloggers in Papacharissi’s (2004) analysis, in that they linked to external blog posts at a higher rate.

This study found that hyperlinking remains an untapped resource for personal blogs. Indeed, most popular press reports indicate an idealistic view of the hyperlink on blogs in that writers can provide background information to supplement their own content. While this may be true for more professional-type blogs that deal with news and public affairs issues, it is not yet true for the diary-like personal blog.

Limitations

In this sample, 142 out of 500 blogs (more than a quarter) were empty blogs. On blog.pl, under a registered blog name only a blank default template with the text “empty, for now” is displayed. In each such case a user registered a blog but failed to use it in any manner. The existence of empty blogs is acknowledged in discussions about proper estimates of the number of existing blogs (National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education, 2003), but few conclusions are drawn from such a high percentage. The issue is similar with abandoned blogs. Drawing substantiated conclusions from such blogs may prove difficult in that a blog may appear abandoned and remain unaltered for an extended period of time; however, the blogger may return to publishing or have full intentions of returning.

In defining abandoned blogs we have chosen, similarly to BlogCensus researchers, an arbitrary measure of eight weeks since the last post. In our sample, 16% of the initial sample and 22.3% of nonempty blogs were abandoned. Owners of empty and abandoned blogs can be compared to Internet dropouts. These nonbloggers form a significant segment of the blogging population that came into contact with the phenomenon of blogging but were unable to or decided not to blog.

Additionally, while content analysis is an acceptable means for initially investigating the uses and gratifications of Internet-based media (Papacharissi, 2004), the use of the method introduces some limitations in that motivations were categorized by the coders rather than self-reported by the bloggers. Even with the constructs of the theory operationalized based on previous survey and content analysis studies on uses and gratifications, this work is limited in that a survey of these bloggers would have provided a more direct means of establishing and understanding motivations.

Future research

In light of the evidence presented here that uses and gratifications are indeed at work when it comes to keeping a blog, more work can be done further investigating the theory of uses and gratifications and developing its application to the Internet-based medium. The use of content analysis here continued the exploration of understanding the intricacies of blog use (Papacharissi, 2004; Nardi et al., 2004) and allows researchers to now employ survey methods and a more direct means of assessing motivations.

As a variable that may have a relationship to motivation, gender was a major variable in this analysis. The present findings beg for more in-depth work to be done on the impact of gender on motivation and the creation of blog content. Further research should determine if there is a predictive relationship or merely an association between gender and specific motivations. More international comparative analyses are needed to determine the percentage of male and female bloggers internationally. The grammatical encoding of gender in Polish made it easier to identify bloggers’ gender, enabling this study to provide a more detailed view of gender (see also Lithuanian and Croatian in Zelenkauskaite & Herring, 2006). While other researchers such as Herring, Schedit, et al., (2004) were able to identify blogger gender in their studies, more work had to be done searching on the site to determine gender. More research is necessary either to confirm this trend in other countries or to underline Polish exceptionality.

American data on gender and age issues show interesting relations between blog type and author demographics (Herring, Kouper, Scheidt, & Wright, 2004). Herring, Kouper, et al. (2004) found that journal-like blogs were predominantly maintained by teen girls, whereas adult males tended to maintain the filter (link, news, and politics oriented) blogs. As the data presented here did not show such a variety of blog types, it is difficult to determine the relationship between blog type and gender in the Polish blogosphere. Therefore it would be useful to observe future development of blogs in Poland in order to follow the possible evolution in blog types and their relation to author gender.

This study contributes to clearing up the common misconception that blogs are a bastion of highly educated, savvy Internet users, young professionals from big cities who transfer their deepest fears and dreams into online creations. Tellingly, only a few such blogs, constituting only several percent of the sample, were found in this analysis. The world of Polish blogs is constantly evolving and expanding. The early press reports may have focused on the brightest and most vivid examples of the so-called blogosphere. It is the task of future researchers to determine the actual picture of Polish bloggers. Hopefully, we have shown that ordinary blogging practices form an important social phenomenon in its own right, which should not be neglected as “banal” or insignificant (Herring, Scheidt, et al., 2004).

It would also be worthwhile to look at the evolution of Polish blogging in a historical perspective. While Polish users were not in general early adopters of blogging, one can distinguish such an avant-garde of users among Poles starting in 2001 when blogs were first introduced in Poland. In Poland, the early adopters seem to have adopted practices diffusing from the English-language Internet. A possibility exists that early on the Polish Internet was characterized by older, more educated, and savvy users, while younger, less educated latecomers with different blogging uses and motivations later transformed the medium. The lack of professional and collective knowledge management blogs should also be accounted for.

Conclusion

Research on blogging in different contexts can provide valuable comparative data. In this study, a linguistic and ethnic group was the unit of analysis. We assume that each such group constitutes a specific social and cultural environment, both offline and online. Therefore one can assume that different cultural patterns of blogging, and of Internet use in general, will develop over time. Indeed, uses and gratifications research takes such assertions to heart in that it is expected that users will evolve towards integration of communication technology in their lives as use increases.

In the current research, country and language were distinguishing elements. Communication on blog.pl takes place solely among Polish speakers. Bloggers make scarcely any contact with content or users from different online linguistic domains. Online life is tied, in manifold ways, to the offline world, and thus to Polish society, everyday culture, broadcast media content, and so on. By talking about the “Polish Internet,” or the “phenomenon of Polish blogging” we do not mean to suggest that there exists an essential “Polish national spirit” that imparts its characteristics to online life or that can be used to account for differences. Rather, this research asserts that particularity and relative external detachment can lead to the development of different patterns of behavior and associated meanings than exist in other countries. As such, this research is limited to Polish blogs but it also provides the opportunity to make cultural comparisons to blog use in other countries.

Furthermore, if the data on blog popularity in Poland are supported by subsequent research, one can consider this a significant phenomenon, not only in quantitative terms, but for Polish online culture as a whole.

Acknowledgments

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References

The authors would like to thank the Oxford Internet Institute for creating an exciting research and collaborative environment during the 2003 Summer Doctoral Programme, where several of the authors met. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Association of Internet Researchers annual conference, Sussex, England, September 2004.

Notes
  • 1

    Another popular system in Poland, blogi.filipinka.pl, does not provide such usage statistics.

  • 2

    A total of 149,544 blogs hosted on blog.pl resulted from this webcrawler.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References
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About the Authors
  1. Kaye D. Trammell is an assistant professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Her research interests focus on the intersection of computer-mediated communication and politics, public relations, and blogs.

    Address: Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication, Athens, GA, 30602-3018 USA

  2. Alek Tarkowski is a Ph.D. student at the Graduate School for Social Research at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland. His current work is supported by a scholarship from the Foundation for Polish Science. His research interests include Internet use, STS studies, and relations between intellectual property law and culture.

    Address: SNS IFiS PAN, Nowy Swiat 72, 00-330 Warszawa, Poland

  3. Justyna Hofmokl is a Ph.D. student at the Graduate School for Social Research at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland. Her research interests are sociology of the Internet, Internet governance, digital revolution, and intellectual property.

    Address: SNS IFiS PAN, Nowy Swiat 72, 00-330 Warszawa, Poland

  4. Amanda M. Sapp is a graduate student at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Her research interests are public opinion, blogs, public relations, and politics.

    Address: Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803 USA