The interest in health and medical bloggers among Federal agencies over the past year has grown enormously. I sense that because of the increasing number of requests I get from them asking me for lists of bloggers, insights into how to reach them, receiving (obvious) blast emails with a personal salutation (sometimes) with some announcement or pitch (a few get in - see yesterday) and also being asked to organize or participate in blogger teleconferences.
Although the participation rate among recruited bloggers was rather low (40%), the study contains a number of findings and insights that people working to establish outreach efforts with social media should pay attention to. A few highlights:
- For the methodologists, the authors point to the Pew Blogger Callback Survey as an excellent base from which to design their survey - could we have a benchmark method for this work already?
- They find that most of the bloggers used online resources, especially other blogs, as well as newspapers and magazines for content to publish or comment on. The authors wonder why bloggers did not report a higher rate of usage for podcasts and if we are technologically savvy enough to understand their benefits. The answer is that we are too savvy and would rather spend the time we have to get information, not listen to podcasts to earn CMEs or spend the time searching for them.
- Responding medical bloggers demonstrated a captivating level of adherence to best practices generally associated with journalism. All of them included direct contact information on their blogs. They also included links and quoted original sources in their posts, more so than general bloggers from the Pew’s survey. This was especially true for those participants who had published a scientific paper and were now successfully transferring conventions of scientific writing to their blogs. Additionally, it seems that reputation also played an important role, since those blogging under their real name followed these practices more than bloggers writing under a pseudonym.
- Unlike other types of bloggers that have been surveyed, these medical bloggers more often cite their motivations for blogging as being able to share practical knowledge and skills, as well as influencing the way other people think.
- An astonishing 66% of them received attention from news media for their blogs, compared with mere 9% of Pew bloggers. Responding medical bloggers offered their recipe for such success, which calls for more years of blogging, more hours spent on the Internet and getting medical news from other blogs. While persistence in blogging speaks for itself, getting medical news from other blogs is a great reminder of the importance of listening to what others have to say. It seems that news media find these popular stories originating from the blogosphere particularly interesting, perhaps because they frequently provide different and fresh perspectives.
The authors also spend a lot of time talking about the difficulties of identifying health and medical blogs, determining which are still active (from their initial list, 46% had not had a post for a least a year), and then determining a way to reach a blogger through email (only 59% had an email or contact form on the blog). For the PR and outreach people, read more of the issues in the paper.
[Ed Note: I did participate in this survey and the authors contacted all of us about the release of the results. Photo from minifg.]