2017 State of the Blogging Industry

Presented by

ConvertKit

part 1: the people

Who bloggers are: The people behind the blogs

One of the most important goals for us in creating this report was to get an in-depth understanding of the people behind the blogs we all know and love. When we say “blogger”, what does that mean? How old are they? Where do they live? Do they have families?

We had so many questions. After all, it can be easy to lump everyone into this one term of “blogger” and in the process forget that there are humans behind the websites. So before we get into the juicy details of the blogs and businesses, let’s focus on the humans building the blogging industry.

We decided to take many of the categories used on the US Census Report to help us break down the demographics of our survey respondents. This led us to collect data on: age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, number of children, country of origin and residence, ethnicity, education and household income.

Here’s why we chose those categories: we can’t tell the story of the blogging industry without telling the story of the people driving the industry. Further, we know that ConvertKit only reaches a certain segment of the blogging industry today. We want to know exactly who those people are so that we don’t portray this report as the full story until we’re able to reach a broader base. The only way to do that is to truly understand our industry at the human level.

To protect our respondents, no one in the company other than our marketing team lead had access to the full data set. We also gave the option “Prefer not to say” on every demographic question in case someone was uncomfortable in answering. And we won’t attach any personal identifiers to general survey responses or publish individual data.

Outside of that, we’ll get into more of why we asked for particular data, especially around diversity, later in this first section. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in.

The Seven Different Groups of Bloggers Who Responded to the Survey

The high level data we collected in our survey is pretty basic and we wanted to dig a bit deeper than just saying, “x% of all bloggers this, and y% that.” Instead, we split the data up into seven groups in order to have a more interesting and comparative look at it all throughout this report:

  1. All respondents
  2. Professional bloggers
  3. Not-yet-professional bloggers
  4. Female bloggers
  5. Male bloggers
  6. Bloggers with children
  7. Bloggers with no children

You’ll see us use these categories to compare and contrast the answers we received throughout this report. To help with that, we should explain more about what we mean when we say “Professional” and “Not-yet-professional” bloggers. To be clear: that’s not a value judgment on who’s doing better work, but rather a matter of fact based on income levels.

We wanted to be as objective as possible in making this distinction, so instead of arbitrary qualifiers, we used a strict income calculation based on the 2015 U.S. census data for median household incomes in the United States. That data shows median incomes in 2015 for family households of $72,165 and non-family households of $33,805.

Based on these numbers, we considered the following people to be “professional bloggers,” which you can take to mean they are earning a full-time living from their blog:

  • Bloggers with children who earned more than $72,165 in the past 12 months
  • Bloggers without children who earned more than $33,805 in the past 12 months
  • Any blogger who earns more than 50% of household income through their blog

We then divided the data between women and men to better understand the similarities and differences between female-owned and male-owned blogs and businesses.

Do the genders approach blogging differently?
Does one group or the other focus more on money than meaning and vice versa?
What business models are women and men more likely to use to monetize their blogs?

All of these and more are questions we want answers to.

The final designation we’ve made throughout the report is children vs. no children. In making this distinction, we’re better able to gauge who is making a full-time living. But more importantly, we are also able to understand parents’ motivations and intentions for their blog as compared to bloggers without children. We’ll see how having a family changes their priorities, goals, and struggles as bloggers along the way.

On to some numbers…

Let’s take a look at how those groups broke down in raw numbers.

This essentially gives us three main categories for our respondents in this survey:

  1. Pro or not-yet-pro
  2. Female or male
  3. Children or no children

We can see in this graph that there were fewer professional bloggers than not-yet professional bloggers, with just 14% of respondents currently meeting the criteria for a professional blogger.

Meanwhile, women were much more likely to take our survey than men, with 62% of respondents being women.

Finally, the respondent group broke down almost exactly even between bloggers with children and those without children. Now let’s take a quick look at the age breakdown.

Total respondents by segment

835 total respondents

How old is the average blogger?

The age breakdown was largely concentrated in the 25-44 range, with 69% of respondents falling within that age range and 23% of respondents being 45 or older. To the right we can see each respondent segment broken into age groups.

It’s interesting to note that there were no professional bloggers in the age groups of “Under 18,” “65-74” or “75+”. Again, while this doesn’t exclude these age ranges from the possibility of earning a living from a blog-based business, it may indicate that it’s more difficult to make a full time income happen very early in life or without having been steeped in the ways of the web throughout one’s core professional years. We would expect there to be more and more professional bloggers over 65 as Generations X and Y continue to age.

Age of all respondents

Age breakdown by segment

Are bloggers typically married?

While being married doesn’t necessarily affect whether a person has a blog, it certainly has an effect on the likelihood of having children. The combination of marriage and kids significantly impacts the priorities and goals bloggers have, as we’ll see later in the report.

On average, respondents were most likely to be married-- this was especially true for those 35 and older. Of the respondents, 69% were either married or in a domestic partnership. As of 2015, U.S. Census data tells us that 50.3% of Americans were currently married, which tells us that bloggers responding to this survey are more likely than average to be married. The same Census stats tell us that bloggers are less likely to be divorced, separated, or widowed, and less likely to be single.

Marital status

Where do most bloggers live?

Bloggers responding to this survey came from 58 countries across every continent but Antarctica. The breakdown by country is shown in shades of blue in the map to the right, with light blue representing the highest concentration of respondents, most notably showing that the US, UK, Canada, and Australia were the most common countries of residence for bloggers.

That is, of course, colored by the fact that ConvertKit is a US-based company with a majority of US-based employees and customers, in addition to the survey being in English. We hope to continue to grow our international presence, both for our team and customer base as time goes on.

Country of residence

What are the most common ethnicities of bloggers?

We used the US Census Survey categories for ethnicity in our survey, which meant that the options were inherently exclusive for those outside the US. We realized that this was a mistake and likely left our international respondents feeling miffed. We’re sorry about that.

Unfortunately, there is no global equivalent for the US Census, so our shared language for ethnicity around the world is imperfect. For example, “Black or African American” is an insufficient ethnic category for a myriad of reasons, including that all African-Americans are not black and all people with an African heritage do not identify as African-American. Similar statements could be made for each category.

Ethnicity of respondents

This is an important truth to acknowledge and we’ll work to provide even more inclusive categories in the future. However, for this inaugural report, our imperfect categories still helped us understand more about the blogging industry than we would have without having asked at all.

The data tells us that 74% of bloggers identify as white or caucasian, compared to 72% of all Americans according to 2010 Census Data. The data also showed 6% of bloggers identify as Black or African-American compared to 13% of the American population. We also found that 5% of bloggers identify as Asian, which perfectly mirrors the 5% of Americans who identified as Asian in 2010. The biggest gap comes in those 4% of bloggers who identified as Hispanic or Latino American compared to 16% of Americans in 2010.

This high-level data shows us that Black or African-American and Hispanic or Latino-American bloggers were likely underrepresented in the data. As an industry, we should keep this in mind going forward, both in the way we seek out respondents to surveys like this one and also in the way we build communities and invite diversity into our professional and personal lives.

One of the “other” answers above was filled in as “What the f*** does this have to do with anything?” We did some research and couldn’t find the exact origin of said ethnicity, so rather than be offended, we’ll take it in the form of a sincere question.

This has to do with everything. Diversity is valuable in all of its forms. And that’s not just according to us. Whether it’s research on the comparative performance of female-led companies vs. the S&P 500, the financial value of an ethnically diverse workforce, how we become more creative when surrounded by people who aren’t like us or just the simple fact that we are all unique but created as equals… diversity matters and we value all forms of diversity here at ConvertKit.

That’s why it matters.

How much education have bloggers completed?

If you had asked us to guess the education level of the average blogger, we would have guessed that most bloggers have a college degree of some sort. And we would have been spot on.

The vast majority of bloggers have at least some college education, with 91% of respondents saying they had beyond high school.

The most surprising stat here is not how many people have a college education or how many people don’t, but rather how many bloggers have advanced degrees. A whopping 30% of bloggers have a master’s, doctorate or professional degree, even though blogging is perhaps the career that requires the fewest formal credentials of any field.

Highest level of education

How much money does a blogger’s household earn each year?

The household income categories we used, again, come from the US Census survey data categories. There was a remarkably small difference in number of bloggers in each household income category, with the blogger population perhaps skewing a bit higher than the general population. Household income is, of course, a combination of income from blogging efforts AND other income generating activity from anyone in the household.

Approximate household income

That rounds out our demographic data and hopefully gives you a solid picture of who exactly made up the group of respondents who completed our survey and make up “The Blogging Industry” as far as this report is concerned.

PART 2: THE MOTIVATION

What motivates a person to start a blog

Read next section →

Download the State of the Blogging Industry 2017 report