Examining the New Influencers: A Self-Presentation Study of A-List Blogs

Article excerpt

This study investigated impression management tactics and self-presentation on popular A-list blogs. Building on Goffman's constructs of self-presentation and operationalizing impression management strategies, this study content analyzed the most-linked-to blogs. A-list bloggers reveal more information about themselves than other bloggers and actively engage in impression management. Differences in blogs based on gender confirm traditional gendered online behavior. Findings indicate the diversity of blogs and encourage researchers to understand the pieces of blogs before purporting to understand the medium as a whole.

The evolution of personal publishing offers new tools allowing Internet users to become content creators. One need not own a printing press or a broadcasting station to reach large audiences anymore. One of the latest popular tools in personal publishing is the Internet-based blog. Just as the printing press gave way to the mass production of pamphlets and newspapers, blogs too extend the ability to communicate on the Internet beyond simple static Web pages.

While still young, blogs have been described and defined in many ways. Some define blogs by their format: frequently updated Web sites containing dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order.1 Blog genres range from personal, diary-like pages to in-depth public affairs analysis.2 Blogs bear different purposes: some provide description of subjectively selected links, others tell about details of a writer's day, and some offer personal opinions and commentaries on the news of a day. Opinionated people, called bloggers, post their thoughts, experiences, and politics on blogs.3

Whatever the type, purpose, or content of a blog, it remains a virtual environment controlled by the author, where, unlike in face-to-face communication, a person is only what is expressed in manifest content. Some authors manage to create a persona, making themselves a "celebrity" among the community of bloggers. These bloggers are among the most well-known and regularly linked by others. As such, the media's view of blogging comes directly from this select "A-list" of bloggers, and it is, therefore, important to understand these popular bloggers.

Bloggers of late have served as independent experts, with their analyses even appearing in mainstream media.4 With 51% of journalists indicating that they read blogs and 53% getting story ideas or sources from them, it is not surprising that stories have transferred from blogs to the media.5 This is said to be the case for Trent Lett's racist remarks, blogger investigative journalism during "RatherGate," and breaking of a major news story that resulted in the end of a career for a CNN executive. Some of the Internet's most-read blogs provided "coverage" of these events, igniting a spark to prompt mainstream media coverage.6

This small group of A-list bloggers has arguably the largest influence on the public's perception of blogging because of their high profile. As such, this study sought to examine this small, yet well-known, group of blogs. With more blogs being created each day and the anecdotes of their power to impact the media growing, it is important to understand what is behind this blog genre.7 Building upon previous online self-representation research, we examined the process within A-list blogs.8

The purpose of this study was to investigate impression management tactics and strategies used by popular blog authors. In doing so, this study investigated self-presentation trends in this influential group of bloggers, providing a view of what the reader sees rather than what the blogger thinks he or she might be presenting.9 In this vein, analyzing the content presented in blog posts offered the clearest method by which to examine impression management and reduced the chance of receiving socially desirable answers which could result through a survey method. The content presented within the blog post is what the audience reads, and, as such, this study focused on that content to examine self-presentation in these influential blogs. …