Mena Trott Speaks at N-TEN

It’s clear from Six Apart’s acquisition of Live Journal, Yahoo!’s purchase of Flickr, the Yahoo! 360 service, and Microsoft’s MSN Spaces service that the blogosphere is changing. Jeremy Zawodny posted yesterday a few of his thoughts on where he thinks the future of certain blogging software and services is headed. It’s a fascinating topic to consider.

Today, I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing Mena Trott, co-founder and president of Six Apart, deliver the opening plenary for the 2005 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Chicago. While I wouldn’t characterize her as an excellent public speaker—she seemed a bit ruffled and unprepared, though this was most likely due to the loss of a computer only days ago and the use of a new one she purchased only yesterday—the talk on using blogs to connect with potentional donors/volunteers was interesting and captivating. I often find this topic fascinating and it’s awe-inspiring to see how a blog can transform someone from an average, anonymous citizen to a great voice for change—or just a popular idiot.

Trott began blogging in 2001 with the intent of gaining a sort of celebrity status. She didn’t think she would be able to gain this status otherwise, so she chose the Internet and blogging as the medium by which she might achieve her goal. In short, it worked. In those days (only 4 years ago), there were fewer blogs, so it was easier for one voice to stand out from the crowd, and hers apparently did.

Since then, the blogosphere has grown from about 10,000 weblogs to nearly 8 million in the U.S. alone. Trott attributes this phenomenal growth to a variety of factors, including 9/11, the War on Terror and with Iraq, the 2004 election, and, most recently, the tsunami disaster. Throughout her presentation, she made a conscious effort to steer away from plugging her software (Movable Type) and services (Type Pad, Live Journal), though it is clear that Six Apart also has made a substantial contribution to the advancement of blogging through such innovations as the open specification for trackbacks.

According to statistics provided during Trott’s presentation, over 32 million Americans regularly read blogs today, 40 percent of which are college graduates. These readers generally have an annual income that is 30 percent higher than the national average (an average of about $58K). They are people who get involved and can be generous—they are looking for a cause.

Blogging has become an international phenomenon with the largest base of bloggers in the U.S. and Japan, with Europe catching on quickly. Blogging has made otherwise apolitical citizens very aware and active in politics. It has aided in spreading the message of activist causes and charities. Furthermore, blogging connects people and makes them feel a part of something greater. Says Trott, “Blogging is about sharing experiences with a community who cares.”