[cross-posted at the TechLearning blog]

Update: As of October 2010, I now have about 22,000 subscribers to this blog. Alter my calculations accordingly…

According to Feedburner, I currently have about 2,100 subscribers to my blog. While that’s obviously not a huge number compared to many other blogs (see my Technorati rank, which is slightly below that of the TechLearning blog), let’s do the math for a minute…

Let’s say I average 4 posts a week for 50 weeks a year. 4 x 50 x 2,100 readers equals 420,000 person contacts each year. In other words, through my blog I have the opportunity to have 420,000 interactions with my audience every twelve months. These are folks who have actively sought me out and are voluntarily reading what I write (which, by the way, still blows my mind). Over 10 years, that’s over 4 million opportunities for me to spread my message to others, assuming that my current reader totals don’t improve at all (which, obviously, I hope they do).

Now, let’s compare this with a journal article. According to the information sent to me by the editors, the most prestigious peer-reviewed educational leadership research journal, Educational Administration Quarterly (EAQ), has approximately 160 individual subscribers and 1,630 institutional subscribers (i.e., libraries), for a total of about 1,800 subscriptions. Because EAQ serves folks interested in a broad range of educational leadership issues, at best only a small fraction of the individual readers will be interested in an article on technology leadership-related issues. This also is true for anyone doing a literature search for a research article or dissertation. For argument’s sake, let’s say that each technology-related EAQ article might have 60 readers a year, or 600 readers a decade (this is probably quite generous): a very rough ratio of one-third of the subscription total. [Note: this is obviously not very scientific. I’m engaging in some very loose back-of-the-envelope calculations here. There’s probably a better way to come up with a more accurate estimate.].

Now of course faculty don’t publish in only one journal. An unbelievably productive faculty member might publish 5 to 10 articles a year, each in a journal with roughly 500 to 5,000 individual and institutional subscribers. For this example, let’s assume the faculty member is super-productive and is publishing in journals with the widest reach. Using the same rough ratio I used for EAQ (i.e., about 1/3 of the subscription numbers over a decade), 10 articles per year x 10 years x 5,000 subscribers x 1/3 = 166,667. Again, I think this is quite optimistic. Few faculty members are this productive and, even if true, it’s pretty likely that readership of a faculty member’s articles is nowhere close to this total.

Okay, let’s review:

  • blog = 4,200,000 person interactions per decade
  • journals = 166,667 person interactions per decade

The blog wins hands-down from a numbers perspective, even assuming what I think is probably the absolute best case scenario for the peer-reviewed journal path. If we also consider

  1. the ability to hear back from people via blog comments (i.e., to have a true conversation about what’s written);
  2. the ability to easily search the content of the blog via Internet search engines (unlike research databases, which typically allow you to only search within article abstracts, not full articles);
  3. the greater availability of blogs to the public generally and educators specifically (particularly since most K-12 folks rarely read peer-reviewed journals);
  4. the ability of popular blog posts to be spread through other bloggers and tools like Digg to even larger audiences;
  5. the ability of blogs to handle multimedia content (i.e., graphics, audio, video); and
  6. the superior connectivity of blogs compared to journal articles (i.e., direct hyperlinks to other resources versus footnotes);

the case for a blog seems even stronger.

So this raises the question… Why would anyone who wishes to actually reach educators and hopefully influence change in schools not be blogging?

Also… why haven’t more faculty caught on to this?