Umbria Blog Presentation

Janet Eden-Harris, Averil Doering, Umbria

 The irony of blogging from a blogosphere session was too much for me to resist, but this actually ended up being one of the most relevant presentations I encountered. Janet Eden Harris opened with an introduction to the scope of the blogosphere as Umbria defines it, which goes beyond wordpress-style blogs to include message boards, MySpace and doubtless other public forms of electronic publishing too hip for me to know about. This currently totals some 112 Million blogs. (Meaning you are reading just .00000001% of them right now). One quarter of adults online blog occasionally or frequently. 60% of people online in the US read blogs and 50% are over 30. 63% of authors are female. Another impressive stat from the Dragon: Chinese has recently eclipsed English as the planet’s most popular blogging language.

It is also important to distinguish between survey responses and the kind of blog conversations that happen online. These comments will be unaided, spontaneous and, in some ways, a more accurate gauge of attitude.

Umbria collects and processs 3 to 5 million blog posts every day. Through natural language processing and machine learning, they are able to analyze syntax, grammar, and phrases  to ‘tag’ bloggers with a demographic and subject-related identity. (Basically it’s a computer that can tell the difference between a Mall Rat (OMG!) and someone writing for the Harvard Law Review)

Now, this can sound pretty Orwellian. Umbria is quick to point out that they only monitor completely public sites, and respect all password-protected content. Personally, I’m not worried. If there’s even one machine out there taking the time to read my ramblings, I’ve just doubled my subscription base.

For this presentation the topic was Sustainability in the Blogosphere. Who mentions it, what they are talking about and what are their attitudes.

Top sustainable subjects, in order of popularity:
Energy & fuel
Food & Beverage
Transportation & Travel
General Packaging
Paper products

My regular reader knows I love to carve up the green consumer pie chart. Umbria had one of the most interesting breakdowns yet, plotting peoples’ attitudes on a quadrant chart consisting of one axis measuring belief in global warming (agree/disagree) and one axis measuring sustainable behaviour (action/inaction).

Blogger typesHere are the categories:
Along with Jan-May 2008 percentages of the measured sample:
Negators 14%, Rejectors 8%, Apathetics (who cares), Skeptics 13%, Uncertain 10%, Shifters 19%, Activists 9%, Idlers 15%, and… The Guilty 13%

“Quit negating my rejection, you shifter…” Attitudes within the groups:
Negator: Thinks Global Warming is a scam and works tirelessly to convince others. Misguided evil.
Rejector: Won’t recycle until we’ve run out pof land to fill.
Apathetic: Who cares?
Skeptic: Doubtful of the issues, doesn’t try to brainwash others.
Uncertain? Maybe started to believe with Al Gore, but has been swayed into paralysis by plethora of conflicting news. 
Shifter: Climate change is an issue and we can do something about it.
Activist: Climate change is a critical issue – can sway from optimistic to pessimistic
Idler: “I can’t make a difference, anyhow.”
Guilty: Knows the issues but does not do anything. (Might stick their head in the oven, but that would be a waste of gas)


Overall, consumers have a challenging journey ahead when it comes to sustainability.
1. Awareness
2. Understanding 
3. Accountability & Personal Relevance
4. Action


What benefits do these people desire?
Seamlessness – Sustainable solution must be part of what they already do
Productivity – Sustainable cannot lose functionality
Social Connection – Sustainability is bringing people together
Going from individualistic to collective mindset
Inspiration – People are excited that sustainability will solve the problem.
Optimism! People are out there talking about solutions that are fun, abstract.

Keep in mind that these are people talking about sustainable issues, not pro’s covering Sustainable Brand Shows. Blogs are part of their journey. People are getting personal satisfaction from acting sustainably. Which is the first step to building a more competitive mindset to really drive change.

One in a series of articles on Lorne’s Sustainable Journey to the Sustainable Brands 08 Conference in Monterey CA. Click here for the full list of sessions, or here for the ‘Fear & Loathing’ road trip journals.

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