Blog the influence? Blogging community in Finland.
The two-step flow theory (Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1955) has long recognised that the ability of the few to influence the many by promulgating compelling ideas and information has great potential value. Since the time of that study, politics and business have been particularly keen to identify these individuals in an effort to maximise their own opportunities. With the explosion of blogs, the concept of influencers has naturally migrated to the online realm. Now blogs are seen as offering new opportunities to positively influence citizens’ opinions and behaviour, as well as changing the way the public is kept informed about ideas, views, products and services. In Finland, blogs are also gaining popularity as a new kind of media space in which every day more than 30,000 active bloggers produce 4 000 posts and create 40 new blogs (Blogilista.fi). It is reported that bloggers in Finland are steadily increasing their influence over the public in decisions ranging from what car to buy to what newspaper to read (Mediacom.fi). However, despite the huge interest in both the influencers as a concept and blogs as the tools to engage with the public, very little research has been conducted to assess how bloggers exert influence over public interest issues and why such influence is ascribed to them. More specifically, the fact that bloggers represent the opinion leaders in the online environment seems to be assumed without having been proven. From the perspective of communication studies, it is a significant omission. There is neither an extension of the two-step flow theory with its opinion leaders, nor any other recent model explaining who and how influence is spread in the blogosphere. Therefore, this research seeks to designate the popular Finnish bloggers as an important target group. The study aims to test whether the behavioural and attitudinal patterns of influencers remain the same online as described in the two-step flow theory, and, if not, suggest a model to explain new mechanisms of the influence flow in the blogging community of Finland.