Now, I’ve searched high and low for the original report (it was published by the UK Internet magazine Webuser), but was unable to find it. I really wanted to see it because I think this study has huge implications. Most importantly, if one of the sites people go to is a search engine then the report’s conclusions make sense. Search engines allow people to access the full scope of the Web, including consumer-generated content.
However, if they are not, then I’m not so sure about the veracity of the report’s conclusions. This is because I was given to understand that with the advent of Web 2.0, people were no longer on relying on a few sites, or “information authorities,” for content.
In healthcare, I can understand people relying on only a few sites for information – at least initially. If most people are like me, then go to a few popular healthcare sites, like WebMD, first to research a condition. Then, they go to a search engine to find out more. This is how people are exposed to healthcare information contained in blogs, wikis and other consumer-generated Web sites.
If the British report’s conclusions can be applied globally, does this mean that people are only relying on a few Web sites for information? If so, what does this mean for blogs and other Web 2.0 Internet technologies, which are generating content on a regular basis? Are most people ignoring these information sources?
Based on what I know about Internet usage patterns, I think people are getting content from blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 sources – even if they can’t distinguish them from a “normal” Web site. So, in short, I think the answer to my questions is “no.”
I’d love to see the full report so that I could better understand what the implications of these data are. Until then, I’ll just have to be a little bit skeptical about it.
For another take on this report, please see On Social Marketing and Social Change.