Edelman the P.R. company has come out with a fascinating study of global blog readership titled A Corporate Guide to the Global Blogosphere (published in that annoying new NXT format, unfortunately.) While the report's primary audience is meant to be companies, there is plenty for non-corporate people who study the blogosphere to chew on.
Their key finding is not surprising: blogs are much more influential in Japan, South Korea, and China than they are in the West. Here's the chart (click to enlarge):
One thing to keep in mind about global blog counts is that they are very very inexact and unreliable. The Edelman survey, done in conjunction with Technorati, finds that the English language blogosphere remains the world's largest (with 39%) of blogs, followed by the Japanese blogosphere (33%) and then the Chinese (10%). [SEE UPDATE BELOW THROWING THESE NUMBERS INTO FURTHER QUESTION] However, my former Berkman Center colleague Ethan Zuckerman and I both think that Technorati is seriously undercounting Chinese blogs. There are a number of technical reasons for this, which Ethan discusses here and here. More discussion about the undercounting from China here and here. A major reason, in a nutshell, is that many Chinese blog-hosting platforms (and many other non-English blog hosting platforms for that matter) don't bother to configure themselves in a way that their blogs can be easily found by Technorati. Japanese blog hosts seem to do a much better job, thanks in part to a lot of hard work done by the Technorati Japan office.
UPDATE (8 hours after original post): On January 9th, David Wolf of Silicon Hutong reported on ChinaTechNews: Edelman Gives Up Tracking Chinese Blogs. Basically, Edelman as of the end of last year recognized that Technorati is unable to track Asian language blogs sufficiently well. He points us to a blog post by Edelman's Steve Rubel on December 29th in which he says:
Work on the Asian language sites - Korean and Chinese - has ceased. In China there are access issues and Korea data quality is less than desirable because most blog platforms don't ping. That's the nature of the culture.
Therefore, Edelman and Technorati reached a decision to de-emphasize Asia and focus on Europe. The partnership was never set to renew.
It's strange that Edelman does not note any reservations about the language blogosphere numbers in their report.
Another extremely interesting finding was that more Chinese blog-readers are more likely to take action as a result of reading a blog than Japanese or Koreans. Here's the chart (click to enlarge):
Tony Tao of Edelman's Shanghai office writes that "engaging the Chinese blogosphere is something that should be done with complete transparency. Perhaps more than elsewhere, bloggers in China can be extremely hostile if they feel they are being maniuplated."
I recently did a small-scale study of the extent to which the international media is influenced by blogs in their coverage of China. (I posted some of the initial results here and will share a more detailed academic paper I've written based on those and other results once it's ready.) I found that Chinese blogs and English-language "bridge blogs" about China have become a staple part of the China correspondent's media diet. Given the extent to which Chinese Internet users are influenced by blogs according to this Edelman study, journalists covering China are increasingly remiss if they don't keep an eye on the Chinese blogosphere.
Reading through the country-by-country writeups, one is struck by how unique every country's blogosphere really is. This confirms my own conclusions from working on the Global Voices project. People in different countries and language groups use blogs in different ways for different purposes. You really can't take generalizations about how the U.S. blogosphere works and apply them to any other country or region's blogosphere. The relationships between blogs, mainstream media, government, companies, etc. etc. are very different from country to country and region to region. To understand any blogosphere you have to construct a unique equation involving a country's culture, economic level, internet penetration, political system, and many other factors.