This investigation explored military web logs, or milblogs, a new and growing source of communication about the U.S. military and its war operations.  Despite the explosion in milblogs during the period surrounding the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and the implications of milblogs for public affairs communication, nothing is known about them: the nature of messages communicated or the influence of messages on users. This investigation examined the content of milblogs communicating about the war in Iraq to determine what milblogs have to say about the military, the emotional content of milblog messages, and how milblogs communicate (credibility of their message). In addition, the investigation assessed the effects of milblogs on users. An experiment was conducted to compare milblogs versus on-line military and civilian news venues in terms of their impact on users perceptions of the military, emotional response to stories, and overall credibility.
The results of this investigation suggest, that for now, milblogs do not pose a problem for the U.S. military, either in terms of what they communicate or in terms of the effects they exert.
            The content analysis revealed that milblogs are relatively neutral to mildly positive in terms of what they are communicating about the U.S. military. This was true in terms of overall tone of coverage and trust in military personnel. Some individual sites were positive toward the military; most were relatively neutral.
            Milblogs do not communicate a particularly credible message. Average credibility ratings hovered near the mid-point of the news credibility measure. Finally, milblog messages do not communicate a very emotional message. Overall, messages contained scant emotional content, with scores not exceeding 1.0 on any affect dimension.
            The experiment compared milblogs to military news and civilian news venues in terms of their impact on readers, perceptions of the military, overall credibility, and emotional influence. The results indicated that milblogs didn’t affect users’ perceptions of credibility or their attitudes toward the military. However, milblogs did elicit emotional responses in users. Milblogs were found to elicit more surprise, anger and fear than military news. This could be explained by their use of personal points of view rather than institutional points of view. Individuals play a larger part in milblog stories and have greater emotional appeal to the reader.
The topic of stories exerted considerable effects. Not surprisingly, IED stories leave readers less positive about the military and elicit more anger, sadness, and fear and less humor and happiness than stories about the Iraqi constitution and/or the training of Iraqi forces. The experimental condition and topic means interacted on the dependent measures of credibility and pride, and overrode main effect findings on the dependent variables of anger and happiness. When reading milblog stories, the constitution stories elicited more anger than IED stories and Iraqi forces stories because the IED story was a positive story about successfully disabling IEDs before they had a chance to injure any military personnel. Milblogs elicited more pride when reading IED stories compared to constitution stories and stories about Iraqi forces.  Civilian on-line stories elicited more pride about Iraqi forces when compared to IED stories. Most likely because the subject of Iraqi forces is a positive topic about forward progress in Iraq where as IED stories accentuate the ongoing dangers to U.S. forces.
Finally, regression analysis examined the relative impact of uses of milblogs, TV news, and newspapers for securing information about international affairs, national affairs, and weather/sports. The results indicated that use of milblogs for national news was a positive indicator for discussing the content of blogs with others. The use of blogs for international news was a positive predictor for the amount of knowledge students had about the war in Iraq and overall involvement in the issue of the war. Blog use exerted some effects relevant to the war. By contrast, TV news and newspaper use exerted no impact.
Future Directions
Ten milblogs were selected based on their popularity and frequency of reference by other blogs and the mainstream media. While the selected milblogs had a wide variety of content, this study’s sample of ten milblogs may have been insufficient to fully represent all milblogs.
This study was limited to milblogs.  Future studies should also include examples of blogs that are more conservative or liberal.  People are starting to seek out media that reinforces their political and ideological values. Including these blogs might better tap what is happening to influence attitude toward the military.  Future studies should focus on expanding the types of blogs which are examined.  They should include all blogs, especially political blogs that comment on military matters, and try to determine what is more influential, the milblogs or non- military blogs.
In addition, future studies should attempt to include linked material.  In this study, material that was linked to by the original milblog was not included.  A method should be found to allow subjects to view the linked material or observe what types of linked material is most viewed by the subjects. This could add a new dimension to the understanding of blogs’ effects on subject perceptions.
Also in future studies, blogs and other media sources should be viewed in their original form.  For our study, the milblog, main stream media, and DoD news articles were printed in identical form on plain paper with black text and no pictures.  In future studies, the subjects should be allowed to view the material using full color prints or using an electronic format that will allow the subject to experience the blog with the blogger’s full creative license still intact.
In the survey, there were differences in topics. Improvised Explosive Device (IED) stories produced more emotion than stories on the Iraqi Constitution and the training of Iraqi Armed Forces. The IED topic lends itself to being more emotional. When searching for topics, these were the ones in the news at the time of the postings, and they were in the news throughout the dates covered by the content analysis.
With regard to the content analysis, in order to avoid bias when deciding which milblogs to select, the milblog entries were not examined for content prior to conducting the content analysis but were chosen instead based on their popularity ratings.  However, several of the milblogs selected consisted of headlines from other blogs and the mainstream media and had no independent content of their own to study.  These blogs probably served more to confound the results of the content analysis than to represent the true content of other milblogs. Another confounding variable to the content analysis was the fact that from the six weeks of milblogs from which entries were analyzed, some of the milblogs had postings for the dates selected and some did not which further reduced the total number of postings.
Prior to this study, many milblogs that were considered to be controversial by the blogger’s military command, or deemed to be in violation of operational security, had already been shut down.  This reduced the range of topics and may have limited the number of negative milblogs available for study.

Finally, all the members of the content analysis team were military affiliates and their preconceived bias about the military may have swayed reported opinions about the milblogs.  This would have been most prevalent in the analysis of a milblog’s fairness or accuracy and could have also affected perceived trust in the milblogger. In addition, the content analysis team members were instructed to score emotions very low and that if any emotion were to be reported, it should be very low on the scale. This could explain the lack of emotion found in the content analysis results.

The results of the study indicate that there is no significant difference in the effects of milblogs on public opinion as compared to the mainstream media’s effect on public opinion.  This would indicate that military public affairs professionals should not be concerned with milblogs having a negative effect on public opinion and should encourage the chain of command to allow individuals in the command to produce blogs.  However, all milblogs should continue to be monitored by the military to ensure that they do not include operational security violations, force protection information or violations of the privacy act.