Is blogging mature yet?


by Sunny
27th February, 2009 at 2:16 pm    

That was the essence of what the man from the Today Programme asked me the day before yesterday, the result of which came out in this article on blogging and the Orwell Prize on good writing.

No, I said, basically. Blogging won’t be mature unless it starts sustaining a few people and becomes a serious enough medium that can challenge traditional media. Of course, I’m saying this with the likes of Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and Huffington Post in mind. American blogs take themselves seriously as an operation to push their agenda. TPM, which is my favourite example, has a team of paid staffers and some interns who research and write news, do digging into stories and produce video content every day.

To a certain extent its chicken and egg – you need the traffic to earn money to employ people and then do original reporting. But it’s not that hard – given how much original stuff is churned out by the likes of Tory Troll, BorisWatch and Dave Hill. In fact, as I’ll illustrate at my panel event at the Convention on Modern Liberty this Saturday afternoon, there are quite a lot of people out there using tools, Freedom of Information requests and more to do original reporting. Unfortunately, not a lot of it seems to get packaged into a platform like the HuffPo or TPM. I’m sure this will change eventually.

But if you really think blogging has matured, as Charlie Beckett does, then you haven’t seen this.

The way I see it, Pickled Politics is somewhat different. Our aim here should be to develop narratives and ideas that can then be made into part of a wider conversation around identity politics. That isn’t our only topic of discussion here, but I’d say its the over-arching narrative. In that sense it doesn’t have to be like the TPM’s of this world. But it does mean we have to constantly talk about and justify our ideas and stances on issues. It also means we have to be part of an ongoing debate and change when that changes.

I’ll write more about this soon, but I also want to illustrate how things have changed in identity politics over the last few years and how we were part of that dialogue.


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  1. platinum786 — on 27th February, 2009 at 2:24 pm  

    Blogging is not mature yet, because as a media, when i want to check the news, i don’t visit a particular blog, i visist news websites, though there are specialist forums. For example i have a big interest in the Pakistani military, If i want the news on the Pakistani military i visit a couple off forums which are known to have top notch informtion (amongst the riff raff).

  2. Riz Din — on 27th February, 2009 at 5:28 pm  

    What is blogging beyond liberalised, democratised and decentralised writing?

    I would say blogging has revolutionised the economics world, but partly because economics was the back-water of the main newspapers and blogging gave economists a decent voice just when an economic crisis took hold. Okay, you have fun blogs such as Marginal Revolution, but the likes of Mankiw, Felix Salmon, Krugman, and the funny head-shaped Willem Buiter, have really driven the economic-financial debate on many occasions. We are talking about leading a discussion and shaping the future here, so no small matters!

    Btw, very good to see Mr Hundal’s comment mentioned alongside the great Orwell, whose diaries are being blogged in pseudo-real time fashion:

    http://orwelldiaries.wordpress.com/

  3. Charlie Beckett — on 27th February, 2009 at 5:55 pm  

    Hi Sunny,
    I didn’t actually say that I thought that blogging was ‘mature’. I said that the Great and the Good of journalism who run the Orwell Prize now think that it has.
    As we have discussed before, there are a whole range of ‘blogs’. Like journalism in general they will be at different levels and perform different functions.
    Generally, I think the term ‘blog’ has almost become unhelpful.
    However, online journalism and/or blogging has now got to a point in its development where we can raise our expectations and develop a more critical understanding of what ‘works’ and what doesn’t. And also, what effects it has and what values it deploys.
    But I hope that whatever it is, blogging doesn’t become too ‘mature’.
    cheers
    Charlie

  4. MaidMarian — on 27th February, 2009 at 7:21 pm  

    ‘I’ll write more about this soon, but I also want to illustrate how things have changed in identity politics over the last few years and how we were part of that dialogue.’

    The problem is Sunny that I can’t really see how the internet/blogging has really changed anything. Riz Din is correct in that writing is now more liberalised, but what exactly beyond qualtity has the internet/blogs really added? It is not really shaping or leading discussion, just getting dragged along by its own vitriol.

    Now, of course, this is not entirely the fault of the writers – far from it. But to my mind I am not really convinced that the internet/blogging has really shfited the quality@quantity ratio that was in place before it came along.

    Interesting reflections though.

  5. dave bones — on 27th February, 2009 at 11:08 pm  

    How do you break a story from a blog and get paid for it?

  6. steve — on 28th February, 2009 at 12:04 am  

    “The problem is Sunny that I can’t really see how the internet/blogging has really changed anything. Riz Din is correct in that writing is now more liberalised, but what exactly beyond quality has the internet/blogs really added? It is not really shaping or leading discussion, just getting dragged along by its own vitriol.”

    Agreed, though I would add that the only thing blogs do, is to raise the profile of those who wish to be “famous” or “known” for something. After all, look at those who operate blogs that get invited to review papers or news etc. Why on earth do those in the MSM feel that I value the opinion of a blogger. For me a blog is for debate, and to debate information, it is not to make news or be news. Those who bastardise themselves to promote themselves deserve all the vitriol they get.

  7. dave bones — on 28th February, 2009 at 2:44 am  

    What is wrong with making news or collecting news noone else has on a blog?

    I have got to know people from the BBC and been taken for lunch by someone at CNN etc all through blogging. I am happy being a blogger in every sense of the word “blogger” including all the negative senses. Blogging is great. Why complain about “bad blogs”? how much shit is there on the internet? Who the fuck cares? It doesn’t matter. Its good to have a voice which is your own, whoever you are. Who even cares about newspapers? News is just a gravy train anyway. Blogs don’t have to be.

  8. Desi Italiana — on 2nd March, 2009 at 7:11 pm  

    “Blogging won’t be mature unless it starts sustaining a few people and becomes a serious enough medium that can challenge traditional media. Of course, I’m saying this with the likes of Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and Huffington Post in mind. American blogs take themselves seriously as an operation to push their agenda. TPM, which is my favourite example, has a team of paid staffers and some interns who research and write news, do digging into stories and produce video content every day.”

    Couple of things:

    1. You can do original reporting via blogging (and you need the $$ to do that, as Sunny points out) but you also need the credibility to have sources the way traditional media do. If you are a no name blogger, despite your best intentions, you will not get that much “inside access” to notable personages, like politicians, which other news organizations do (call someone up and say that you are a reporter for, say, the BBC, and see how fast you get a response to your wanting to speak with someone,a s opposed to saying, “I blog at XX, and I was wondering if I could speak to [insert name, official, etc]“).

    2. BTW, maybe I am playing with semantics and definitions here, but once blogging takes off into established original reporting, what makes it a “blog”? Some original reporting blog posts aren’t all that short in length, and are sometimes comparable to online articles such as the NYT.

    Riz Din:

    “What is blogging beyond liberalised, democratised and decentralised writing?”

    I agree with you, but it doesn’t mean that it has an impact in changing people’s opinions or that people are more exposed to opinions different from their own. There are two excellent studies (focusing on the US, don’t know about the UK) which demonstrate that blog readers (still a small minority in terms of overall population) read blogs whose takes they already agree with. This is somewhat natural, I think. I myself would rarely read the National Review Online, unless I want some great right-wing spiel to vent about.

  9. Desi Italiana — on 2nd March, 2009 at 7:17 pm  

    One thing I absolutely detest with the advent of news blogging is how often it encourages or pressures bloggers to write unthoughtful posts because they need to post something as soon as possible so that it’s “timely.” Ironically, blogging is one of those few spaces where you can think through an issue or event, and write an integrated post. Now, about five minutes some news breaks out in MSM, you see a post on it. Check back a day later, and there are like five appended “UPDATES.” And this is sometimes the editors’ fault, breathing down writers’ necks and demanding something QUICKLY.

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