Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

As governments change, so change the blogs

Wed 3 November 2010, 4:31pm

Two similarly themed items here. The first one – this post over on Comment is Free wondering whether it makes sense to lament the decline of the right-wing libertarian (or bloggertarian) blog. The second item – Left Foot Forward’s observation that Liberal Conspiracy and their own site are now beating the main right-of-centre bloggers in their Wikio rankings.

Wikio measures inbound links rather than unique visitors and both Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes are still significantly ahead in that regard. But in terms of influence, it’s a marked change that is very likely to be the result of the change in government and the oppositional nature of a lot of political blogging.

Contrast this with the way that Newspapers have reacted to the change in government. With their ability to act corporately, the press are capable of providing a constructive level of support to governments if they choose to do so.

As a Labour supporter, I’ve had cause to gripe over the past few months about the way that the press are prepared to provide a following wind to the current coalition in pursuing it’s ideological instincts. At best, New Labour’s defining feature was a willingness to negotiate such support and select it’s policies based upon what it knew the press would permit. It had even largely given up  trying that in the final few years of government.

Imagine this: Gordon Brown: “I’ve decided to merge large parts of our armed forces with the French.”

See what I mean?

So newspapers can impose a degree of support for a government if it suits them. The blogosphere – with it’s relative inability to dictate agendas – is less able to do this effectively. So are blogs always going to be mainly an oppositional tool?

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Comments (16)

  1. fitzjameshorse1745 (profile) says:

    Surely the blogosphere in USA has dictated the agenda and now moved into mainstream……the rise of the Tea Party about which it is much too soon to judge effect (Ill leave that to PhD students unborn) would not have been possible without Blogging and “access” thru radio “talk”.

    The Left invested too much trust in the inherent decency and intelligence of people and was comparatively slow in getting off the ground to deal with the menace of the right wing blog……the anonymous nature of the internet has provided cover for racists, elitists, xenophobes…and libertarians and general selfishness that feeds into Tea Party philosophy.
    I think that there is a fightback. I think this was evident in the past few days in USA where people started to take the Tea Party menace seriously and start to look closely at it.

    Yes….basically the blog will always be an “opposition” tool. It has to be. Ultimately in Britain there is a limited number of national newspapers and thats a limited number of editorial policy and generally speaking the editorials are consistent with the newspapers world view.
    The newspapers have for want of a better word……”standards”
    The Blogosphere has how many blogs? I have no idea. A ball park figure of 100,000 seems as reasonable as any. And that necessarily is wider than a dozen newspapers. And a wide range in standard. Does any blog really approach mass circulation figures. I daresay that most bloggers are like me. I delude myself that comments on my blog are 50% of the experience and that my own views are the other 50%.
    Of course I would much rather type my own view than read someone elses. And that goes for 99,99% of bloggers. I am also refreshingly free of standards and ethics.
    And this should not surprise. If I wasnt advancing my own world view…there would be no point to a blog.
    Essentially bloggers ar individuals with individual rather than Party concerns.
    I have tried being part of a blogging team……very briefly…and for me it didnt work.
    But as individuals we will always be in opposition.
    Blogging can never effectively cross from individual to “party”
    Necessarily that is at the centre of the empowerment it gives.

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  2. Left Foot Forward is wishful. Wikio counts links to a site, and can be gamed by lots of blogs linking to each other etc. Cision has the Top Ten rankings here on unique visitors http://uk.cision.com/Resources/Social-Media-Index/ which is a fascinating insight if you then compare the sheer scale of review in the UK compared to say Germany (go to Germany top left corner).

    As blogging is mostly a voluntary act, at little cost but time and effort, then it would not be a surprise if some run out of steam, especially if anger or other negative emotion is a driving factor in motivation. That tends to capture opposition where this is a trend.

    However, there are also many with a local or personal outlook that will be longer lasting because it is a way of sharing a passion – like trainspotting, who knows why?

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  3. Rory Carr says:

    “…the rise of the Tea Party about which it is much too soon to judge effect…”

    But the effect of the Tea Party has been judged in yesterday’s mid-term election results, Fitzy and, I am happy to relate, found wanting.

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  4. A few overindulgent days off in dear ol’ dirty Dublin, and I’m trying to get up to speed … be patient, be gentle.

    There is something in the essential theses here. Surely it comes down to the blogosphere being a dissident medium. Hence, it’s a better sniping position than a defensive one.

    To my mind, the best US sites are those who set themselves outside the Pale, on either flank. At least, they are the ones I read, either nodding like a plastic dog in the car back window, or splenetic with indignation. But reading.

    What is happening here on the GB scene is both more and less interesting. Iain Dale is reduced to running promos for his various publishings and hack radio doings. Paul Staines, ego-dilated on the passé Expensesgate, is now no more than Tory HQ’s ad hominem attack dog. A possible exception could be made for those whose micturation directs tentwards: Tim Montgomerie (being possessed of some principles: not a good thing in partisan politicking) at ConHome can manage that. However, cheer-leading for a rapidly-self-damning, cynical-opportunist and soon-to-be-disreputable coalition is no great moral crusade. And it is rapidly going very, very pear-shaped: even Nick Robinson is touting this as Cameron’s “worst week … so far”. Heh, heh! I entertain great hopes of the inevitable cataclysmic Euro-bust-up in the near future. The implosion of the AV-campaign, due over this winter, could also offer equal mischief-making opportunity. And the joy is all those Tories, displaced from their expected promotions to make way for LibDems, squatting in puddles of Pavlovian salivation.

    The running is being made on the left. What is not being made on the left … yet … is any cohesive, progressive effort at alternative polices.

    Yet, there are huge opportunities, even outside the scrapyard of ConDem broken promises. Someone somewhere should be making much of the on-going local government scandals (Tower Hamlets obviously: to his credit, Andrew Gilligan is mining that one, for the MSM) which provide Private Eye with its fortnightly page of schlock-horror. Also here in London “Best in class” rosettes for the likes of Adam Bienkov and Dave Hill getting subcutaneous on Blasted Boris: that’ll pay off in the next eighteen months.

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  5. Really? 113 out of 129 endorsed candidates won. Just how is that failure?

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  6. There were over 129 candidates on the single ballot paper I saw (out of San Francisco). If the Tea-Party could find only ten bakers’ dozens of fellow weirdos nationwide, that speaks volumes for average US sanity.

    Perhaps thedissenter @ 5:37 pm could find time to explain why, for one example, Sharron Angle had to be so grateful to her “out-of-State” financiers. Or explain whether Ken Buck was one of his chosen 113.

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  7. fitzjameshorse1745 (profile) says:

    Thats true…Ive posted a very long and tedious post on anther thread.

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  8. And what might be considered less attractive electoral propositions failed to achieve headline posts. That many were novices outside machine politics or abandoned means that 113 is an amazing achievement.

    People forget that the Tea Party refers to the Boston Tea Party – no taxation without representation – and is a movement not an organisation.

    US elections much more cut and thrust than ours and ultimate it would be wrong to second guess the electorate”s decision given the information all to readily available – and Buck is not yet across the line in Colorado. Up against Harry Reid’s machine I sure Sharron Angle was grateful for all the suport she could find.

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  9. Alan Maskey black spot says:

    Amazing how we can observe the same thing but not see the same thing.
    1. Tea Party: Has no one seen the relentless plugging this got on Fox News and, I am sure, the cables such as Rush Limbaugh. I saw Glenn Beck on Fox News and I thought he was a pancake, flat and bvoring. But others did not.
    2. The Republicans made great gains. Surely much of this was to do with Obama being the w–ker that he is and not that the Republicans are much.
    3. Obama’s election was supposed to be fuelled by Internet power: young bloggies etc. If they fell by the wayside, surely the Republicans gain by default.
    4. The Anglo French thing: down to economies of scale. Cameron et al have convinced the Brits a new era is needed. On the military expenditure side, Brown was a disaster, buying aircraft carriers with no aircraft etc. Plus he could not sell anything to anyone. Zero charisma. Cameron is getting good PR advice.

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  10. You may be being a bit harsh here D. Inbound links are particularly valuable in some circles – especially if you rely on Twitter as a means of publicising your postings.

    Lots of tweets = well sold or juicy posts.

    Some blogs are more likely to have an appeal to the people who use twitter and others are more ‘community’ sites. So Slugger and Iain Dale (I suspect) have an inordinate number of ‘regulars’ but LFF – with it’s broad subject range – would expect a higher turnover of visitors – a large number of ‘unique visitors’ in relation to total visits over a week. Slugger gets a relatively large number of repeat visits.

    LFF’s aim is to get a particular spin out there – it does that very well IMHO (whatever you think to it’s politics).

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  11. ConHom has more traffic than LibCon, LFF and LabList combined. While Order Order is undoubtedly the most visited site of all. The ‘links’ issue is one that even LFF alludes to in that it refers to a period covering CSR and that undoubtedly made it a source for many left sites seeking reference on a response to the coalition’s announcement.

    Not questioning LFF’s ability to spin, and the lack of left blogs probably makes it more relevant, but reference to the Cision list of top fifty blogs suggests that LibCon, LFF and LabList have a long way to go to take themselves into a whole different ballgame. Slugger at least makes it to number 35 on the top 50. Guido in league of its own.

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  12. fitzjameshorse1745 (profile) says:

    By its nature……the mainstream media is accountable…if only at the basest level where saying the wrong thing might merit a punch in the mouth. But its open…..and therefore people will be more careful about causing offence.
    The attraction of the blog is surely the fact that it allows for a certain amount of hitting and running…….at its best “opposition” but at its basest level downright abuse. Somewhere in the middle is the opportunity to throw a custard pie in the face of pomposity.
    Blogs demanding to be taken seriously…with too much regard for the essential triviality of the Blogosphere….are in fact the weakest link…….in something which at best is amusing and informative.

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  13. Before this thread dies the death it is worth looking again at how Political Scrapbook its touting the situation.

    Three of the names there (Paul Waugh of the London Evening Standard, Benedict Brogan of the Telegraph and Nick Robinson) are MSM. All three score by being pertinent and instantly relevant: I’d have added the Speccie’s Fraser Nelson/James Forsyth/Peter Hoskin (see below) to that A-list. Iain Dale, Tim Montgomerie (the real intellect at ConHome) and Tom Harris are, in different ways, none too far adrift from the “orthodox” channel.

    The main omissions there seem to me to be the Guardian‘s half-way-house at Comment is free and the impressive Spectator site: that those “heavies” do not appear makes me profoundly suspicious of the whole listing. On a day-by-day rating either or both have the rest beaten.

    I’d also raise a small cheer for Political Scrapbook itself. Laurence Durnan has found a potentially-populist niche, away from the rather intense “evidential” Left Foot Forward, and a formula which is more campaigning, more visual, more focused. It is a developing platform, with a way to go. So far, though, it is less inter-active than most of the others mentioned. It could do worse than evolve into a local equivalent of (say) HuffPo.

    There is another, more significant “bottom-line”. The doings of last May, and the sheer unprincipled opportunism of the ConDem coalition have re-invigorated Labour grass-roots to a remarkable degree. Only last evening I was at a Ward-level Labour meeting with some three dozen attenders. This is in a constituency party which has doubled its membership since the General Election. All that is missing for the yeast fully to rise is a credible narrative to emerge from either/or Labour Central and the blogosphere.

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  14. fitzjameshorse1745 (profile) says:

    Mr Redfellow makes the excellent point that the better Bloggers double as mainstream journalists or have come from a journalistic background.
    Bloggers are on the whole no more than decent amateurs.
    The opinions of Brogan, Robinson etc carry weight…..the opinions of most bloggers are worthless.
    Essentially good journalists can never be brought down by references to the fact that they share the same profession as people who work for the Sun or Sunday Sport.
    But good bloggers are brought down by the sheer number of conspiracy theorists who own a keyboard.

    Bloggers find it difficult to construct arguments. They dont have the depth of knowledge (especially of History) to construct an argument that can stave off a comment that references a date before they were born.

    There IS a place for the Blog…….but to be taken seriously……better Bloggers must find a way of distancing themselves from the sheer dross wihin the Blogosphere.
    Ultimately the biggest strength in Blogging is its Individuality. also its biggest weakness.

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  15. Matt Wardman says:

    >There IS a place for the Blog…….but to be taken seriously……better Bloggers must find a way of distancing themselves from the sheer dross wihin the Blogosphere.

    I’d suggest rather that those reading should think beyond sweeping stereotypes such as “the blogosphere”.

    On the rankings, the changes are most likely – as strongly as I’ll put it – due to increased weight being given to Twitter. Personally I think they’ve overegged it, and it may be readjusted to a different balance next month.

    On Cision, with no indication of the source of their data, we can’t really place any strong reliance on the rankings. Are we really to believe the 5 Cranmer 6 Burning our Money 7 Pickled Politics 8 Dizzythinks, and LibCon nowhere? I don’t.

    Paul, I’d put the extra Twitter profile of some sites down to “dedicated promoters” rather than articles themselves, as the amount of retweeting is not noticeably linked to the quality of the articles themselves. I’m not sure whether that is a help, other than in setting media narrative.

    One question is whether having a band of dedicated retweeters attached to your particular blog makes a difference, and if so what difference.

    I have the Wikio Politics Top 50 here.

    Rgds

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  16. Retreading old history (and new untruths):

    Compare and contrast the remarkable claim by thedissenter @ 5:37 pm with the NBC analysis by Alexandra Moe:

    For all the talk of the Tea Party’s strength – and there will certainly be a significant number of their candidates in Congress – just 32% of all Tea Party candidates who ran for Congress won and 61.4% lost this election. A few races remain too close to call.

    In the Senate, 10 candidates backed by the Tea Party ran and at least five were successful. (Race in Alaska has not yet been called.)

    In the House, 130 Tea Party-backed candidates ran, and just 40 so far have won.

    She rightly adds that it is difficult to discern just who were properly-endorsed “Tea Party” candidates.

    Beyond that, it is blindingly obvious that the Tea Party failed on the West Coast, most dismally in Mrs Palin’s home state. Despite the discreet shuffle in the NBC comment, above, the Tea-Party’s, Palin’s and “official” Republican candidate, Joe Miller, has just 34% support in a rock-safe GOP State. Miller is currently 34,500 behind Pailn’s pet-hate and nemesis Lisa Murkowski, the write-in candidate.

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