Differential growth in blogging markets…

From last week, I met with Conall McDevitt in Belfast to talk about blogging, online comment, and the differential growth between different market places.


  • Very interesting discussion. I think you mention advertising revenue moving away from traditional broadcast and into say, online advertising, and you refer to the success of Guardian unlimited.

    Would you see a future where investigative journalism and solid news are preserved in the form of old media, such as the guardian, which have married in to internet technology?

    Or do you think that investigative work and solid news can also be maintained in future by blogs which have no backing from the traditional media?

    What I’m getting at is that in the decline of the traditional media (as described say in Flat Earth News by Nick Davies or the recent article in the New Yorker by Eric Altman who predicts the death of the newspaper) there’s a worry that no one will do real investigative work or reportage. When I say no-one, I mean of course, very few. Even the big outlets have slashed the number of foreign correspondants and war reporters. And much ‘news’ is now a rehash or third hand or just manufactured. If this decline continues, can the online community, in particular bloggers, plug the gap? Personally, while I think some blogs and bloggers can become important analysts and commentators or ocassionally have the inside track, I don’t see how they will ever have the resources or infrastructure to do what the traditional media used to do. Unless, some kind of marriage between the two can be arrived at, and that’s why I mention the Guardian.

    What is your view on the role blogs and blogging might play in this space?

  • TOT

    nice piece.

    Less use of the modern day dilutive “kind of” phase would be good.

  • Mick Fealty


    You are right of course.


    That’s a worry that came up in the workshop session I did at the Green Party convention on Saturday.

    It is a concern, certainly. I don’t know how things are going to pan out exactly, but I’m sure the widely predicted death of the newspaper has been exaggerated.

    That said, I spoke at an event in London recently on the same platform as Simon Nixon of Breaking Veiws. They are entirely web based, but comprise 24 high level journalists and provide top quality business journalism for news papers all over the world (originally were a breakaway from the Lex column, which is still going strong in the FT).

    They are enjoying a decent financial success, whilst enjoying the editorial freedom of the deadline free space of ‘net. This kind of disaggregated journalism model is still rare (and business is the place you’d expect to see it first, since the FT and the WSJ are the probably most notable money spinning old media outfits online).

    As for the idea that somehow old media has been providing good service, I would not agree. Whilst it does provide some excellent people, the raft of libel writs being issued by Robert Murat points to a structural problem within the industry that’s exerting huge pressures on editors as well as journalists to compete in ways that are generally distructive of good common or garden journalism.

  • Mick

    I found this very interesting and of course your correct about the political right in the UK taking the lead when it comes to blogging, I feel we on the left has come to blogging late and for a number of reasons, some valid some not.

    I also noted you used the term markets more than once, is this because you believe blogging will increasingly become more of a profession if it is to survive and prosper. If so surly this must take the edge off it, for to make money a blog must attract advertising and surly given time these people will want their pound of flesh. For example would Gap use a blog that accuses them of using slave labour.


  • Driftwood

    Mick (Fealty)
    I’m currently doing some research in to media branding for an MBA.
    Was interested about how newspapers are now more read (increasingly online)for their opinion columnists rather than news, which is pretty old hat give the web and 24 hours TV.
    But one of the best foreign correspondents in my opinion, Robert Fisk, of The Independent, is cynical about the quality of internet commentary.
    It would be a pity to see brilliant investigative reporters like Fisk replaced with an array of uninformed, parochial, I’m so clever, wannabee writers, who have not walked the walk, so to speak.
    Whatcha think?

  • Dewi

    Mick – you need a makeover.

  • DC

    Agree Mick Hall about the Tory blogs everywhere. Some of the stuff put out on those blogs becomes so tiresome so quickly, even the likes of quality blogs like Iain Dale and Guido, they just dont do it for me. Especially when they quickly turn into something akin to a political smear sheet.

    But then I have bias against all things conservative as Tory media ploys are usually misrepresentative of wider societal attitudes yet that provokes a renown ability of that voter base to gather and discharge their selection on election day. People who can be made to feel easily aggrieved and often repulsed usually do find that get-up-and-go about them.

    While Labour bones constitute most of UK body polity, the Tories seem to have formed usefully at the hips. That’s where most of the power is derived from and dispensed with strongly when engaged. The Tories still remain most influential while a strong voter base remains there. So despite much of the existing body belonging to Labour, it seems it would be in a most precarious position if anything adverse to the existing shape of the Union were to materialise.

  • Mick Fealty


    The issue of money is an important one. Markets are conversations according to the Cluetrain manifesto. That doesn’t necessarily imply profitability. Indeed at its base, blogging is a technology first: the social phenomenon that it spurs comes afterwards. Much of its current value lies in independence. But that may not last.

    Dominance by one advertiser is a danger in the same way that government funding can be a threat to genuine independence. But there is more to new media than blogs. They work counterwise direction to broadcast media (and governments) in the sense that through a process of constant engagement they tend towards community building. That is inself can be construed as political. In marketing terms success requires engagement with others rather than disruption: http://url.ie/bm4.


    There is a tendency amongst mainstream commentators to generalise about bloggers (see Diarmuid Martin in yesterday’s Sunday Tribune). But the truth is that comment is coming to dominate news gathering in mainstream newspapers. For me that can be compelling, not least because it helps seed intelligent conversation.

    I generally don’t blog work that’s substantially below par, or doesn’t bring something to the party. Thankfully there is mostly a plentiful supply somewhere each day.

    But whilst there are pressures, I don’t see the witless replacing the resourceful and the intelligent in way some in the mainstream apparently fear. Those papers which have the resources to invest in their online presence now, are the ones that will last. Comment for comment’s sake will not be enough. News and sound analysis will always sell well into the more valueable markets.

    As for journalists good, bloggers bad, the serious antidote to that selfserving falacy is Jason Blair. This man was able to fabricate stories undetected in on of the world’s most prestigious newspapers precisely because he was journalist. A blogger of a similar stature in the blogosphere would have been called on it pretty quickly. A blogger who does not presume he may be the stupidest person in the virtual room is asking for trouble.

  • Driftwood

    Mick, take your point. Lots of good commentary here and elsewhere on blogs. But surely you don’t think of Bob Fisk as entirely “mainstream”. And he does have genuine concerns regarding the internet, as any regular reader of his reporting will know. He might be slightly “old school” here but let’s hope the day of the intrepid correspondent, with a sense of history, and reporting solely on front line evidence remains core to every “real” newspaper.
    And it’s important our print media keep real. I’ve suspected even BBC news dumbing down to “infotainment” at times. Britney Spears is not news.

  • Mick,
    Your are right – the journalists good, bloggers bad dichotomy doesn’t hold. I think this is where your point about authority and author branding is interesting and important.

    In printed news (or broadcase media) 99% of what we get is rehashed or is just plain crap. The same is true for the net.

    But there is a reason why the Jason Blair story stood out – it happened in such a trusted outlet. Though it demonstrates that the NYT is vulnerable too to desperately sloppy oversight and on occasion, bad quality, that the story was a story at all demonstrated that the NYT is indeed a highly respected source where the norm is high standards.

    It is only logical that some blogs or bloggers will over time develop a brand as well, and a reputation as reliable sources of information. To a certain extent that is already happening. But I question the ability of a lone blogger or even a small community blog to achieve the high standards that the best in the traditional world have reached. Fact checking, investigation, and ocassionally dealing with libel law (this will affect the internet as well as the traditional media), all this requires resources which can only come from a larger organisation. In that sense, is it your view that the leading online sources of news will come from aggregates such as your example of the 24 business journalists, which effectively become a little (and ultimately probably a large) news organisation. In other words, there’ll be a clear distinction between internet news organisations which provide actual ‘news’ and blogs which provide ‘views’. So a news-views dichotomy emerges online.

  • gaelgannaire

    Well, in general I think blogging is a waste of time and that people only do it because they are addicted to it, specifically to the little adrenaline rush when you read something (a) you disagree with or (b) that is just pure nonsence.

    It is a bit like writting to the paper but getting a pretty much instant reply.

    I think others are just honing their debating skills for other purposes.

    But I acknowledge that the important thing about slugger for Mick is the blog itself, whereas the the commenters clearly think slugger is a playground for them.

    I think we are all, but me especially really silly for even reading half of this stream when we could be sweeping the streets or something.

    Beats TV surely, but it is just any other addiction.

  • Mick F

    Surly the Internet as a source for news is completely different from blogging. The fact is sites like the Guardians Comment is Free are simply an extension of the newspaper, there is very little originality beyond the ability of readers to comment immediately[admittedly not to be scoffed at]

    The problem with such sites is one cannot get around the power of the advertisers and the editorial direction of the paper in question.
    Few writers from the edge of the mainstream will get a piece on CiF without making compromises. they accepted a piece from me on the Scottish Socialist Party kerfuffle as long as I made certain changes, although it was not put quite so bluntly as that.

    Now I’m all for getting help when it comes to grammar etc but these changes would have altered the whole tone of the piece so as I had my angry head on that day I told them to sod off.

    I know of another writer who was treated the same way over a Palestine piece. Whilst I understand such behavior is meat and drink for the newspaper industry, but surly the whole point about blogging is totally freedom to say what one wished [without libeling people]

    Now to the question of funding which is vital if one is to extend ones blog, as I’m sure you know better than most blogging can take up a great deal of time and one does really need to get out and meet people. I would like to expand the content of my own blog and have ideas how to do so, but I simply cannot afford to do so due to a lack of cash and many on the left are in the same position. Could it be that right wing bloggers have been able to expand and develop due to finding it easier to raise funds from corporations, rich businessmen etc who think like they do. i e greed is good.

    Many of the rightist blogs you mention surly fall into that category.

  • gaelgannaire

    I am sure you are mistaken in what you write, in some of the most important issues to be raised in the north of late, policing, murder of Paul Quinn and the kerfuffle at the ATN and squinter were covered far more thoroughly on blogs than in the main stream media.

    My bench mark here was always if the mainstream politicians hate the blogs we can not be doing to bad.

  • Mick Fealty


    The Dubliner had a long peice on some of this stuff a while back: http://url.ie/91q. Here’s an interesting passage based on material from The Village’s media correspondent:

    DIT media lecturer Harry Browne argues that political blogging is a distraction from the real business of marching in the streets and going to branch meetings. According to Browne, if the people are pouring their energies into reading and spreading information while sitting at home, those in power can rest easy. Traditional collective action is more effective, says Browne, at bringing about political change. Blogging promotes what he calls “a narcissistic illusion of presence” because for a blogger who gets a few comments from readers about a post, this may be “more reaction than they get in the real world.” However, he does credit blogging with demystifying journalism and showing that anyone can do it really.

    While many print journalists are despondent about the effects of the internet and the future of the industry (one recently described the gloomy atmosphere at a colloquium of his peers as being like “a conference of textile manufacturers or ship builders in the late-1970s”), Browne is comparatively sanguine. He predicts a big decline in the number of professional journalists, but this will be no great loss because “the record shows we’re shit shovellers… We process pseudo-events and dish them out to the public to suit the interests of power brokers and PR companies.”

    Watergate created an aura of competence and courage around journalists. Bob Woodward’s subsequent decision to take up permanent residence inside the posterior of the White House (though 2006’s State of Denial, his devastating insider account of the Bush presidency, slightly redeems him) ought to temper the legend of fearless muckraking enshrined in All The President’s Men. But if we dispel journalistic myths entirely, we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwather – losing the one source, however flawed, capable of providing dependable public oversight.

  • Mick

    A good example of blogging giving people courage was the young women in the US who blogged the revelation that Obama has a totally middle class prejudiced view of the US working classes, seeing us as one big prejudice homogenous slab.

  • sorry, should have been ‘them’ not ‘us’.

  • Whether we insert ‘them’ instead of ‘us’ or not, the sentence still makes no sense.

  • Chekov

    What do you not understand dimbo

  • “seeing us/them as one big prejudice homogenous slab.”

    What is a prejudice homogenous slab? More pertinently what is a prejudice slab?

    Why do people who cannot order their thoughts into a readable sequence still feel compelled to share them?

  • Mick Fealty


    You need to check out your McLuhan… the medium is the message… That’s why it’s critical to look outside the confines of the market to get an inkling of what these technologies are doing, and are further capable of doing…

    People can argue over what blogs have done (or not done in Ireland), in Britain and the US they are helping to re-frame the terms of national debates…

  • Driftwood

    What does David McKittrick do nowadys?

    And does anyone really regard the “analysis” on UTV and BBC news as anything more than tepid. Leaving aside Hearts and Minds, local TV news is bland and stale. Brian Black has a cosy number though, swanning around Strangford Lough.

    The point i was making about Robert Fisk, is that he maintains many journalists have simply become bland mouthpieces for governments and unnamed agency “sources”,

  • Mick, the interaction between Slugger, David Gordon (Belfast Telegraph), NALIL (UNESCO report and Ballyallaght) and BBCNI Spotlight played a significant part in the departure of both Paisleys from senior positions in government. It’s likely that such an interaction will continue. It’s also more difficult now for people in power or with influence to control the media.

  • chekov

    Your reply proves to me you new exactly what I meant, but hey don’t let me stop you making an example of your self, for your childish pompous behavior highlights middle class prejudice at its worst. [sadly just as Obama did with his comments about working class people]

    One of my heros is Ernie Bevin, the right wing trade union leader and one time British foreign secretary, when he first entered the Foreign Office there were many civil servants who chuckled behind his back about his lack of education etc. What amused Bevin was the very same people licked his arse daily.

    They were just like you, prepared to hurl insults around behind your anonymous tag, have you any thing intelligent to say about this thread, or do you just pop your head up when someone makes a spelling mistake just to prove to us all what a clever fellow you are.

    Let me give you a tip, there is nothing clever in attempting to belittle people, it just makes you look small and petty.

  • RepublicanStones

    Interesting Mick. Not sure, but would some journos view the bloggers as poachers to their gamekeepers? which government press offices would no doubt view journos as. In respect of which is the beteer medium for obtaining your news digest, would it be fair to assume blog boys do not have the constraint of the publishing house ownership control. By which i mean through the following example, I recall Chris Patten (yes that one) was the last governor of Hong Kong, and was planning to release a book detailing his time there, which did not paint the chinese government in a favourable light. Unfortunately the owner of the publishing house due to release his book was some guy out of the A-team called howling mad Murdoch, i think. It seems around the release date of this book, Mr Murdoch was in the process of cultivating business contacts with the chinese govt, and coincidently the books release date was postponed. To the best of my knowledge this Mad Murdoch owns a few daily rags around he world, and so, his journos no doubt, are the monkey’s to this organ grinder. the blogosphere no doubt affords a greater degree of freedom to the clark kents out there, but i believe that to be a double edged sword, as this can also mean, the blog boys let their own opinion colour their scriptures a little more blatantly, but then this also is not always a bad thing….a quadruple edged sword anyone????
    As regards the comment opportunity blogs offer, ithink while it is vastly more limited, the letters pages in newspapers offer a little of the same.

    anyone looking to know the power of a good blog should read Colby Buzzell’s ‘My War: Killing Time In Iraq’, better than any embedded hacks could come up with, and read how the US army wished him to tone it down.