Irish blogosphere too dominated by the voices of angry ‘adolescents’ to be taken seriously…

Sunday Times journo John Burns has bad news for the Irish blogosphere…

…the blogosphere has been left free for “amateur” commentators and journalists. While some are entertaining, not one continually demands our attention. No Irish blog is important enough to read every day. Until that changes, you’ll be getting your news and comment on paper.

I hate to say it, but he has a point…Still, although I broadly agree with Suzy...

…a joint venture between those paid and unpaid may be possible – the so called and often belittled ‘citizen journalists’ without whom people in the Sunday Times and other places would spend a lot of time not finding things out or being able to write articles about.

…as I argued over a year ago, the Irish blogosphere is chronically under resourced by people who take the business of politics seriously… Of course there is nothing wrong with Twenty Major and his ongoing political cabaret, but for the conduct of political business, it remains entertainment, and utterly beside the point so far as real world politics and politicians are concerned…

One place I think Burns gets it wrong is in failing to recognise (or understand) the one real impact thestory.ie had during the summer, and that was that in giving access to real people to O’Donohue’s receipts, the story did not, as it would ordinarily have done, die with the Tribune’s (singular within the MSM) revelations in the early summer. Gavin and Mark’s data mining at thestory.ie and the use of some smart crowd sourcing at Politics.ie (which is not a blog, but a community that’s larger and been around for a great deal longer than most of the country’s bloggers)…

It was the crossing of real content with one of the few established communities political insiders in the Republic actually do read that ultimately disrupted Fianna Fail’s usual calculations to keep the story alive until the end of recess… But hey, you won’t read that in the newspapers (nor from Mulley it seems)… And that Burns fails to pick up this point reveals a blind spot to the generic competitor/collaborator potential of blogs per se…

Too much of what passes for journalism is of the he said, she said variety… or as Hugo Dixon put it at round table event in Paris I was at a few weeks back, ‘me too journalism’… That was fine once when only the big newspaper proprietors could control the means of production and distribution, but readers today want a richer fare in which they, and not the editor, make the key decisions about what matters…

Insofar as the Irish blogosphere is concerned, what we need, north as well as south of the border, is a higher adult to adolescent voice ratio… Then some of the gems that are already out there might get the rise in audience they truly deserve… And journalists like Mr Burns might hold the political classes to better account than they have been doing heretofore

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  • > No Irish blog is important enough to read every day. Until that changes, you’ll be getting your news and comment on paper.

    So name one newspaper columnist who appears in print five times a week, never mind is worth reading five days in a row?

    Until that changes, you’ll be getting your news and comment from a variety of sources, pieced together.

  • Mack

    Hmmm.. Not sure about that.

    Aren’t half the economics bloggers columinists?

    Inlcuding Constantin Gurdgiev in the very same paper?

  • Mick Fealty

    Nice point well made Alan…

  • Mick Fealty

    Mack,

    Which bit did you mean of the above?

  • Mack

    This…

    …the blogosphere has been left free for “amateur” commentators and journalists. While some are entertaining, not one continually demands our attention. No Irish blog is important enough to read every day. Until that changes, you’ll be getting your news and comment on paper.

    not convinced by the pre-ambled either

    An important absence in Ireland are leading players from business, the arts, education, politics and property who write honestly and revealingly, giving an insight into their sectors

    Depends what he means by leading – but what about Gerard O’Neil of Amarach research? James Corbett, Joe Drumgoole, Paul Lanigan etc?

    property

    He’s never heard of Karl Deeter then, I take it?

    politics

    Does “this blog” count? There are a fair few politicians with blogs these days. I’ve found the quality of political analysis at John Mc Guirk’s to be as high as at any newspaper.

  • Only Asking

    I’m not too sure I agree with much here. I think Alan is a wee bit right in that people do get their news from a mixture of sources, what blogs provide is a platform for people to discuss the news they receive, and in that the adolescent has a place – alongside the adult. I can understand the frustration with the adolescents if you are moderating at all hours, but pitting blogs against the msm is a loser for blogs. Some blogs that are big enough do ‘break’ news, but they aren’t Irish blogs that I’d know off.

    I think what blogs contribute is the conversational side, to limit that to those you approve of, to try and erase the adolescent, will reduce numbers of commentators and enjoyment.

    Someone once told me that only two percent of readers comment on any blog, a blog with a read more feature is read even less I’m told, but if the adolescents are reading before commenting, then why erase their voice?

    Would the moderation not work if you had enough moderators recruited to erase the libelious? What is happening now will tend to reduce vibrancy and then it would only be a blog to visit once a day, since the numbers of comments are much lower?

  • Only Asking

    p.s. if you want examples of adolescent comments read Guido, most of his threads produce comments in the hundreds, – his latest caption competition has 657 comments. So I do think there is room for the adolescent along side the adult… it’s about the conversation I think.

  • Alias

    There are a few bloggers who who could probably manage to provide a marginally more compelling daily read if they merged into a single Irish politics blog – a bit like irisheconomy.ie manages to be more entertaining with its varied mix of economists than any one of its bloggers would be on his own. Irish politics are very boring since there is just a bland consensus underpinning it and not great ideological debates to it. I guess if you can be entertained by trivia, gossip and bland personalities then you might visit such a site daily but I doubt it. NI politics is much more interesting.

  • Only Asking

    NI politics is much more interesting.

    It is and that is because our politicians are adolescent, they brawl and squabble and even show their bare arse, compared to one feck off in the dial. Thats why northern discourse tends to be adolescent as well.

    I’m not sure the ‘subject ot approval’, is very inviting to people to come register and comment either. Looking at that makes me think what if I were to make a comment that doesn’t suit their approval? Wording a comment to curry favour with those in ruling positions of any blog is off putting. It may not limit free speech but it skews the debate.

  • Alias

    No, tantrums alone are of little interest – but the dynamics behind them are fascinating.

  • Only Asking

    No, tantrums alone are of little interest

    I’m not so sure about that;-). There was much blog talk around the time of some by elections and during the expenses scandal of public disengagement from politics over in Britain. Perhaps it is the same down below? I don’t think that disengagement is as bad here as it is else where, but will stand corrected if wrong. The antics engage peoples interest. I’ve seen the live blogs here and the live blogs else where, and the live stuff here is very civilised, but elsewhere I’ve seen their hair and suits and all sorts discussed in a laughable manner.

    It’s only my opinion, but if you want engagement let has engagement until a person crosses the mark, but registration limits engagement before it begins.

  • Well said Alan. Burns is talking absolute crap and he knows it, the whole point of blogging until the big boys felt there might be a buck in it, was to give space to what this minnow Burns calls “amateur” commentators and journalists. It is also what gives blogging its strength, because we bloggers either do not give a shit, or have no need of bending the knee to editors, press barons and powerful vested interests.

    We tell it as we see it. We are not in competition with newspapers, indeed most of us have absolute contempt for the journalists who put their name to the censored crap they churn out. There are exceptions, but they are in the minority. You cannot rise to the top of the Tabloid greasy pole without being a piece of human garbage. Offence taken I hope;)

    I would not even regard Guido as a blog, is simply a nasty little scandal sheet which relies totally on the Westminster pack, whether they be politicians journalists or scandal-mongers, and Guido is totally in hock to them, as it could not exist without them. He works on the basis of you scratch my itch, I will scratch yours.

    Burns is acting like a bunny rabbit caught in the headlines of a 40 ton lorry, not having the sense to move over, preferring instead to stand still, stare the Artic out; Splat.

    Just a final point Burns mentions news aggregation websites in his article, well most of these sites do not include blogs in their roundups, Nuzhound is an example of this. I have never understood why as they include comment from the mainstream and by and large that is what blogs do best.

  • Only Asking

    I would not even regard Guido as a blog, is simply a nasty little scandal sheet which relies totally on the Westminster pack, whether they be politicians journalists or scandal-mongers, and Guido is totally in hock to them, as it could not exist without them. He works on the basis of you scratch my itch, I will scratch yours.

    But mick, this is not about you, but whether or not blogs are good enough to visit every single day never mind several times a day. So Guido may be a nasty little sheet, but it is a popular nasty little sheet, and isn’t that what this is about?

    Perhaps you would consider visiting a blog every single day if it was simply from the loony left, ranting about its marxists and its trots, but not everyone is of that persuasion.

    It is also what gives blogging its strength, because we bloggers either do not give a shit, or have no need of bending the knee to editors, press barons and powerful vested interests.

    Ah… independence. Was there not something about this blog and channel 4? Teeny weeny blogs not visited by many may not give a shit, but if you want to rise above the shit pile at some stage giving a shit about things will enter the equation.

    It’s about reality Mick, not a marxist utopia in blogging…

  • For me there is no clear dividing line between blogging and journalism. There is just journalism that functions in a failing business model and journalism that has no business model at all.
    Some might argue that there is a distinction in professional status, but many newspaper journalists are inept and many bloggers are brilliant. There is no available insitutional endorsement of the journalist that says, you are the real thing now, apart from an editor wanting to publish the stuff. And editors are fickle.
    Professional journalists are often contemptuous of bloggers because they do the same job but for no money. They regard it therefore as like vanity publishing. And it queers the market. But we are a long way now from the days when the NUJ could run a closed shop and exclude the amateur.

    Burns may be whistling in the dark because the future of newspapers is not assured since they don’t know how to make money anymore. The future of blogging is assured, because people will do it for love.

    My advice to journalists is to recognise that the ship is going down and to diversify.

    BTW, anyone got any thoughts on podcasting? On Artstalk I blog interviews, readings and reviews, but do people want blogs that offer audio, and if so, how will they use them, downloading or just playing on the computer.

  • Only Asking

    I am fond of one site (not a blog but proper site) that colates the work of one commentator all in the one spot. This blog is not the work of the commentator but some Americans who think this guy is brilliant. They put up his podcasts along with his talks and his writings from various sources, and when they update they contact you. What I like about it is if he writes something, he’ll talk about it as well somewhere else, explaining and exploring it in his talks.

    So it is updated sporadically, and although there may not be time to listen to it at that particular time you can go back to it when you like.

    I’ve never listened to your podcasts malachi, nor really read your site, nor your writing because I simply don’t want to tune into nor read the subjects you raise. (Please don’t take offence at that)

    I guess its about subject matter as to whether or not people will go there or not.

  • Clanky

    The adolescents who are dominating the blogosphere both in Ireland and worldwide will eventually grow up and produce blogs which reflect that.

    The present generation of adults buy newspapers becasuse that is what we are used to. The next generation will get their news from the interwebz, not only because that is what they are used to doing, but because the quality of the info available on the web is likely to improve as todays adolescent bloggers mature and produce “serious” news content.

  • It is also what gives blogging its strength, because we bloggers either do not give a shit, or have no need of bending the knee to editors, press barons and powerful vested interests.

    We tell it as we see it. We are not in competition with newspapers, indeed most of us have absolute contempt for the journalists who put their name to the censored crap they churn out

    Mick Hall,

    Well, yes, but apart from Slugger (with the recent developments you probably consider as part of the Establishment now anyway) who’s actually listening to us telling it how it is? How much effect, again part from Slugger, do any of us pumping our stuff out on a daily basis on NI issues really have?

    We can only really talk about political blogging having a “strength” when it actually achieves real change and like it or not, it’s only the biggies like Guido and Slugger who do and have that capacity and potential.

  • Only asking

    For me the raison d’être of a good blog is it offers something the mainstream does not, it has absolutely nothing to do with the number of hits. For example an alternative political viewpoint, whether of the left or right interest me, as does a blog which specialises in recommending movies outside the Hollywood offerings, that type of stuff.

    One of the more influential blogs of late has been Transform, which deals with the futility of the prohibition of illicit drugs. I doubt it has that many visits a day, but it has played a massive role in placing this subject on the UK political agenda and offered an alternative.

    Getting a large readership does not necessary equal influence, effluence is often more likely. One day a couple of weeks ago my own blog had over 3000 individual hits, but as the subject I blogged on was Question Time it did not mean diddly-squat to me.

    Whereas if I blog on the lack of democracy in Turkey I am lucky to only get around 200 individual hits. For me it is a no brainer which is the more important subject of the two to place in the BloggerSphere. Nevertheless it does forewarn us not to get to far up our own arses.

    Oneilll

    I feel you are over exaggerating the power of the pen, whether it is used in newspapers or blogging. When has Guido changed anything of importance for the better? Without being offensive Slugger tail ends the mainstream media, hence its desire to become part of it. Nothing wrong with that if it is a bloggers wish, it is just personal ambition is not what motivates all of us.

    Look at Slugger of late, it has positioned itself firmly in the mainstream, one only has to look at who has recently been brought on board to understand that.

    If you look at the blogs in the US who get a large audience they are much the same, few if any started life as individual blogs, to gain the investment necessary to attract their audience, they have tailored their content so as not to upset their investors and powerful vested interests. The fact that, as far as I am aware, there is no well financed whistle blower blog highlights my point.

    Could we do more as bloggers, yes, far to many of us post similar content, I am mainly thinking of progressive bloggers here, I personally do not believe a single blogger can keep a blog interesting for 5 days a week. Some of us try but we all fail.

    Most have a life to lead and bread to place on the table and few have the dedication and energy of Mick Fealty, how he has managed to keep the wheels on slugger all those years amazes me, although having loyal colleagues helps I am sure.

    As someone has already said which newspaper columnists write 5 columns a week. I only know of one man who is prolific enough to try, Simon Jenkins. That he has a hinterland way beyond a single subject makes him rare amongst newspaper columnists and bloggers.

    The problem with blogging is to keep your audience and increase it you need to post 4 or 5 days a week, otherwise your numbers will drop.

    So why do we do such an unrewarding task, as I wrote, some see it as a chance to break into the mainstream, nothing wrong with that, others do it because they feel passionately about their subject/hobby/whatever.

    I use my blog http://www.organizedrage.com/ as a means to drop pebbles into the pond, in the hope that occasional they might cause a small ripple. Having said that; and I think I am talking for almost all bloggers when I say this, there is nothing better than seeing your number of visits gradually increase, first it moves to between about 20-50, you dream of the day you hit 100, then it slowly moves to 150, you dream of hitting the 200, when it first hits 300, you are over the moon and so on. The one thing that makes you as anxious as any mainstream newspaper editor is any sign of a fall in the number of visitors.

    Because when this occurs there is no way back. It is time to give up and pick up where you left off on the allotment. Which in the scheme of things, is in all probability a better way to spend ones time than blogging.

  • While there were a couple of good points in the article, I was very surprised that the author ever thought (a) that blogs were a perfect substitute for newspapers, and (b) that blogs were going to conquer all fields (including newspapers).

    The vast majority of blogs were only ever going to be people testing it out and then deciding it was an awful lot of hassle. The rise of Twitter is inextricably linked to the ease with which one can publish 140 characters many times a day, compared to 140 words many times a week.

    One thing he could have mentioned, but didn’t, and one thing that I think has been more unexpected, is the blurring of the lines between blogs and other websites, such as this august institution and irisheconomy.ie. For what it’s worth, WordPress and its ever growing army of plug-ins are extremely useful (but not necessary) in the growing blurring of the lines.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Ronan,

    Arthur C Clarke, recently recycled by Bill ‘I used to own the world’ Gates, once said of technology that everyone tends to overestimate its short term impacts and underestimate its longer term impacts. Mr Burns is sampling the short term hype and, rightly in my view, expressing scepticism.

    Look at the grown up he’s gone to (Gav) for quote, who basically tells him what he needs to know. Which is, don’t believe the hype. Blogging is only what blogging does. It’s as good as the people who do it.

    In recent times, Ireland (by which I really mean what we still call the Republic) has profited by in the massive inflow of intelligent comment from people like yourself Constantin, Deeter, O’Neill, Taft and other passionately committed (dare I say patriotic and increasingly public) intellectuals.

    The papers could not, of themselves, facilitate that inrush of free intellectual capital with the established means of production and distribution. Blogs have. And in Ireland, that is what they are notable for.

    Gav started a blog about a month after I began Slugger. We were both in Barcelona at the excellent Personal Democracy Forum (a ‘good’ US import) recently, and I recall a conversation in which he confessed that the difference between he and I was that I had very early on defined Slugger’s mission, whereas it had taken him about three years to work out what his was for.

    That he came late to it, matters not. That he has a useful purpose matters much more. I recall John Ihle (Backseat Drivers) on David McWilliams’ daytime RTE gig Lite Bite talking about convergence and saying something along the lines of “in ten years time you won’t be able to tell the bloggers from the journos’. The platform will be a shared one, not exclusively one dominated by the ‘irregulars’. And that will be driven and intensified by economic as much as technological disruption.

    For me, we have barely even scratched the surface of that disruption yet. In the meantime, I am hoping for much more and much better.

  • Mick Hall

    I feel you are over exaggerating the power of the pen, whether it is used in newspapers or blogging. When has Guido changed anything of importance for the better

    Well, the Daily Telegraph with its digging up of the expenses scandal did give the system one mighty shake-up…but that perhaps goes onto prove your second point, in comparison Guido’s Drapergate pales into insignificance.

    In a NI context, again it’s been the papers, or, in actuality, Gordon at the Tele who has shaken (slightly) those who need to be shaken; the blogs, including Slugger, have stuck with the analysis of that disruption rather than bothering with or having the capacity to cause any meaningful disrupting itself. Case in point is with Chekov at 3000 Thousand Versts, a consistently challenging and high standard of writing for over 2 years, but to a very large extent ignored by the political establishment. Does an opinion piece at the Tele, next day, almost, wallop, in comes Ian P Jr with a rebuttal.

    So why do we do such an unrewarding task, as I wrote, some see it as a chance to break into the mainstream, nothing wrong with that, others do it because they feel passionately about their subject/hobby/whatever.

    I use my blog http://www.organizedrage.com/ as a means to drop pebbles into the pond, in the hope that occasional they might cause a small ripple

    I blog now for myself primarily because I still enjoy writing about the things which interest me politically. Originally that thought of causing those ripples you speak about was also there but I soon realised tha,t even with the best crafted post in the world, it is a well-nigh impossible job to either change someone’s political views or cause even a minimal amount of “disruption” to the parts of the system I don’t agree with. Other country’s and region’s blogospheres do manage that second task but we in Northern Ireland are nowhere near being able to achieve it for a number of reasons, one of which I believe is the fact that, through no fault of its own, Slugger now completely dominates in terms of influence and readership the local scene.

  • Mick Fealty

    That Checkov gets the gig in the first place is a recognition for those two years of graft, surely?

    Slugger is seven and nearly eight years in and we are *only now* getting the recognition of the MSM. That does not mean there was not influence there before.

    And it does not mean that YOU are not influential either!!! You are (IMHO) one of few public facing unionists worthy of the name,

  • Chekov, I think, submitted the article as opposed to them asking him, so the reason they printed it was the quality of his writing as opposed to the fact that he’d been blogging to a similar high standard for the 2 years.

    I see what you’re saying about Slugger’s time in “the market” but I think also that market has changed and narrowed because of your predominance there…meaning that those of us following in your wake may be need to be more specific and focussed on what we concentrate on in order to produce any kind of meaningful result.

    Thanks for the compliment, but without wallowing too far in false modesty, to date I think it’s undeserved- with the UUP-Conservative bloggers specifically, the result of the selection procedures and on the wider level, how we can push debates in the election(s) next year will be our true test.

  • Oneill

    I wonder if now the war is over, (inshallah) whether the six counties is a big enough stage for a political blogger. The more so with politicians not being the top of most people charts or first port of call. I wrote long ago we will know when the war is over when politics in the north become as boring as an English Shire County, have we reached that stage yet?

    When you see some of the small minded and petty arguments which go on over there it does seem from here we may have reached that stage. As you seem to have pondered, is there enough space for more than a few good blogs which concentrate on six county politics alone.

    Happy Christmas to you and yours.

  • Alias

    Mick Hall, without exception, no individual journalist or blogger in the UK or Ireland has the power to change any government by propaganda or reasoned argument (try naming even one example). Acting collectively, however, the MSN may cause the public to vote for one centre-right party as opposed to another centre-right party, thereby changing only the few inconsequential policies that may distinguish them but nothing else. That MSN can only change the government and parliament that creates circa 20% of the laws that you will live by with the a government and a parliament that you do not elect and that is not accountable to you imposing the other 80% of the laws and rules that you will live by. If you want to change anything by your words, then you’re going to die a frustrated and angry old blogger – if you’re not that already. 😉

  • As you seem to have pondered, is there enough space for more than a few good blogs which concentrate on six county politics alone.

    At this stage, I think probably not, although thatstill doesn’t explain why a slightly bigger country such as Wales is able to produce a more vibrant blogosphere than we do here- there were over 60 Welsh political blogs appearing in Dale’s book this year, we struggled to get 20 in.

    Happy Christmas to you and yours

    And the same to you!