Monday 15 March 2010

Blogs in the State of the Media report

The annual report written by the Project for Excellence in Journalism on the state of the American media has the following to say about blogs:
  • "The stories and issues that win the most attention in blogs and on Twitter differ substantially from the mainstream press.
  • "Between the two social media platforms, Twitter users strayed the farthest from the mainstream press. Blogs were a bit more traditional, at least in the sources they drew on.

  • "On both platforms, though, one clear characteristic was the ability of new media to quickly trigger and concentrate passionate debate and activity around a specific issue."
  • "In the 47 weeks studied during 2009, blogs and the mainstream press shared the top story just 13 times. The storyline shared most was the U.S. economic crisis (five weeks in all)."
  • "Blogs often filled the role adding analysis or debate when highlighting these stories. Following the shootings at Fort Hood, for instance, bloggers linked to straight news accounts, with some then expressing condolences to the families of the victims, while others quickly pivoted to discuss the role that the suspect’s religion may have played.

  • "In many other instances, the blogosphere mirrored talk radio, parlaying the story of the day into heated political arguments."

The report also suggested that "bloggers shared the mainstream press’s interest in public affairs, but through a much more opinionated lens", and that traditional journalistic outlets still did most of the original reporting. The vast majority of links on Twitter and blogs went to straight news reporting (86% and 83% respectively).

Researchers found that the lack of original stories on citizen news sites was due to a lack of resources. Often these sites were publishing less than one new story a day on average.

The PEJ research chimes with some of the concerns expressed by a few journalists that I have interviewed who have told me that blogs do not reliably provide them with new information.

More generally it seems blogs and traditional media (in the U.S.) have settled down to some extent and are undertaking separate roles in the mediasphere, largely co-existing rather than directly competing.

There are notable exceptions of course and it's not entirely clear what the project made of complexities such as a blog that sits on a traditional media website.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Episodes 1 & 2 of Blogworld on BBC World

Link to Blogworld blog.

The SuperPower season and the BBC's love for blogs

BBC SuperPower Season

The BBC will team up with Global Voices for a 'SuperPower' season on the Internet. Steve Herrmann reveals all in this blog post.
"As part of the BBC's SuperPower season - a special series on the internet - we will be teaming up with Global Voices, a non-profit blogging network of citizen journalists, to present a different range of perspectives and commentary from around the world."
It's a move described by one former BBC journalist as "long overdue". (And I know someone else at the Corporation who has been banging on about this sort of thing for some time.)

Meanwhile, BBC presenter Mishal Husain has been twittering away on the Superpower project asking whether the Internet is the greatest superpower the world has ever seen and the like.

The BBC's love for blogs...

Last week, the BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson described comments on his blog as "a waste of time" prompting to ask whether the BBC was "falling out of love with blogging". might have pointed out that Nick is still blogging away long after he started his first blog for the BBC way back in 2001. And that the BBC has started a new Arts blog recently, got this one and this one running properly at the back end of last year. Then there's this TV blog that started in February. And did I mention that Have Your Say has been turned into a blog too?

OK, so maybe there is not the 'first love' excitement of Paul Mason dodging behind the BBC's bike sheds to set up his Newsnight blog in the early days but the BBC and blogs appear to have settled down into a pretty committed long term relationship.

In any case, Nick was going after comments rather than blogging per se. I might have some sympathy with him if I attracted his level of comments on any blog I wrote. As it is I think I can say: "you don't know what you've got til it's gone".

But on a serious note it seems to me that comments remain a serious issue for the BBC and other media organisations. What to do with them? How to display them? Do you allow quantity to the detriment of quality? And if you go for 'quality' - whatever you decide that to mean - are you willing to suffer the inevitable accusations of censorship, bias etc (especially problematic when you're funded by a licence fee)?

To be honest, I'm glad it's somebody else's problem. In the meantime, I'll publish every comment I get. Unless it's spam. (Don't get any ideas, spammers.)

Totally free bonus interesting stuff section:
  • Match of the Day: Plaut/Whitehead/Horrocks/BBC World Service vs Geldoff/BandAid/NGOs/Ethiopia
  • What the BBC's Strategy Review really says about online.
  • The BBC have hired some consulting people to "work with them looking at the overlap between their enthusiastic entry into the world of social media (especially blogs) and their responsibility to be accountable to the people who pay their licence fee."

Thursday 4 March 2010

How the BBC Strategy Review misunderstands the blogosphere

Commenting on the much-covered BBC Strategy Review, Alfred Hermida pointed out that the BBC had described the blogosphere as "unruly" in the report. Here is the extract:
"Nor is the global democratisation of opinion and argument as straightforward as it appears. Above the vast and unruly world of the blogosphere, professional media power may actually concentrate in fewer hands. Individual plurality may increase but collective, effective plurality decrease—with societies around the world left with fewer reliable sources of professionally validated news. The risk of bias and misinformation and, in some countries, of state control, may grow. Again, public space is threatened."
Interestingly, this also visualises the professional media as sitting "above" the blogosphere. Which leaves me wondering whether the BBC also see their own blogs as sitting in the blogosphere, 'below' the "professional media", or whether their blogs simply do not belong in the "unruly world of the blogosphere".

Surely the former can't be the case as there has been much made of how the BBC's blogs conform to the same professional standards of accuracy, impartiality and fairness as all their other content. And it seems to me that they do.

Maybe then the latter is true: the BBC's blogs do not belong in the "unruly world of the blogosphere". Certainly it would seem strange to describe the BBC's blogs as "unruly", but not all blogs are "unruly" and I would argue that as they nevertheless remain 'blogs' they still sit within the blogosphere.

It seems the problem then, here, is the addition of the adjective "unruly" to the blogosphere and the decision to describe the professional media as an entity which is separate to the blogosphere.

In fact, dividing the blogosphere and the professional media in this way doesn't make much sense any more in a way that it might (possibly) have done at the beginning of the 21st Century.

Since the development of blogging some bloggers and blogs have become part of the professional media and some members of the professional media have become bloggers or have adopted the blog as a format.

Perhaps it would have been better to use the word mediasphere and note that within that there is a both a blogosphere and a professional media that overlap and intersect. And that within the blogosphere there is undoubtedly a significant "unruly" element. (You might also highlight that there are also some "unruly" elements within the professional media.)

Of course, I've just read way too much into one line of a much longer report. There were clearly more important things to address in the Strategy Review than a conceptual discussion of the blogosphere.

But this blog wouldn't be a blog if it wasn't at least a tiny bit "unruly" in its overly miniscule dissection of the odd sentence here and there, right?

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