How rich institutions, the big parties and the mass media have colonised the blogosphere

This post was written by Reuben on February 23, 2012
Posted Under: Uncategorized

It occurred to me recently that we at The Third Estate hadn’t interacted much with fellow bloggers lately. So to jog my memory of who was out there I went over to Wikio. Using a metric that I can’t be bothered to explain, wikio lists the most “influential” blogs in order of ranking. What I saw there was fairly depressing. Looking over the top 40 I was struck by how few genuinely independent bloggers were still up there.

Sure, the brilliant Stumbling and Mumbling is still riding high. As is that clever and entertaining reactionary, Archbishop Cranmer. But the trend is clearly towards major institutions and those backed by institutions. Many of the biggest blogs these days are, in fact, the online columns of journalists working for mainstream media outlets, like John Rentoul or Benedict Brogan. Coming in at number three is the Guardian’s “Pure Politics Blog”. At  number 1 is Left Foot Forward, a rather good if rather wonky effort, that receives £70,000 of annual funding, alongside sites like fullfact that are back by Joseph Rowntree. And then there are those that enjoy q close relationship with the upper echelons of the mainstream parties.

Now, I’m not naive enough to believe all the of cadswallop gets talked  about the democratising power of social media. But  for a while, the blogosphere genuinely did seem to be a space that was characterised by a degree of independence from society’s big institutions. If you don’t believe me take a look at wikio’s top 30 blogs from back in 2009. You will see many colourfully independent characters like Old Holborn (much as I despise his politics) and Chicken Yoghurt. Back then it really was possible for a witty, dedicated individual to become very prominent in the world of blogging.

But how much does this matter? Well, when the media-ownership rests in so few hands, when politics is dominated by a duopoly (sorry Clegg), the increasing dominance of major institutions over hitherto independent spaces really does matter. The MSM’s involvement with blogging would be a bit more healthy if its journalists made a bit of an effort to go native – i.e. to link and refer to other blogs, rather just their buddies in the press. When newspapers publish online columns and call them blogs, I can’t help thinking that we’ve been Lan Del Reyed. Lana, for those who don’t know is the new music superstar. Her huge record company launched her by pretending she was a nobody who’d built up a following on youtube etc. As such she got the benefit of huge corporate backing, while simultaneously leeching off the excitement that is created by the phenomenon genuinely independent musicians finding fans on youtube and myspace.

It’s time for independent bloggers to stand up for, and support, each other. Those of us who are lucky enough to have a bit of a following have usually been helped a long the way by the kind attention of other bloggers. Let’s make more of an effort to link to, and draw attention to other independent bloggers. And let’s help the new generation of brilliant independent bloggers get the audience they deserve.

Feel free to cross-post. If you do, a link to The Third Estate would be much appreciated.

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Reader Comments

Yes this is a particular issue with left wing blogs/sites here is some research I did on this subject

This is what I wrote about this site “There are no links to external sites above the fold, under the fold the is what looks like an aggregater called the buzz not shore if this is human moderated? it links to external storeys. It has about 142 links according to google”

Written By hamishcampbell on February 23rd, 2012 @ 11:21 am

Your criticisms are generally valid
- as is the main point you make on the form – and it is something I would like us to address. Still, not sure we can be described, as a “general political blog”! We are decidedly, though pluralisticly, red!

Written By Reuben on February 23rd, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

I have added a post on the forum about what we are doing about this issue get in touch if you are interested in getting involved in this.

Written By hamishcampbell on February 23rd, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

Talking about 2009 as back in the day is a sign you’re getting too young!

But, more seriously, you’re right.

Written By BobFromBrockley on February 24th, 2012 @ 5:18 am
Matt Wardman

Having had a look through the top 50 or so, Reuben, I’m more optimistic than you are. Roughly 40% properly independent, and a good variety.

I think the “prominent blogosphere = opposition” effect is now established.

Personally I think that they shot their bolt when they overtuned for Twitter, though I agree that some institutional blogs should be filtered out.

I’ll not comment on LFF :-) , though the more people I disagree with rely on it, the better it is for my politics.

Written By Matt Wardman on March 3rd, 2012 @ 8:15 am

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