There has been another round of discussion about the European blogosphere and how it compares with the US scene as well as national blogospheres in different European countries. The debate was kicked-off by Ronny Patz at the new EUROPP@LSE Blog and was picked up by Bruegel’s new blog and Kantoos Economics.
The reasons cited for why the European blogosphere has not really kicked off are somewhat fuzzy. Apart from the language barrier, which is undoubtedly there, and the fact that print brands carry a big weight, I don’t think that Europeans generally want less debate (anybody who has ever written something about Europe for the Guardian’s CIF will know this) or lack aggregators like Mark Thoma in the US (he does a great job btw).
So what is happening in the European Blogosphere?
Here is my two pennies’ worth:
- I think it is wrong to talk about a uniform ‘blogosphere’ altogether. In the early days there was a distinction between blogs and mainstream media. But now some blogs have become mainstream media (Huffington Post) and pretty much all mainstream media have started to blog. In most national cases there are close links between the scenes. A blog is just a website with chronological entries. It doesn’t tell you at all what kind of publication strategy is followed so this label does not make much sense anymore.
- people who have made their names as individual bloggers were either early adopters and thus rare or were known for other reasons before (Paul Krugman for instance). On the EU level, there have been very few successful early adopters and very few people are known for being ‘European’ (the well known in-the-streets test of who knows their MEP, Commission President, …). There is no doubt that the Brussels world is disconnected from the life experience of most European citizens, so the ‘blogosphere’ (for lack of a better word) is a reflection of the broader picture and it is way too small to really be a force for bridging this gap.
- the rise of social media has led to a ‘professionalisation’ of blogs as many individual bloggers find it hard to sustain a personal blog with regular entries (necessary to build up a readership) and have moved to social media in many cases. This has led to the rise of multi-authored blogs, such as this one, that are more often than not sustained by an organisation or are professionalised by other means. Individual blogs were often driven by what the author wants to say, rather than what readers want to read. I think this has changed with multi-authored blogs too. SEJ syndicates some of the best content of interest to our readership on top of the exclusive content we produce (and syndicate – for instance via the Guardian content network). So the overall publication model is clearly reader-driven but leaves authors the space to say what they want.
- the rise of the internet has brought all media much closer together. Broadcast, print and internet only media compete in the same space that is likely to dominate the future. Everything is still very much in transition: most newspapers are still in economic decline and public service broadcasters such as the BBC were told to reduce their web offering as they have a competitive advantage because of their funding model. In between are gaps for high quality new media and successful individual blogs (although I predict there will be fewer of those in the future). This means that organisations sustaining professional blogs suddenly have also become media players.
Professional blogs could be a tool for bridging the gap between Brussels and European countries but too many of those are either just focussed on the Brussels bubble or read like a collection of press releases (or both). A public service European online newspaper would be a good start, but in the absence of a much bigger European media landscape any web publication dealing exclusively with European issues (SEJ seeks to link European with international and national issues) will have limited reach in my view.