Friday, January 27, 2012

No more than a rounding error

I had a long talk with Autonomous Mind the other day about the state of the political blogosphere in the UK.

Unfortunately, we were forced to conclude that the independent sector (as opposed to the clogosphere, comprising the efforts of the MSM, plus sundry politicians and interest groups) had not taken off in the manner of the US blogs and was still struggling to get its voice heard.

Now, confronted with this on the Daily Mail website, we see the size of the task before us, as even the best of us is no more than a rounding error, compared with that hit rate.

Nevertheless, I am not particularly depressed. For me, blogging is also a research tool which I apply to other fields of activity, while the forum has developed into a community of its own which has a value which transcends mere numbers.

Then, of course, much of the Mail traffic is drawn to its "sleb" coverage which, as presented, is very little more than soft porn. And it says something of the power of the internet (and the human condition) that porn is the most popular sector. Thus, feeding that obsession gets easy hits.

Then we have the sport coverage - and the tittle tattle, the usual diet of trash which provides the mainstay of MSM coverage. In terms of the ground covered by the independent blogosphere, the Mail figures will only be a fraction of its gross figures. We are not as far apart as the gross figures would indicate.

Nevertheless, AM and I did agree that there is something in the British character – a leaden, conformist tendency – which makes readers reluctant to turn to the blogs.

From my own personal perspective, I am a professional writer and researcher. The material that goes on this blog is of the same quality, but of much greater depth and breath, than my occasional pieces in the MSM. Yet, while my MSM pieces will benefit from the brand-name platforms and attract hundreds of thousands of hits, the same pieces on the blog will attract only thousands.

Similarly, a significant number of Booker column stories are based on posts published on this blog, yet even when Booker specifically draws attention to that, such as in the Concordia piece, we see no discernible increase in our hit rate. People will read it on the Sunday Telegraph site, but not on the blog.

Thus, I conclude that my relatively modest hit rate is neither my fault nor, in some respects, my problem. I can do no more than write as best I can, on a wide range of topics, with the best and most careful research I can manage. On top of that, the blog is professionally designed, is well presented and its graphics and picture selection are a cut above the rest. I really can do no more.

To that extent, as regards the wider audience, I am casting pearls before swine. People do not read blogs because they don't want to read blogs - that is nothing to do with what we are and what we produce. They want to stay in their comfort zones, with the information pre-packaged and served up to them in bite-sized chunks, free from any "disturb" factor. That is their fault, not mine and it is not within my power to change it.

Unfortunately, that consigns us, in volume terms, to be being no more than a rounding error, in comparison with the bigger MSM sites (the second biggest being the New York Times). Fortunately, though, when it comes to making changes, it is not the meek, but the "rounding errors" who shall inherit the earth.

Are we thus downhearted? Not in the least bit.