I started writing a blog around four years ago. It was actually this very site, Syntagma, when it was a participant in the American tech blogosphere, probably the most developed and literate part of the blog scene.
Later, I moved away from a precise blog format and began concentrating on finance worldwide, then British politics.
In the early days, the tech blogosphere was dominated by techmeme.com, an aggregator site that pushes posts up the ladder of a river of news depending on the number and importance of the links coming into them.
Techmeme monitored 1000 sites then, including Syntagma, so we often appeared in the list.
Occasionally a massive squabble broke out involving A-list tech bloggers, like Robert Scoble, Jason Calacanis, Dave Winer and others. I quickly learnt that this was deliberate “link baiting”, a process that drags in links, and traffic, from everyone trying to jump on the bandwagon. The idea was to get Google-juice, which pushed up your PageRank and thus earned you more search traffic.
These blogs could not charge for their often high-quality material, so they depended on Google’s Adsense “pay-per-click” advertising system, and some affiliate programs, to finance the work. It explains the rather shrill tone of the blogosphere, compared with the stately progress of broadsheet newspapers.
As I’ve only joined the British political website scene in the past year or so, I’m aware of how small it is compared to the US tech and political blogospheres.
The left is waywardly adrift in the bracing, freedom-loving air of the blog frontier. The likes of Derek Draper perceive it as an opportunity to smear, close down, and generally harry anyone who disagrees with them. They are totally out of kilter with both the potential and the netiquette of the medium.
John Prescott’s humour, and ability to laugh at himself, stands him out as a possible survivor. A few others on the left “get it”, but not many.
Some blogs are read because they are snarky and rude, but the material reflects the readership. The best are cool, informative and as accurate as it’s possible to be writing from a small office or bedroom outside Westminster. Some bloggers have journalistic or other writing backgrounds — they tend to be the best.
Is small beautiful? It’s different, and if done with a deft touch, makes a good contribution to politics in Britain.
I’m not one of those people who thinks blogs will destroy national newspapers — they are all online in any case. Nor do I think the nationals are so superior they will easily swat away the gadflies of small-time blogs.
I have enough tree-rings in the trunk to view the predicted loss of national newspapers with dismay. I couldn’t imagine waking up without the morning papers. Besides, reading everything online is bad for the eyesight. I’ve known a few bloggers who have developed serious eye problems.
Blogs are getting better all the time. Some academic, business and technical blogs provide sober, accurate material of a quality and relevance not found elsewhere. Like choosing your daily paper, it’s a matter of personal selection.
My guess is that as news migrates online, it will become terser and briefer, mobile oriented. Twitter is a sign of the times. Commentary, op-eds and personal opinions are ideal for high-quality blogs, which need to establish an audience through relevance and readability. Most of them will also need to make money, which is not easy.
The question at the top of this piece is: Will bloggers bring down Gordon Brown? Guido’s emails were sent to Sunday papers where they made a much bigger splash than on his blog.
They triggered an almost unprecedented tide of disgust from commentators on the left. Senior Labour people are also weighing in.
Brown must feel beleaguered in his Downing Street bunker. One can imagine even Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell silently going to ground as Brown has done on many occasions in the past.
The weight of all this approbrium will surely convince him of two things: one, he can’t win the next election and, two, waiting around for it to happen is not worth the strain to himself and his family.
If he does go, the history books will record that Paul Staines, the blogger at Guido Fawkes website, set the ball rolling. It will be a major scalp for blogging and online writers in the field.