Blogging and elections - Your views required

BBC Radio Norfolk phoned me up today as "one of the pre-eminant bloggers in the region" (I exagerate, they never said that) to discuss the role that I thought blogging would play in this election and campaigning. I am going in to do a piece with them next week about this and I have my own views of the relative unimportance of blogs.

Aside from the Uber Bloggers (Iain Dale, et al), do the rest of us make a difference ?

Blogs are, I know, a very good way of getting news out fast, which was evident from Chris Grayling and the Tory homophobia stories from last weekend. But aside from getting news out quickly to a very small audience, does blogging really affect mainstream opinion ?

I feel that bloggers are famous in their own back yards and that for 99% of the population blogs are completely unimportant, but for 1% of people, who had mostly already got strong party affiliations, they are important as a means of legitimised ranting. So in many ways blogs do little to really influence people.

But what do you think ? Leave some comments and let me have your views on how blogging will make a difference in this election.


Bill said...

I live in St Neots in Cambridgeshire, I read a local blogger (snredneck) who has a bit of a thing about the town council. He pointed out our independent (of whom I wasn't aware) and of whom I will give serious attention.

Last time I looked (a while ago), he had four followers on twitter!

Excellent blog by the way

PS I'm a Cons with UKIP tendencies.

Oranjepan said...

blogs fulfill a variety of ever-evolving roles, so really it's more a question of how you position yours, finding a receptive audience which will enable you to reach out beyond it and have a wider impact.

My own blog is less a site where news can be broken, but rather a digest which enable the guaging of the scale of public reaction and provides some feedback.

This is quite effective as it keeps the more important stories alive longer and it also subjects the public statements of each side to their counterarguments where they'd otherwise be ignored. This fills an important scrutiny role, which regularly enables important snippets of information to reenter the news stream.

The local media use my site as a form of news agency which can often mean I'm in a good position to influence the way their stories are written by ensuring they provide more rounded reports (we have one Labour-supporting bi-weekly, a Ukip-supporting weekly as well as a tory radio station to go with the local BBC). The simple existence of a blogosphere is forcing them to make subtle changes.

So I'd say the independent nature of blogging (the partisan sites are quickly uncovered as a different method of publishing group press releases) does increase the pluralism on offer and force the media as a whole to be more balanced by accounting for a wider range of sources.

I don't think any individual blogs can be considered mainstream, but the mass of personalised and specialist interests covered through the medium of blogging has changed the centre of gravity of the political debate.

There is no longer a single dominant media form, so it becomes increasingly difficult to control from the centre with general messages. Instead politics has become all about consistently targetted messaging - something LibDems were well ahead of the curve in identifying.

Norfolk Blogger said...

Bill, I'm Lib Dem with UKIP tendancies (which will surprise those who don't know me and be no surprise to people who really know me)

Orangepan - Thanks. All useful stuff

Peter Shaw said...

Hi Nich

I suppose it depends upon the blog, and who the blog is targeted at.

If, like me a blogger focuses on holding one local party in one city to account, then it can have an effect.

You only have to look at the way that South Tyneside Independent Alliance have changed their behaviour after taking fire from local bloggers and the electorate.

It's pretty bloody, but it works.

Pip pip

The Fat Councillor

Norfolk Blogger said...

Thanks Peter

dazmando said...

I like to think that Bracknell blog has had an effect on the stories broken here. Like the cllr who was claiming benefits while working or Andrew Mackay and even the open primary. But I dont think my blog has effected anyones vote as I dont try to convince readers to vote Lib Dem. If I did try in infulence things I would lose my readers.

So im summary a blog has a small effect on the outcome even the biggest blogs.

Archbishop Cranmer said...

It is His Grace's experience that blogs can have considerable impact in places and upon people one would least expect.

It is not dependent on a mass following, but on a consistent quality of relevant output. Those blogs which descend into comment anarchy cease to offer rational discourse: the blogs that work are those upon which the dialogue is genuine, philosophical and affecting.

The Ghost of Joe Strummer said...

No effect at all

I read them to remind me just why you should be ignored.

Norfolk Blogger said...

Which was my original point ! I was starting to doubt myself.

That said, you took the effort to write something so perhaps this actually gives away your true feelings ??

Senior said...

I don't think blogs influence people. People tend to like the views of people who agree with them, so they are more likely to read blogs by people who have similar views to them.

It seems that the most popular blogs are blogs hosted by media organisations such as newspapers and the BBC, and party-political blogs. In the case of media blogs, their popularity is the result of being given publicity by the organisations which manage them. In the case of party-political blogs, I think their popularity is gained because other people who support the same party will link to those blogs on their blogs. I think bloggers who don't support a political party will always find it more difficult to attract readers.

Having said all that, I don't think the vast majority of people know what a blog is, so blogs won't influence them.

the credo - thecredouk@googlemail.com said...

We're actually monitoring this particular story quite closely - with regard to how social media affects this election.

Fire us off an email and perhaps we can have a chat.

Peter Shaw said...

Nich, by way of an update to my last comment, and in answer to your general question, yes bloggers certainly can have an impact on elections.

Earlier this week, I revealed that a candidate in the upcoming South Tyneside local elections had an extensive criminal history, taking in such pastimes as drug dealing, theft, and burglary.

Yesterday, another blogger and myself called for his head. Today it was announced that he had been replaced.

Citizen journalism at work...

BTW, if you decide to visit the blog, be aware that my alter ego, the Fat Councillor is fond of the odd profanity.

Pip pip

jailhouselawyer said...

I think blogs are important as evidence of the new media. Just look at how many of the MSM now operate blogs.

Follow the money, internet advertising has replaced newspapers and TV as the main source of revenue. This is influence.

My readership is not from my own backyard, rather it is national and international. I do local media interviews, and national media, but it is the international ones, particularly from Europe, which I feel have the most influence. For example, this programme is broadcast in English to a global audience (I come in about 9 minutes in).Network Europe.

Next week I am doing an interview with AFP (Agence France-Presse)"AFP is the world's oldest news agency. Our global network spans 165 countries and includes over 2,000 journalists. We produce 5,000 stories a day for more than 7,000 clients worldwide and work in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic".

Brown, Cameron, and Clegg are at their weakest in the run up to the general election. And, as the Tories have stated that Labour's tactic is to keep the Prisoners Votes Case out of the media until after the general election, it is no accident that adverse media reports will be coming from Europe. This is the influence of blogs.

JonnyB said...

I can't say that I've seen many political blogs that don't tend to entrench opinion rather than try to win over unconverted non-political animals. Even the most reasonable of them often seem to get very tribal in the comments boxes.

But I might not have seen enough of them... it's not really 'my area'.