Tag: bloggingportal

Blogging, content discovery and the European public sphere

bloggingportal-5-years

This week we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of bloggingportal – our little EU blog aggregator. Obviously the tech is a bit dated by now, the design is – let’s say – suboptimal, and also the internet has changed dramatically since 2009. Five years ago twitter and facebook were not that ubiquitous, blogs were still considered to be “the future” and everyone seemed to be rather optimistic about the potential of social media for democracy, transparency and the development of a so-called European public sphere. Anyway, the underlying question here is whether we still need a service like bloggingportal? Are blogs still relevant? Do we still need a website dedicated to a form of niche blogging?

The changing nature of blogging

The “death of blogging” is obviously one of those topics every blogger loves to blog about.  But it is more complex than that: blogging may not be one of those online hypes anymore but blogs have not disappeared, they still exist. In a way, blogs have become part of the the mainstream. Blogging has been so successful that all mainstream media outlets followed the concept – either by opening  a “blog platform” or simply by creating a comment box under each article -  or by adopting a blogging style in journalism, you know, this sort of quick opinionated real-time journalism. In other words, online journalism is often like live blogging used to be. Nosemonkey has more on this.

The changing nature of journalism also had an impact on blogs and potential bloggers. If you are a young ambitious writer would you  start your own blog or would you go directly to the Huffington Post. Comment is free or medium  -  or is  writing for one of the various politically affiliated platforms a better bet (and a better career choice)? Another option would be a focus on google+, twitter and facebook. There are so many new online magazines and platforms that look for people that are interested in writing – why start a new blog and invest a lot of time in making a name for yourself?

But this quick (online) journalism is always a bit sloppy. As an audience we also  have developed a rather short attention span when it comes to political reporting. It seems that the number of clicks is more important than the quality of a story;  shitstorms replace political discourse and the new rule is: “If it is not on twitter it did not happen” (and whatever buzzfeed does is great).  And unfortunately the blogosphere loves it and many bloggers play along. But it could also provide the context for a blogging renaissance – with a focus on fact-checking,  long form and the sort of background stuff that the mainstream media is not doing anymore. But unfortunately the opposite is true – at least when it comes to EU focused blogs or even political blogs – there are hardly any new ones that stay active for more than a few months. A lack of interest? A problem of incentives?

Social media and the problem of content discovery in the European public sphere

This is not only about blogs anymore but generally about “alternative” or “non-mainstream content”. The idea of bloggingportal has always been simple: discover interesting blog content on EU affairs in different languages. Why? Because there are interesting things out there that go beyond the rather narrow interests of mainstream media. Alternative views, background stories, fact-checking and general EU geekery.

But any form of ‘content discovery’  is also a question of habits. The internet is an interesting case study of how people change their behaviour when it comes to news consumption, ‘content discovery’ and the subsequent interaction with any of the content. Is anyone still using RSS readers to scan more individual sources – or have we reached that point where most people “discover” new content only on their facebook or twitter feed?  Do we really consume news by using various sources or do we rely on one of the big news providers? And what about debates? They seemed to have moved from blog comments to twitter or facebook. We might have arrived in the filter bubble without noticing. The rise of the social media giants made it also more difficult for individual alternative voices to break into the mainstream. The early adopters have a clear advantage – more followers can mean more influence, early adopters could be seen as the new gatekeepers.

What does this mean for bloggingportal? The European public sphere seems to exist only through the lens of the various national discourses. It is a challenge for any pan-European media services to break into the national sphere. The end of presseurop was a powerful reminder how challenging  it is to make an impact – and how difficult it is to create a sustainable service.

So, this blog post included more questions than answers – feel free to use the old-fashioned blog comments to provide some answers. Is there still a need for a service like bloggingportal? Or more generally: How do you discover “new content” these days?

4 years Bloggingportal.eu

Happy Birthday, bloggingportal!

3loggingportal.eu

Three years of bloggingportal. And what a journey it has been. I remember sitting around a huge table in a flat in Brussels – with a certain Jon Worth and the (back then) mysterious Brusselsblogger – dreaming up something that is now known as bloggingportal. Well, resources were scarce and it took us only another year to launch the actual website in January 2009.  As I said at a conference a few years ago: “Three people, one idea, no money” (hey – I always wanted to quote myself in a blog post!)

Ironically I am blogging this while sitting at exactly the same (and now truly) legendary table in a flat in London… Well, in many ways I would not be here without bloggingportal and all the people I met through the project. So thanks a lot for all your help and support!

We have learnt a lot over the last three years – especially how not to do things. But I guess this is how it has to be. The problem is still the same: We are a bunch of enthusiastic people without a real structure, without money and without much time on our hands. It is a bit like herding anarchist and hungry cats…

So what does the future hold for bloggingportal? I  blogged about our problems in the past and called for a bigger EU blogosphere. As you can imagine not much has been solved – although EU blogging has arguably grown somehwat. To get an idea about the debate on the future of bloggingportal head over to BrusselsbloggerRonny Patz  and Mathew Lowry’s Tagsmanian Devil who all have written more substantial blog posts on the issue.

If you are reading this and you are thinking “well this blogginportal stuff may be a fun thing to do…” – why not get in touch ?  I think we do need people with fresh ideas who are motivated to invest some time in developing the website as well as the bloggingportal concept (whatever that is…). Because it is simple: The media landscape has changed, blogging has changed – even the EU has changed (well, ok this is  debatable!). So maybe bloggingportal needs to change too!

PS. I am not dead – honest. Pseudo-regular blogging resumes as soon as possible… (Reason: new job in London & flat-hunting)

Bloggingportal proudly presents: Council live blogging. The #EUpilot.

A small step for the EU institutions… -  or a small step for bloggers? (sorry for this piece of plagiarism)

Anyway, it was a world premiere:  The  first time ever that bloggers were accredited (as bloggers!) to an official EU institution! OK, it was just a pilot project but nevertheless a very interesting endeavour – now a lot depends on whether the EU institutions continue the process and whether there are actually enough bloggers that would be interested.  At the moment I am quite optimistic for the former but not for the latter.

If you have not followed the story: The idea of getting a press accreditation for bloggers at EU institutions has been discussed for quite a while in the blogosphere and within the institutions.  The #EUpilot however would not have happened without the Hungarian Council Presidency.  As part of their “Blogger outreach” (also a novelty in the institutional machinery in Brussels!) they organised several background briefings with Bloggingportal.eu editors and other bloggers (unfortunately I missed all of them so far…) Anyway blogger press accreditation would have not been possible without these meetings and the determined officials of the Hungarian Council presidency.  Thanks a lot for this – and let’s hope other presidencies and other institutions (!) learn from this pilot project! (It is actually a weird twist that the most secretive EU institution was involved in the pilot project – and not the most obvious one: the European Parliament!)

What happened in the Council you might ask? Well, this week there were two bloggers that covered the EU Competitiveness Council (and parts of the Foreign Affairs Council). But you should really read the original stuff including the preparatory blogging and the live tweeting:

Preparatory blogging: I, II (and a  German translation!)

Live blogging day 1

Live blogging day 2

#EUpilot on twitter

So, thanks a lot @ronpatz and @europasionaria for a great blogging and tweeting coverage! Let’s hope that some journalists read the stuff and re-consider their strategies on how to cover council meetings – and how to make it more interactive and interesting. It is really not rocket science ;-)

But why is this pilot project so important?

My two basic (and possibly naive) cents:  Treating bloggers like journalists is important because of two reasons. First of all, bloggers are citizens and basically every citizen can become a blogger without much effort. (ok, you need to open a blog and start writing…) The point is that not only journalists but also non-journalists have access to formerly restricted institutional environments. You don’t need to work for a newspaper or have a press pass to have access. Second, it can be a (small and symbolic) step for  institutions to open up to normal citizens. Not because it is that exciting to cover press conferences and do some doorstep interviews – no because it can help demystifying  institutional practices and it can become useful in challenging myths. It might even improve press coverage and can increase public scrutiny (at least theoretically). Obviously if we think about transparency in EU institutions this is hardly enough – a lot of other stuff remains to be done!

Now, what is the the way forward?

First of all, I think, we need to spread the word a bit. For the EU institutions it was quite an achievement. At the same time it is good to know that with a bit of determination a handful of officials can make things happen. So please spread the word.

The aim is to get a permanent, institutionalised and easy procedure that would allow bloggers to have the same rights as accredited journalists within the EU institutions.

But we also need to get more bloggers on board. Not only ‘eurobloggers’ but also subject specialists. Most EU policies are sector specific, so coverage is often difficult for generalists – and generalists do not necessarily contribute to a better media coverage. We hope there will be similar opportunities so if you are a blogger and you want to get involved in future events and campaigns do follow bloggingportal and/or contact us!

The problem is obviously Brussels. Most bloggers that might consider participating in such a process do not live in Brussels. Travelling to some EU meeting is out of the question – it is a budget and a time issue. Most bloggers do have proper jobs. So even if the EU opens up for bloggers I suspect that not many will take advantage of this.  Somehow a blogging link between the EU level and the national and subject spheres needs to be established. Any ideas are most appreciated – although there are enough ideas but not enough people that get involved.

Budapest, we have a problem: #Censorbán

And it is a major problem:  Hungary’s new media law.

Bloggingportal.eu launched a European Blog Action against Censorship in Hungary and also provides a good round-up of reactions and some background documents (just go through the comment thread!)

I don’t want to repeat the points that were made elsewhere. It is never a good idea to pass a law that can be used (even if nobody wants to use it in a specific way) to increase political control over the press. Even the slightest possibility of a a problematic legal clause needs to be addressed. Press and media freedom are too important for democracy in Europe. Simple as that.

cc by-nc-saAs you know Hungary will take over the Council Presidency of the EU in January 2011. And there is even a new blog by the HU presidency.  So feel free to voice your concern about the new law. Obviously they are not amused about the critical reactions and claim that the Council Presidency has nothing to do with Hungarian politics. But the new media law seems  such a major problem that I think it is a legitimate thing to do.  And anyway, the Council Presidency is organised by the Hungarian government… It would be a major embarrassment if the Council presidency was overshadowed by the media law…

So let’s take a picture of Viktor Orbán and transform him into Viktor #Censorbán  (yes it is inspired by  schäublone, #zensursula & #censilia). Basically it is a wordplay of Viktor Orban and Censorship. In other languages one could use Zensorban or Cenzorbana… the idea is quite flexible. Feel free to use, remix and share the picture (cc by-nc-sa).  As you will notice, I am not a professional photoshop/gimp user and I did not have a good picture of Orban in the first place. So any quality improvements are much appreciated. Not sure whether this also makes sense in Hungarian as I do not speak the language. (so if you speak Hungarian leave a comment with improvements!) I know that it should rather read “Censorban Viktor” but well, let’s say it is designed for an international audience.

But there are a couple of things that we should think about in more detail:

First of all: It seems to me that media freedom and internet freedom are increasingly attacked by democratic governments around the world and Europe is following the trend. There are two principal strategies:

Option No 1:  A government wants more control over the press or the internet. It is interesting to think about why this happens more frequently ( – and not understanding the internet is a big part of it)  Usually it is framed as a security problem: “We need to know more about terrorist networks” or it is about the children: “We have to protect our children” .  It can also be the  result of intense industry lobbying to “protect customers and offer a better product” or it is connected to copyright issues.  All these claims are very difficult to challenge in any campaign. (but it is not impossible!) Just think about the French internet blocking law, a couple of German internet laws (from “zensursula” to “JMStV”) or even international negotiations that include internet related articles such as ACTA. The debate on net neutrality can also be cited in this context. But the Hungarian law seems to go one step further as it us  includes all types of media plus a governmental media watch dog…

Option No 2:  A toxic combination of private and public interests mixed with strange business models, corruption and media monopolies. For example Murdoch in the UK, Berlusconi in Italy or the general level of corruption in Bulgaria that also affects the media. This is usually a gradual but equally dangerous process. (but also a topic for another blog post…)

The main question for the EU:  What to do with those countries? The accession process is a straight forward process: Copenhagen criteria and conditionality prevent countries to adopt certain laws.  However, once a country joined the EU there are not many possibilities to interfere with laws that might not be in the “spirit of the EU”. Italy or France can get away with laws that would not be allowed under a strict accession regime. And it is similar in the case of Hungary.  So what could be done? Ignoring certain people  in Council meetings (it did not work with Austria), reduce or stop payments of the cohesion funds/CAP or a suspension of voting rights in the Council? To impose a supervisory mechanism (mixed results in Romania and Bulgaria)?  I am not convinced any of this would have an effect. But  do we really need a new legal tool regarding fundamental freedoms?

The main question for the blogosphere: How to campaign against the various laws and legal practices that restrict press freedom  (not only Hungary)? Media freedom in other (European) countries  should be of concern for the (European) blogoshphere(s).  So the question is whether this topic could potentially become a pan-European topic?  There have been great blogging campaigns in Germany and France relating to press and internet freedom. We need to learn from successful campaigns in other EU countries and replicate the most efficient tools. And especially for  smaller countries  support from the rest of the EU might be crucial to run effective campaigns. In fact, it is one of the few topics that resonate with all national (political) blogospheres in Europe -  which is not a surprise as every blogger can identify with the potential problems of a proposed law.

So what should be done with the Hungarian media law? Let’s  keep the topic on the agenda, use the Council presidency to get  EU wide media coverage – and embarrass the Hungarian government.

Update 27/12: Now you  can also follow @censorban on twitter…

Update 30/12: SME Dennik, one of the biggest daily newspapers in Slovakia, mentions the bloggingportal campaign alongside the Censorban pic (although attributed to bloggingportal.eu which is not a problem – but a factual mistake) Anyway, the article can be found in the print (e-paper) and online version of the paper!

Bloggingportal event in London: Programme now available!

In case you are wondering what has happened to this mysterious bloggingportal event in London… Well, we have an incredible  programme (see below) and there seems to be quite some interest among bloggers and journalists.  So if you would like to attend this event please let us know as soon as possible. Just send an email  to info[at]bloggingportal.eu to reserve a place.

I also would like to thank eurogoblin who did an amazing job in organisig this event (while living in Africa for most of the time!). Well done Joe!

EVENT PROGRAMME:

WHEN: 10th December 2010 – 13:00 – 18:00

WHERE: Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3EU

WHAT:  Bloggingportal.eu proudly presents:  A non-partisan event exploring the different ways bloggers and journalists can cover the EU in Britain.

EVENT PROGRAMME

13:00 – EVENT START / REGISTRATION / SANDWICH LUNCH

13:45 to 15:15 – FIRST PANEL – “The EU in the British Media”
We’ll be asking our panelists about the coverage of the EU in the British press. Do the media generally do a good job of “keeping tabs” on the EU? Is it true that British euroscepticism is driven by the media, or are the media just following public opinion?

PANELISTS:

David Rennie – Political Editor and Bagehot Columnist, The Economist
Paul Staines – Blogger, Guido Fawkes
Mats Persson – Director, Open Europe
J Clive Matthews – Blogger, Nosemonkey’s EUtopia

15:15 – COFFEE BREAK

15:45 to 17:45 – SECOND PANEL – “The EU in the British Blogosphere”
In this panel, we’ll be turning a critical eye on the British blogosphere. Do bloggers have any advantages over mainstream journalists when writing about the EU? Are bloggers better informed and freer to say what everybody is really thinking? Unconstrained by deadlines and editorial oversight, can they delve deeper into a story? Or are they just under less pressure to maintain levels of accuracy and ethical behaviour?

PANELISTS:

Bruno Waterfield – Brussels Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph, Europe Not EU blog
Gawain Towler – UKIP / Europe of Freedom and Democracy Press Officer and Blogger, England Expects
Antonia Mochan – Head of Media, EU Commission Representative in the UK,  Talking about the EU
Jon Worth – Blogger, Jon Worth’s Euroblog

Both panels will be moderated discussions, including time for questions from the audience. There will be wifi provision and a charging station for laptops/mobile phones etc. Please let us know by e-mail at info [at] bloggingportal.eu to reserve a place.

NOTE: We’ve had some technical difficulties with our e-mail system, so if you haven’t had a reply from us, then please contact us again. Also let us know if you have any further questions, or any dietary requirements or access issues we should know about.

Bloggingportal event in London!

Just in case you have not seen it yet:

Bloggingportal.eu proudly presents its first ever public event!

Join us for the UK/EU bloggingportal conference in London on December 10th!

Everything you need to know can be found here.

The future of bloggingportal

During the last weeks the editors of bloggingportal have been discussing the future of bloggingportal. The attempt to kick-start a public debate on our editors’ blog here failed, partly because we had some server problems last week. So I thought I should give it another plug here.

So why do we need to talk about the future?

  • bloggingportal.eu is a loose network of bloggers. The site has been developed and maintained by volunteers in their free time which is not the most sustainable structure…
  • There is only a small core group of bloggers that is actively engaged.
  • There is no permanent organisational structure.
  • And you might have guessed it: no money, no funding, nothing
  • The page is rather slow and could certainly be made more user-friendly.
  • We don’t have  enough users – only a highly specialized group of EU geeks.
  • The link to national blogospheres is missing.

What needs to be done?

  • We need to think about whether we need bloggingportal at all? What is the niche for bloggingportal?
  • We need more bloggers to be actively engaged in the project.
  • We need  more users and more visibility.
  • We have to think about what core functions should be developed? How to attract more users?
  • How to organise permanent links to national blogospheres? How to get an overview of EU debates in different national blogospheres?
  • What are possible incentives for bloggers that decide to  help bloggingportal?
  • We might need a complete re-development of the page (new design, new user interface, new functions…). But what exactly are the functions we should focus on? (are categories or tags necessary? what about different languages?) And the underlying problem is how to finance a new version of bloggingportal? Or is there any volunteer out there who would like to develop a new version of bloggingportal?

The solutions?

  • Where to get funding for a redesign of bloggingportal? I think the only agreement we have is that we should not seek EU funding for the site.
  • Should bloggingportal become some sort of social media business? Is there a business model somewhere?
  • Is sponsorship the solution? If yes who would be interested?
  • Is there a chance to cooperate with NGOs or private foundations or other institutions?  Who would be interested?
  • How to create a sustainable service that is a credible and independent source for EU content in social media?
  • How to get more people interested in collaborating with bloggingportal?
  • How to attract more editors and users?

As you can see: a huge list of problems and a lot of question marks!  We would like to hear from you – whatever your background is. Maybe you can help us to think a bit outside the box.  Are there any similar projects around that we could draw inspiration from (organizational structure and design/usability)? Do you know anyone that might be interested in getting involved? Do you have a good idea for the future of bloggingportal?

Just leave a comment here or start the debate on our editors’ blog.

One year Bloggingportal.eu

Happy birthday to bloggingportal.eu! We are celebrating 1 year of Bloggingportal.eu! Last January we launched the page and it has been a great first year. More than 500 euroblogs, 25 editors and thousands of visitors! Thanks for all your support and help! Do continue to spread the word – and feel free to give us your feedback!

To mark this anniversary the European Journalism Centre (EJC) published a nice article about the project. In a way we reached the aim there:  Bloggingportal.eu as a “featured resource” for journalists all over Europe ;-)

Don’t forget to stay updated with bloggingportal.eu issues:  You can become a fan of bloggingportal on facebook and you can follow us on twitter! If you are a twitter addict you might want to check out our editors choice on twitter!

We are also looking for new editors and volunteers that would like to get involved. Just write us an email and we will get back to you!

Europa im Netz

Einer der ersten Artikel über “uns euroblogger” in einer traditionellen überregionalen Zeitung (oder ist das etwa der erste ueberhaupt?), und dann auch noch ausgerechnet in der Schweiz -  einem nicht EU-Mitglied! Es würde mich natürlich interessieren ob es den Artikel auch in gedruckter Form gibt…?

Im Tagesanzeiger schreibt Tobias Moorstedt über die europäische politische Netzdebatte, mit vielen alten Bekannten wie zum Beispiel: Linkfluence, Bloggingportal.eu, Jon Worth, Cafe Babel, Eurotopics, Perlentaucher, La Quadrature du Net Aber auch inhaltlich auf den Punkt gebracht und sehr lesenswert:

Im Netz findet Europa noch nicht statt

Blogging about the European Parliament elections

The EP elections 2009 are finally over! Results are in and being the author of a political EU blog I probably should be writing an election analysis including:

… a critical look at the disappointing turnout figures and the reasons behind it.

… a sharp analysis of  the results in different countries preferably in a comparative manner. You know the typical post about whether the successful party is in government or not and whether a national election is on the horizon.

… criticising the national focus of the election. Trying to show that the EP elections should not be used as a  protest vote

… an analysis whether the left really lost and the right really won (+ mentioning the economic crisis) using some fancy tables with statistical figures

… an opinion about the eurosceptic parties and the right wing radicals. Maybe comparing the BNP with the various Freedom Parties and the Greater Romanian Party? ITS reloaded?

… something about the success of the Greens or whether the Pirate Party will have any impact in the Parliament.

… but also discussing strategies what should be done better next time, both at  European and National level, you know communicating the EU better bla bla bla

… reflecting on the campaigns and all the different online projects

… ranting about the ignorance of voters, the lack of political knowledge, or why the media fails to cover the EU with an example how different TV stations or newspapers covered the election night.

… writing something about the challenges of the next European Parliament.

… some general thoughts on Europe vs. the nation state. The typical article on European identity or the lack of it…

… I should mention the Lisbon Treaty and the proposed reforms and whether the election results make it more likely to get the treaty ratified:  Ireland, failure of Libertas, political survival possibilities of PM Brown in the UK and the referendum plans of Cameron. I should not forget Poland and Chech Republic.

… speculating about the political groups in the European Parliament and saying something about the new group led by Cameron

… I could also blame it on the weather, the economy, the Commission or the political elite.

I really should write something like that but somehow I cannot be bothered today. So I might postpone it  for a few days (or weeks…)!

In the meantime I will be reading blogs! But what are the blogs writing about the European Parliament elections and the results?

If you find any good analysis or a good rant about the European Parliament elections why not add it to the bloggingportal?  – It might give you bigger readership and, at the same time, you help generating an alternative source for EP election analysis from all over Europe covering as many languages as possible!

Feel free to add your own posts and/or posts you think are interesting to the list here! You can also add blogs that write about EU affairs on a regular basis!

Here is the link (there is also a fancy bookmarklet for your browser!): http://www.bloggingportal.eu/publish

EU blogs in New Europe

I know this post comes a bit late but in my attempt to adapt to living in the UK I can always blame it on the “wrong kind of snow” that somehow prevented me from doing something…

Anyway, the big story for the EU blogosphere this week is the “successful hijacking” (in a positive sense!) of New Europe, a weekly newspaper that is seen as the main rival to European Voice. Your humble author played a little role in this and this blog was also mentioned in the editorial. The complete print version of New Europe can be found as an pdf file here.

The buzz around the EU blogosphere last week inspired New Europe to publish the editorial on The future of the EU blogosphere which is worth reading. Of course the launch of our bloggingportal was covered as well as with a full page article Political EU Blogs at your fingertips, Bloggingportal.eu launched. (with pictures in the print edition). And that is not all, Jon managed to get the strategically important last page of the paper with the Anyone but Barroso campaign and an article on David Cameron and the EPP issue.

On a different note: We are very pleased with the launch of bloggingportal.eu and we are looking forward to your suggestions how to improve the portal. We also have a facebook group, so feel free to join and make it even more popular by inviting your friends! Since it is quite a grassroot initative with only a handful of people involved and without any sponsers or institutions, things can take a bit longer but we try to be as efficient as possible. And of course we are still looking for editors in order to cover as many languages as possible! In case you have not noticed I also integrated the editors’ choice in the sidebar of this blog!

Th!nk about it has launched as well, the EJC powered EU blogging competition. The kick-off event in Brussels last week was quite a success and there was a lot of enthusiasm about blogging about the EU and the EP elections (sounds stange but it is true!). It is an interesting mix of new and experienced bloggers which should make it a good read. So make sure you check it regularly!

As some of you know, I am involved in the organisation/develpment of both projects (bloggingportal & thinkaboutit) so I am a bit biased here ;-)

Bloggingportal.eu launched!

Finally! We launched Bloggingportal.eu! The new place to read EU blogs and keep yourself updated on the EU blogosphere.

We have been working on it for almost one year in our free time. At the moment we are aggregating almost 300 blogs and we are publishing a daily editors choice selection! Check it out!

It is beta, totally independent, without any sponsorship and we do welcome any comments and hints how to improve the site! So get in contact with us!

Thanks to Stefan for the excellent programming work and Jon Worth for starting the process! You can also follow us on twitter: @bloggingportal or join our facebook group!

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