Independent EU blogging is dying a slow death – there are not enough blogs that really come up with interesting stuff on a regular basis. When I say ‘independent’ I mean blogs without any institutional affiliation. The EU blogosphere never really took off – but we are now reaching a critical point: We only have a handful of established voices – and almost no new blogs at all. I guess it will be a slow death – and nobody will notice.
I suppose it is just a reflection of the general state of blogging: What’s the point of writing a political blog in 2015 if you can debate stuff on twitter (at least until the next big thing comes along)? Why write a blog, invest time to build up a readership if you could just use facebook? Or Reddit? Why blog if you can produce youtube videos? Why blog if you could write for one of the many political websites as a freelancer?
There is no incentive structure in (EU) blogging – the community is disappearing. Most journalists, media outlets, NGOs and think tanks are now blogging (so it’s really not a cutting edge thing to do anymore). The death of RSS also did not help. Of course there are new shiny blogging platforms such as medium – but finding good content is still a rather tedious exercise.
Yes, there are a couple of niche blogging communities – and EU topics are frequently debated in national blogs – but dedicated blogs on “EU affairs” that somehow act as transnational debating hubs simply don’t exist. And the ‘Brussels bubble’ has embraced twitter as the network of choice – at least for the time being.
However, in a twisted way blogging has arrived in the mainstream – and it has morphed into a new kind of online journalism. Most newspapers run something like Comment is free, various debating websites invite users to submit their political opinions. Quartz or Buzzfeed are children of the blogosphere. Or look at Politico Europe: 10 years ago we would have described their style of writing as “typical for blogs”.
‘Finding Europe’ in the EU blogosphere? – Forget it!
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…
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)
Yes, this was the question. And after several months of contemplation I decided to give it a try! So, what is this flattr thingy you might ask – apart from all these little buttons? Well, it is a newish social micro payment system and provides an easy way to share money and make small donations. Check flattr.com or watch the video below for a better explanation. Basically, if you have a flattr account you can click on one of the buttons on this blog to give a small amount of money.
Although I find the idea behind flattr fascinating I doubt that it will be a huge success on this blog because of various reasons. First of all I don’t think I have enough readers (a common problem among eurobloggers!). I also suspect that most of my readers do not have a flattr account. The second problem is that flattr is not yet popular enough. It seems to me that only few blogs (mainly tech related), add-ons and several NGOs (wikileaks being the most prominent) use it actively. Only in Germany flattr seems to be a known service. This situation is a problem for thus blog. Very few readers have even fewer flattr accounts… So I suppose the main aim for your blogger – to re-finance the server/hosting costs – cannot be achieved. Nevertheless, I would greatly appreciate your flattr love… 😉
So the main reason why I am using flattr now is twofold. It gives me the opportunity to flattr others and I hope to get to know the system better. Maybe I can use it in other projects more successfully!
The so-called “euroblogosphere” is a rather small specialised blogging scene. It has always been like that. However, lately I have the feeling that not enough new bloggers take up the challenge to write about EU topics. It seems to me that only very few new blogs have been launched in the last months/years. Moreover, there are simply not enough good blogs around, somehow not much has changed in the last 2 or 3 years. From my own experience, it is very difficult to motivate people to blog about EU politics – and keep them interested for several years.
There is also the argument that blogging is on the decline because of twitter, tumblr and facebook. I am not sure whether blogging about politics (as political arguments usually need more than 140 characters!) is actually affected by this trend although it is true that the EU twittersphere seems to be growing. OK, blogging is not for everyone and not everyone is motivated to blog regularly. However, if there was a bigger EU-blogosphere it would probably motivate more people to start blogging!
But how to create a bigger EU blogosphere? I don’t really have an answer for that but somehow I have the feeling that we should step up our efforts to ‘recruit’ more bloggers and to keep active bloggers motivated! Especially the community building aspect of bloggingportal.eu has been a success – albeit with a limited impact.
If we think about target groups there are several groups that spring to mind:
(1) I think students are an important target group (especially in European studies, journalism, politics, economics, social sciences…). At the same time it would be good to have people from other more specialized subjects in order to strengthen the EU policy-blogging scene (for example energy, competition, single market, environment, fisheries, agriculture, standardization issues…). What I also would like to see is more local and regional blogs that could evaluate EU funding projects from a non-Brussels perspective or provide a regional links to EU issues. What needs to be done to motivate students to start a blog? And even if students start blogging – how can they be motivated to keep blogging after they receive their degree?
(2) The second big target group could be the thousands of interns in Brussels and elsewhere. There are quite a lot of internships in the EU bubble. They should (on average!) have slightly more free-time than other people and could use the blog for job hunting if they manage to create some buzz in their field. Especially in Brussels I think there could be a huge potential as many interns work in EU related jobs. Maybe blogging could give some of them the necessary extra qualification to succeed in the job market! But how to reach them and how to motivate them?
(3) Blogging should not be restricted to the younger generation. People that work in a job that has something to do with the EU or linked to EU issues are missing in the blogosphsere. Private and professional blogs are also not present in the EU blogging scene. Lots of people that blog on national politics do it as a hobby – is the EU not a topic that can be a good blogging hobby? Generally, it seems that within this target group EU blogging is not seen as a very useful thing to do. But how to change this?
(4) Academics. This is another complex story and I have first hand experience with ideasoneurope.eu The main problem is that the academic community in Europe does not appreciate blogging. And there is also a lack of true European public intellectuals, which is surprising as the internet in particular would be the perfect arena, but again, it is not happening. Partly, because the concept of a “public intellectual” does not seem to be popular in Europe – but also because a lot of academics are not familiar with the internet. (I am not kidding!) So, if you are an academic and you blog instead of writing a journal article you are basically wasting your time and it does not seem to help your career. But what can be done to change this?
(5) Retired professionals. With or without a EU job background. Is it possible to motivate this age group to take up blogging as a new hobby?
(6) [Update] Civil Society. There are many NGOs that could use blogging and social media to get their points across. It is a cheap and rather effective tool to engage with the public.
(7) [Update] Think Tanks. I argued before that think tanks should start thinking about blogs and social media. Especially if a think tank wants to reach a wider or specialized audience. Only very few EU affairs think tanks write a blog or use any social media tools. CER or ECFR are good examples how a think tank blog could look like.
(8) Existing bloggers in national blogospheres. There a many bloggers that write about the EU in a national context but they do not engage with a wider European blogosphere. They might just write a couple of posts a year about the EU. But nobody outside their national blogosphere takes notices. At the same time many bloggers writing in national context are not aware of the EU stuff. How can that be changed?
(9) Existing Eurobloggers. This is the big question about motivation. What needs to be done to create a system to keep people motivated. For me it is the community aspect, meeting people in real life, doing projects, talking to people.If that is part of the answer, we need to create more possibilities to move the blogging experience into the real world. And what would be the role of the various blogging communities such as bloggingportal.eu, ideasoneurope.eu, blogactiv.eu, cafebabel.com or 27etc.? Can we create better synergies and learn from each other?
There seem to be several interrelated problems (that also have not changed for the last years):
How to motivate active eurobloggers and how to keep them interested?
How can EU topics be integrated in national blogospheres? And how can the link between different national spheres and between the national and the European level be organised?
How to get more people interested in blogging about the EU?
A post with more questions than answers. If you have any answers or any idea how to approach any of the issues raised in this post – just post a comment!
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.
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 😉
Are you interested in getting into the EU blogging scene? Would you like to write journalistic pieces on the European elections next year? Maybe you even want to become a EU blogger? In any case: if you want to share your thoughts on the EU and the upcoming European elections in an online environment you should read on!
Think about it! – The (first!) European Blogging Competition 2009 is a new blogging competition (some nice gadgets up for grabs) organised by the European Journalism Centre! The competition will start in February and will last until the EP elections. The exciting thing is that there will be a training component for all participants (after all it is run by a professional journalism organisation;-) You do not necessarily be a journalist or blogger, however you should be interested in EU affairs and the EP elections and you should feel enthusiastic about tryinig out blogging for a few months! If that sounds like a good idea to you can join the official facebook group and you can sign up here:
A dynamic community of bloggers, journalists and journalism students, a forum alive with debate and discussion, a creative portal to inspire youth involvement with the 2009 Parliamentary Elections, brought to you by the European Journalism Centre (EJC).
The goal is to get Europeans to THINK ABOUT IT and to express their views on Europe through an online blogging competition. The invited bloggers will cover, report, critique and debate on campaign issues and candidates. EJC editors will give feedback on the journalistic standards of the blog posts.
The EJC invites three bloggers from each EU member state for a two-day THINK ABOUT IT launch event in Brussels 25-27.1.2009. At the kick-off invitees are briefed on the European blogsphere, European Parliament, elections and on understanding the EU from a journalist’s perspective. The event also launches the blog contest, which invitees participate in throughout the official campaign season.
For more information just click here. Some fancy banners for your website/blog in various sizes can be found here.
Disclaimer: The author of this blog has been involved in the development of the project.
Die Übernahme der European Voice zeigt: Politico und Springer haben Großes vor. Der Europajournalismus wird sich verändern. Doch Brüssel ist nicht Washington. Unterliegt Politico Europe am Ende einem Denkfehler?
Nächstes Jahr sind mal wieder Europawahlen – ja genau, diese komischen Wahlen, bei denen relativ unbekannte Kandidaten antreten, die Wahlbeteiligung niedrig ist, und bei denen die Wähler traditionell ihre eigenen Regierungen abstrafen.