This is a big couple of weeks for Edelman as we launch three major initiatives to better understand the blog world for our teams and our clients. The biggest of these is being led by Steve Rubel in New York together with Stephen Davies in London, Guillaume Dugardier in Paris and Wolfgang Luenenbuerger in Hamburg and Fiorella Passoni in Milan in association with our partner Technorati. More of that later in the week!
Today however, we are launching the results of two studies we have produced through our research company Strategy One aimed at seeing how blogging was affecting the worlds of politics and public affairs. The first of these is an analysis of the coverage of blogs in major publications interested in political issues in the UK, US and France. The results are a graphic illustration of how political blogging is now influencing everyday coverage in the mainstream media.
This chart for the UK is an analysis of coverage in nine UK publications (The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Financial times, The Guardian, The Independent and Daily Mail). It maps the frequency of articles mentioning the word blog, blogger, blogging or web log from the beginning of 2004 to the end of last month. It’s a steady rise and as you can see from the experience in France and the US, UK newspapers are not alone in watching the blogs and quoting them. Now obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg as there are many stories in mainstream media that are influenced or even inspired by what’s happening on the political blogs, but which are not quoted or credited. Also, if an individual blog like Iain Dale or Guido Fawkes is quoted without the word ‘blog’ attached (probably a few only as most blogs are still described as such) that also has not been captured. What that means is that these figures probably underplay the influence of blogs.
There also appears to be a commonality between the three countries on subjects covered in articles quoting or mentioning blogs. The top four in France are the election (check out my post on France with Guillaume Du Gardier and Segaline Royale’s use of a blog in her efforts to secure the Socialist party nomination for the forthcoming election), politics in general, education and crisis in the suburbs. Remember last year the riots in Paris and then across France in which blogs played a central role both in rallying and organising the demonstrations and then by the commentators on those events?
In the US the list of subjects is perhaps not surprisingly dominated by the Middle East and Iraq.
In the UK, it’s politics way out in front followed by the Iraq War, the Environment and the Middle East.
Given that the publications in each market we looked at are ‘serious’ and ‘issues’ or politics-led, this is perhaps not a surprising list of subjects. And perhaps there is a bigger than average overlap between people who are interested in politics and those who have broadband access and the technical ability to blog (more than those interested in, say, sport). Or perhaps politics attracts those used to giving voice to their beliefs and joining the conversation on-line is a short logical step for them.
Each of these markets has very different and distinct political traditions and the public affairs and lobbying industries are very different, and it would appear that the blogosphere is developing in different ways in each.
The political blogosphere was recently described by Graham Watson (MEP) as part forensic lab and part coffee shop, but it seems to be re-energising the common tradition of town hall type meetings and traditional media is covering and crediting that more and more and, call me an idealist, but that has to be good for democracy and for keeping people engaged in politics which after all is about the choice of future we all want.
Below are the most commonly referenced blogs by the mainstream media. In the UK it’s Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes way out in front. As has been commonly noted the Right seems to be much better at this than the Left. I saw Ian Dale say on a podcast the other day that blogging was easier for the party in opposition, but whatever the reason, the Labour party and the left and centre left is behind in the UK.
In the US, the top referenced sites are less individual commentators and more organised advocacy and grass-roots campaigning sites and if you look at them a number host pretty heavyweight discussions on policy and issues and very actively get involved in elections. . a little different in tone to Guido and Ian Dale who tend to be more personality and gossip focused.
Check out this list of the top blogs referenced by the media in France. One difference with the UK and the US is that in France the political protagonists themselves seem to be in the lead. Alain Juppe, Nicholas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal are the top three and other big political beasts like Lionel Jospin and Pascal Lamy make the top ten. With webcameron launched though the UK may be following the French example.