Info

A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged blogosphere

Blogosphere magazine has just revealed its latest cover star – the ubiquitous Zoella. The reveal video does give some surprising insights into the impact on her life of YouTube-driven celebrity. The idea of bus tours driving by your house is rather disturbing…

The Mail has got rather hot under the collar at the imagery, though:

But seven years after she first burst onto the scene, Zoella’s latest photo shoot, in which she lounges on a bed in just her underwear, is further evidence of the teen idol’s move towards an increasingly grown-up image.

YouTubers. Bless ’em. They grow up so fast.

Of all the things I expected to find in the WHSmith in Clapham Junction, this was not one of them:

Blogosphere Magazine on sale in WH Smith

Blogosphere? (Top shelf, right hand side.) There’s a word I haven’t heard – or used – in a long, long time. It’s a magazine that is

for bloggers by bloggers

Well, nearly 15 years in, I’m pretty sure I count as a blogger, so I picked up a copy. A £5 gamble based on nothing but a much-mocked piece of jargon. Get in there.

An indy mag at a mainstream price

It’s a curious beast this magazine. It has the feel and heft of an independent magazine – the sort of thing you’d find lining the walls of magCulture, and which you’d expect to cost around a tenner. But it’s very much priced as a mainstream mag. There’s a limited range of adverts – but some big brands are represented there, including Canon and Olympus, who seem like a good match for the target audience.

Talking of target audiences – who do they seem to be? I’d say it was clearly targeted at blogger and would-be bloggers, with a side order of blog readers. It’s a stark reminder that lifestyle blogging has become so pervasive that the audible of creators and wannabe creators (however oxymoronic that may seem) is sizeable enough to be a targetable niche in its own right.

If you want an example of this in action – check out a post on a major fashion blog, where all the commuters seem to be bloggers themselves. For example:

Wendy's Cookbook comment linkers

There’s an interview with the editor and founder on Passion Pods which I listened to this evening while preparing dinner for the family. It wasn’t a great surprise to hear that Alice Audley probably identifies more with the label “journalist” than “blogger” – she started blogging because she was told it was a good route into journalism, and she worked at The Telegraph before quitting last summer to run Blogosphere full time. The whole enterprise is a very journalistic take on blogging – right down to the absence of the magazine’s content on the website. That’s intentional, it transpires – Audley subscribes to a variation on the “original sin” theory about the tribulations of journalism: we shouldn’t give away what we expect people to pay for in another medium.

Regular readers will know what I think of that…

A slice of the blogosphere

Incisive wisdom on choosing your friends

Despite the title, Blogosphere is very much just about a small slice of the blogosphere. Don’t expect to find any trace of political, business or science blogging between its quality stock paper pages. This is lifestyle blogging all the way. In fact, I wonder how aware of the wider history and role of blogging the core team are. Audley describes a blogger who kicked off in 2006 as a “pioneer” in the Passion Pods interview – I wonder how the 1999-era pioneers whom inspired me to start back in the early 2000s would react to that idea.

But, this really doesn’t matter. This is a quasi-independent magazine with a mainstream price, targeting that band of aspirational lifestyle, food, fashion and travel bloggers that are much of the growth in blogging at the moment. It’s almost like Bloglovin’ came to life, and was then incarcerated in the pulped corpse of dead trees.

And the general design ethos of the magazine reflects that audience. There are some lovely sketches used to differentiation some sections:

Blogosphere's agony aunt

It’s got that young, urban, almost-hipster-but-not-quite vibe of lifestyle blogging, even if some of the featured bloggers are nearly as old as me…

Blogging with ink and paper

Profiling bloggers

A surprising chunk of the magazine is taken up with single page profiles of various bloggers. On one level this is fascinating – each is a mini-interview in its own right, and so you get some interesting insights into motivations and interests. On the other, it’s slightly frustrating. You end up sat there with the magazine in one hand and your iPad in the other, typing in URLs to check out the sites. This is where I longed for better online version of the content. It would allow you to separate the “lean back” enjoyment of reading the print product from the “lean forwards” checking out links.

The majority of the content is as lifestyle-y as its target audience – profiles of significant players. for example. This should give you a taste of the general tone:

There’s some advice on blogging, too, of variable quality. Some of its is sound and good practice while, for example, some of the SEO advice is at the very least, questionable, if not actively wrong.

It’s split into six sections:

  • beauty
  • fashion
  • food
  • travel
  • lifestyle
  • photography

Each is curated by a blogger know for their work in that space.

But the surprising thing about it is the sheer heft of the magazine – this is a 162 page behemoth, with only a small number of ad pages. It’s published quarterly – and that’s probably a good rate given the sheer amount of content on offer.

Verdict

Will I buy more of Blogosphere? Oh, yes.

Look: I’m not in anyway part of the target audience. The tag line “for bloggers by bloggers” would be more accurately rendered as “by a subset of bloggers for a subset of bloggers who aspire to be like that first group”, and I’m not any part of that. But the magazine sits at the heart of that cultural zeitgeist in blogging, and it’s useful to me in my work because of that.

Plus, it’s a bloomin’ lovely magazine. And magazines were my first love, personally and professionally. It’s nice to see my two passions, one former, one current, mingle in this way.

Further Reading

At last! The 2008 Technorati state of the Blogosphere is out. Nice to see it back to being blog-focused rather that being a report into the notional “live web”. The report is being published in five sections over five days. Only section one – Who Are The Bloggers – is up so far.

A couple of interesting things I’ve noted:

  • Only about 1.1m blogs are updated in the last week. Now, obviously there’s a large hinterland of abandoned blogs in the rest. Frequency seems to be the exception rather than the rule in the whole of the blogsphere these days. 
  • The majority of bloggers do NOT live near the largest metropolitan areas – OK, it’s a US finding, but I’m pleased to see that blogging is not a purely urban phenomenon.
  • And I think this graph could be very significant for what I do:

State of the Blogsphere 2008: Blog types

Lots of people blogging about their jobs. That’s very interesting for B2B media indeed.

Oooh, day 2 went up while I was writing this post.

coffee-networking-break

A question:

It’s been an interesting week for the British blogosphere. A week that
has raised the question of whether there even is such a thing.

The answer is twofold. The first is that the internet, by its nature, breaks down geographical barriers, which gain less relevance in blogging communities. I consider myself part of a journalistic blogging sphere, not a UK journalistic blogosphere.

The second is that the idea of “a blogosphere” is a blind alley. Everyway you define it, by subject, by links, by geography, you find yourself with multipl, over=lapping and ever-shifting blogspheres. To even talk of the blogosphere is a lazy shorthand for a much more complex idea.

Why should I bother joining in?

You should bother, because you respect your readers. This is more important in trade journalism than most other forms of our profession. Our readers are also the people we write about. We are the intruders in their business, not the other way around. And collectively, they know more about their industry than the most expert journalist we have.

The second reason is that joining the conversation drives multiple visits from the readers. You read an article once. You revisit blog posts many times, to see what further comments have been left. If we link to them, and respond to their posts, people will come from other blogs to ours, to see what we have to say on the subject. How long can you spend listening to lectures? And how long can you enjoy a conversation for? For most of us, conversations are enjoyable for much, much longer than lectures.

What happens if I don’t?

Good question. One result is that people find it harder to discover your blog. If you’re not part of the conversation, you get less links, and so less web traffic to your blog. Your search engine ranking is less good. And if people should stumble across your words of wisdom, they will judge you – and come back or not – solely based on the quality of content they see in that visit. Are you confident that what you write is so very good that a socially isolated blog will be as compelling as one that mixes it up with others? Will your readers stay readers if you have so little respect for them that you never respond to comments? Some people can pull this off, but we’re in the trade journalism business – and so we’re closer to the “I ought to know this” rather than the “I want to read this” end of the scale for our readers. You need to produce something so compelling that they’ll come to you instead of their favourite hobby, gossip or news sites.  Best of luck.

The Holy Trinity of Joining the Conversation

Read

This is the equivalent of “listening” in a normal conversation. If you’re not actually listening to what the other people have to say, are you in a conversation? No. You’re talking at them.

The first step to joining in the conversation is to look around the blogosphere, and understand what people are saying around the key issues in your area of expertise. There are various tools you can use to do this, including Google Blog Search, Technorati and Icerocket. Find intelligent, interesting blogs which are talking about your subject. Read them for a while. Figure out what’s being said, and who the most interesting bloggers are.

Comment

This is the first of the “talking” steps in joining the conversation. Leaving comments on other people’s blogs – joining the conversation there – is one way of getting a feel for how these discussions work and what you have to contribute. You can also start to build your reputation amongst bloggers through these comments.
The other benefit of this is that almost all blogging platforms allow you to leave your blog URL as part of your comment – that way people can click on your name to visit your website – if your comment was interesting enough to spark their curiosity.

However, whatever you do, don’t just leave a comment for the sake of putting in a link to your site – that’s considered spamming by most bloggers and will damage your reputations.

Link

I know that this feel counter-intuitive to us. We don’t mention competitive publications in our magazine, and many of us were indoctrinated years ago with the idea of “sticky content” – getting readers to our sites and keeping them there at all costs.

If you link to the best and most interesting stuff around the web, you can become a trusted source for your readers. Many of them don’t have the time to read through all the relevant blogs themselves. If you send them to good material elsewhere, as well as providing well-written, thoughtful posts on your own blog, then they’re more likely to make you one of their first ports of call on their regular web travels.

All this begs the question: should we bother trying to get journalists blogging? Is there a value in it, if they find it hard to move beyond something that sits between traditional journalism and opinion pieces? Can’t we just leave journalists to do traditional journalism and use their work as a jumping off point for discussion around the blogs?

Even in my most frustration-riddled working days, I think there’s a role for the blogging hack here. Long-term specialist journalists have a wealth of knowledge that finds only partial expression in traditional journalism. Blogging can allow them to find an audience for the esoteric they’ve built up over years of reporting on a subject. (I think David Manners from Electronics Weekly is our best example of this.) It can allow them to give additional information around core areas of expertise (and I’m thinking investigative reporter Tony Collins from Computer Weekly here). And it can be a powerful tool for journalists to connect with a specific group within their readership, as the Farmers Weekly livestock team have been doing on Taking Stock with the breeder community during the current foot and mouth crisis.

Now I suspect, and experience is beginning to bear this out, that young journalists get this more naturally than most older journalists. But then we have people like Brian Weatherley of Tuck & Driver who blogs happily on BigLorryBlog, proving that the oldies can be the goodies.

So, yes, this is a fight worth having. The big question for professional journalism in the long-term is “will those journalists who don’t join in the online discussions still have a role?” I have my answer to that. So does Roy Greenslade, apparently. How about you?

Just spotted his piece on the pay for top government IT officials. Ouch. Wrong job, Adam, wrong job.)

Ah, you know when things are becoming important when academics start producing half-baked reports on the subject. For instance:

…Michael Keren, who has written “Blogosphere: The New Political Arena,” suggests individuals who bare their souls in blogs are isolated and lonely, living in a virtual reality instead of forming real relationships or helping to change the world.

“Bloggers think of themselves as rebels against mainstream society, but that rebellion is mostly confined to cyberspace, which makes blogging as melancholic and illusionary as Don Quixote tilting at windmills,” the author says.

Keren, who teaches in the faculty of communication and culture, spoke to reporters Tuesday at The Loft, a student cybercafe at the university, where many students were busily typing away on laptops – perhaps updating blogs of their own.

“In this world of blogging, which the whole world can read, you have a personal expectation about a readership that’s just not there for the millions of bloggers who are writing their personal feelings.”

Now, to give the man due benefit of the doubt, this might just be another case of journalists misreporting scientific research, a subject that Lorna can hold forth about at length. The way the story reads, though, makes him sound really clueless. There’s no qualification in there, no indication that he understands that the personal journal style of weblog is only a small proportion of the whole. For comparison, it’s a bit like conducting a study of magazines, but restricting yourself to school newspapers. Claiming that all magazines are like that just makes you look stupid, however good your research actually is.

Hat-tip to Tango in her Eyes for the link.