The Independent’s blogs: must do better

Remember the debate about the dubious quality of some British national newspaper blogs? It raged back in October and November, centering on Andrew Grant-Adamson’s analysis of the degree of other bloggers’ engagement with the blogs published by the Times and the Telegraph.

The Independent’s experiment with blogging has only been around for just over a month now, but I think it’s time move it to the to the central place of (dis)honour of the “blogwagon” hall of shame. Six links from five blogs after a month is a pretty poor showing for an organisation with the resources and traffic of a national newspaper web site.

One of those links hit the nail on the head: The Indy’s blogs are a bit lame. Case in point: One of their blogs seems to be a technology blog sponsored by Sony. Here’s the introductory post from 21 November:

Welcome to Sony’s technology blog. Technology moves on so fast at the moment – what with new formats, increased capacity, and improvements in sound and picture quality, it’s hard to keep up.

Joining in a blog like this one is a great way to keep abreast of what’s happening to your favourite gadgets now and in the future. For example, do you know when the government turns off the analogue TV signal in your area? Are you ready for the digital revolution? Is your TV high-definition (HD) compatible? How will HD change your experience of watching TV?

Each week we’ll pose a new question. This week: What are the benefits of HD? Get blogging with your thoughts now, we want to hear from you!

Since then there have been a grand total of three posts in that section. But insufficient posting is only part of the Indy’s blog problem. The more serious issue is tone.

The Indy insists on continuing to talk down to its readers from on high. Why would anyone “join in a blog” that addresses its audience in such a patronising tone? Yay! Lucky us! We get to respond to untimely questions set by an (unnamed) Indy journalist.

Alternatively, we could go over to Engadget or some other blog that provides timely news about new gizmos and offers a debate about their merits provided by a knowledgeable base of regular readers. That’s what the readers are actually doing. Since the Indy management seems to be skeptical of the business case for online journalism, it’s worth pointing out that the distribution of the growing online advertising pie will probably follow readership down the long tail of online journalism.

So what should they be doing instead? The point of newspaper blogging is to engage with the community of readers. The sad irony is that the Independent, with its emphasis on creating an “viewspaper”, is ideally positioned to expand its influence and market its product by engaging the debate in the blogosphere, but is squandering this opportunity with its half-hearted online efforts.

The Indy’s growing print readership buys the paper for its robust political line and would probably relish the opportunity to get involved in discussions on the important issues the paper tries to raise. The paper’s journalists might be astonished to realise that some of their readers are highly knowledgeable and could move forward the stories it alone seems to emphisise.

Maybe this is something the paper’s columnists should remember the next time they decide to have an ignorant bash at the blogosphere: blogging effectively actually takes some skill.

There are probably people in the Independent newsroom who have these skills. Some of them are probably blogging effectively on their own time. The stars may not be were you expect them: They might be the student on work experience or some freelance sub who is only in a few days a week.

Simon Kelner should find these people quick and get them to sort out his paper’s cringeworthy effort at blogging.

12 thoughts on “The Independent’s blogs: must do better

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  11. Best written comment I’ve read in ages. If only the general standard of news blogs was up to this, we’d all be reading everyone…!
    Thank you.

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