It’s great that such an immense variety of people are able to share their thoughts without having to stand on street corners ranting at passers-by – but is anyone listening? In particular, are those in positions of influence paying heed to the blogosphere? Busy people don’t have the time to read through a list of 100 blogs, let alone read the blogs themselves. But, make no mistake, they do read some of them. What’s more it’ll be much the same collection bookmarked on browsers across the Westminster village.
Which ones are they? Rather than reel off a top ten or twenty, I’ll just keep going until my list comes to a natural conclusion (and don’t worry, this won’t take long): We’ll start off with the big three – Conservative Home, Guido Fawkes and, of course, Iain Dale. To these one ought to add the somewhat distinct, but hugely popular, Political Betting.
Next up, it’s Comment Central – an indispensable service courtesy of Danny Finkelstein and his colleagues at the op-ed pages of the Times. Then there’s the Spectator’s Coffee House blog, also worth checking several times a day. The Daily Mail’s Ben Brogan is another must-read. If you’ve got any time left, you might want to add the BBC’s Nick Robinson and Sky’s Boulton and Co to your regular beat. And that’s about it – though the Telegraph’s new Three Line Whip may make it a full top ten.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many more brilliant blogs out there, but the nine I mention are the ones that make waves in Westminster and beyond. Of this number, the first four are the work of non-journalists and have been around for some time. By way of contrast, the other five were all pupped by the mainstream media in the last year or so. In other words the big news in the blogosphere is that the hacks are biting back. I guess you could call this a tribute to Messrs Montgomerie, Fawkes and Dale – but it is deeply disappointing that there are no new independent bloggers in the premier league.
On a more positive note the newly mainstreamed blogosphere is as lopsided as ever, with leftwing journos as unable to produce a topflight blog as their amateur counterparts. The closest it gets is the Guardian’s Comment is Free – except that it isn’t really a blog, more a vastly expanded op-ed section. As a format, it has it merits, but there’s just too much sprawl to provide the immediate news-hit you get from the best of the proper blogs.
That the Left still can’t blog is scant comfort to those on the Right who dreamed that blogging would change the world. The big three blogs may have forced the mainstream media to join the revolution, but do we really want the hacks taking over? In an especially ominous development, the Spectator has annexed a number of previously independent blogs, and now fronts Stephen Pollard, Clive Davies and Melanie Phillips alongside its Coffee House. These three are as good as ever, but where will it end?
A well-written, well-read blog that falls under nothing but its own masthead is a magnificent thing and I wouldn’t want to see that lost. On the other hand, a paycheck is pretty cool too; so if you’re reading this Matt D’Ancona, do get in touch!