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Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

Email Suw

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for BBCNews.com.

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

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Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

Exploding the blog myth

Posted by Kevin Anderson

I really shouldn’t take the piss out of a British media icon, but in this case, it’s just too inviting.

Jeff Jarvis pointed out something in the Indy, in which they asked a bunch of British media heavyweights about the future of newspapers. Jeff pointed to Piers Morgan as someone who gets it and to the BBC’s John Humphrys, presenter of the Today programme, as someone who doesn’t. Jeff pulls out this quote from Mr Humphrys’ statement on why he thought it was preposterous to conceive of a society that functioned without newspapers:

And sooner or later we will explode the blog myth. The idea that you can click on to a few dozen blogs and find out what’s going on in the world is nonsense. It’s fun but that’s all it is. …

OK, let me explode the blog myth, not the myth that Mr Humphrys thinks will be uncovered but the myth that he and several others propagate about blogs:

  1. Myth number one: Most bloggers write about news.

    As my friend Say Na in Nepal points out: 37% of American bloggers want to write about their lives and experiences, compared to 11% who write about politics. She’s writing about a Pew Internet and American Life study. The report says:

    Most bloggers say they cover a lot of different topics, but when asked to choose one main topic, 37% of bloggers cite “my life and experiences” as a primary topic of their blog. Politics and government ran a very distant second with 11% of bloggers citing those issues of public life as the main subject of their blog.

    …most bloggers are primarily interested in creative, personal expression – documenting individual experiences, sharing practical knowledge, or just keeping in touch with friends and family.

    The news media provides disproportionate coverage of political and news blogs because that’s what they are interested in. They cover news, not the intimate details of people’s lives.

  2. Myth number two: Bloggers just want to become journalists or pundits

    Again, as the study found out, most bloggers write for a small audience of their friends and family: “Most bloggers do not think of what they do as journalism.” They write for the pure love of self-expression, not for recognition or money. Mass media doesn’t really understand the motivation of most bloggers because they can’t understand publishing for a small audience for no money. (And in some ways, it’s one of the reasons why most mass media blogs suck. Most bloggers write about and are interested in their personal passions and interests, which is slightly anti-thetical to general interest publications like newspapers.)
  3. Myth number three: Blogging is all opinion

    This is such a common yarn, but unfortunately, this view itself turns out to be only uninformed opinion. First off, see myth one. Most people are just writing about their personal experiences. Of course it’s their opinions. That is totally the wrong yardstick with which to assess blogs.

    But more than that, it’s just flat out wrong. One of the blogs that I read when I want to know about what’s happening in the US Supreme Court is ScotusBlog, which is actually done by the Supreme Court practice of a law firm. It’s great niche coverage.

    Dr Jeffrey Lewis writes, along with a number of other experts, the very interesting Arms Control Wonk blog. NKZone is a great blog that provides some excellent coverage of North Korea including translations of North Korean defectors’ stories, which are common in the South Korean press but rarely translated into English. I’m sorry, but that’s coverage that’s hard to find in the mainstream media.

But really the biggest myth is that these shifts in media consumtion are all about blogs. Blogs are just one of the little pieces of social software that knit my life together. Flickr, instant messaging and Skype help too. I often say that my network is my filter, and whether it’s on friends’ blogs, via e-mail or via IM, I’m constantly getting a feed of information that is more relevant to my life than the crap that passes for ‘authoratative comment’ - as Simon Kelner Editor of The Independent called it. What a load of self-important tosh.

Mr Humphrys admits to ‘being an old fart’ and still loving his news in print. I’m sorry, news on paper, non-time shifted radio/TV and, to be perfectly honest, radio presenters like Mr Humphrys don’t really have much of a place in my information diet. By the time Mr Humphrys has let his first guest get a word in edge-wise, I’ve already skimmed a dozen feeds - some news, some blogs - in my RSS reader. On the Tube, I read through the headlines and some stories in the New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post and The Guardian on AvantGo before I’ve gone three stops. Try struggling with all the print versions of those papers on the Tube, or better yet, try buying them at your local news stand in London.

Mr Humphrys might be suprised to find that for someone who reads and writes blogs, I value information over opinion. I agree with Kevin Marsh, editor of the BBC College of Journalism, that media opinion really has a shrinking market. I can think for myself, and I don’t need some celebrity commentator telling me what opinion I should have. Comment will be free; but information to help me make personal, professional or political decisions might be a going concern.

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4 Responses to “Exploding the blog myth”

  1. John Connell Says:

    I wish I had written this, because I agree with every damned word (although I might, in my prejudice, have refrained from saying anything praiseworthy of Piers Morgan). I listened to Humphrys on the Simon Mayo 5-Live programme last week as I was driving - I couldn’t resist a touch of schadenfreude at this man who likes to see himself as some kind of iconoclast, a terrier, an ‘old fart’, having to debase himself on the tired old treadmill of the pointless follow-up book (and all the more pointless given the fact that the first book was itself pointless and petty).

    No doubt Humphrys would nod in agreement at this kind of nonsense - see:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/6143844.stm

    Thank you, Suw.

  2. Mike Says:

    I’m not sure the number of news blogs is significant - 11 per cent is still more than 5m. I just don’t get the opinion stuff - surely newspapers have always been biased and expressed opinions. That’s why people still buy the WSJ or Telegraph or Manifesto or Libération - for the opinions. The news is a day old.

  3. StephenG Says:

    Hey,
    Really nice site you got here.
    I’ll come back more often and check it out.
    Peace!

  4. JoeyBurns Says:

    Wow, there is some really nice info here.
    I’ll definitely come back soon to see everything.
    Way to go! ;-)
    Joey