Here are some comments and strong opinions, on what speakers said at a study launch by consultancy Waagener Edstrom, well summarized here . And what it means for opinion leaders: Mr Buzek, please read on…
Now, why would a Frenchman bother to blog on ’14 juillet’ day, on a very specialised, English and Brussels-centric topic? Because it need not stay that way! There is hope, for more impact and for an updated study next year.
MEP Marietje Schaake explained the use of national social networks. They helped her get elected last year, and her party to tripple its vote, thanks / despite a ‘yes to Europe’ line! The Dutch blogosphere also supported the re-appointment of Nellie Kroess as Commissioner. Difficult to belittle that kind of impact! This is exactly my view: EU blogging, and online media on EU matters, are at their best when they build on a national debate.
Gavin Hewitt, ia chief EU blogger at BBC, is top rated in this study. He made a number of interesting statements, notably:
- “EU reporting is not hard hitting like in Washington, and too deferent vis à vis politicians“. Continental journalists are often more timid than anglo-saxon ones? Correct. But I don’t recall the US founding fathers or their immediate successors being ‘hit’ by journalists… The European public sphere is a dream, a dream I share, but still a dream. By the way, the most virulent EU blogger, who outed real scandals, is… French: Jean Quatremer. UK tabloïd reporting makes headlines more than impact and influence.
- “The Blogosphere is therefore under developped in Brussels”. Correct. Unlike Mediapart in Paris, that Gavin properly mentioned. This is also due to fragmentation between different languages and national public spheres. It’s also an opportunity for early entrants, like reknown experts without online background.
- “There is no equivalent in Brussels to Politico in Washington“. Now, let me blow my own vuvuzela, with French humility… Edelman seems to find at least equal merit to the media we set up 11 years ago. Their study ‘Capital Staffers Index‘ (among parliament circles) ranked EurActiv in Brussels at the same level of influence as Politico (and Roll Call) in Washington. EurActiv is followed by ‘blogs’, and well ahead of BBC, FT and The Economist. Whereas in Washington, generalist newspapers like Washington Post and NY Times are ahead of specialised publications. Why? the audience of EurActiv (and its daughter Blogactiv) is divided between 11 different languages, served by eleven editorial teams in 11 capitals. None of them have the total number of readers of one large anglo-saxon media. But – taken collectively and measuring only among policy circles – it is clearly the leader. Most reader use EurActiv in their own language: what a difference in… online influence, the very topic at hand.
- We were shown a number of social networking application around the European Parliament. Apart from some Commissioners blogs, the EP clearly leads among EU institutions. However, despite interest from the room, the EP representative seemed shy about readership figures and resources spent (so I won’t mention his name either). We first heard that this is ‘free’ (meaning little external contracts, but who paid for setting up the Facebook pages and buying the ad words to get ca 75 000 ‘fans’ registered?). Then we finally understood that there are at least 25 officials working on it… (for free?). And finally, we didn’t get unique visitor or pageviews figures, apart from the vague ‘a couple of hundres of thousands (is that a lot for these resources? how is it measured?).
My advice to President Buzek: translating your views in 23 languages is worthwhile (and sometimes necessary); being really close to citizens would be better. So, just keep one social media coordinator and some ‘MEP & assistant trainers’ in Brussels. The others should be at the EP’s national offices (and/or even subcontracted to local bloggers), helping MEPs there and interacting with national online media . This would imply less control of the messages? Yes, that’s the name of game in social media, we were told: ‘interaction and debate, not PR’. It’s high time to move, well before the next EP elections.
A practical example? The Dutch lady MEP above wishes to get answers to her social networking messages to you. She might debate and therefore relay your views better than a Flemish translator based Rue Wiertz?
Regarding the study itself and its presenters, I would make three comments:
- it is highly readable, worth looking at… except the blog names are not clickable…
- we all seemed to agree that – next time – it should look beyond the English-speaking world
(btw, John & Jon, this is not about automated translation, but about engaging national political spheres on EU topics in a localised way. Even the famous search engine you quoted won’t help much on that front: we need expert brains, of bloggers or journalists or citizens, not software)
- finally, yet another self-interested point. The study rightly mentions Blogactiv as the most relevant platform, hosting and promoting 9 out of the 40 influential bloggers ranked (source: Stuart, its director). So, a ranking not by individual bloggers but regrouping by media backers would probably bring Blogactiv / EurActiv at the top. Things can change fast, no position is established. In my view, decentralisation and languages will remain key, probably rising with internet and the social media tide.
Good continuation, I look forward to EU Bloggers Study 2011, rather than ‘Brussels Bloggers 2010′!
I’ll update this list of other comments I found on 14th July (update 15 July evening):
(fellow bloggers, please just link to this post and I’ll compile relevant pings)
More on decentralised communication, old and not covering blogging, but still relevant:
read Fondation EurActiv’s Yellow Paper