We often stare in wonder at the supposed influence of US bloggers on political discourse and ponder whether such things will ever happen in Brussels. Over at the Brussels Media blog, they report on a development we heard mooted around town over recent months; the development by the internet information portal Euractiv of its own blogging platform blogactiv.eu
It is an interesting development, but we think it also throws up some interesting questions about the development of the EU blogosphere.
From Euractiv‘s point of view you can of course see why they are doing it. If it works and they link it as they suggest to relevant Euractiv content pages, it will provide more fresh content for their pages everyday. It may also draw people than would normally otherwise read Euractiv to their site. You will recall that Euractiv generally steers clear of editorial content, preferring to offer information and positions straight and simple. (BTW – sites like Euractiv have been a godsend to public affairs consultancies because of this. They allow us to focus on the more value added activities of intelligence and strategy rather than information.) Of course this effort clearly changes that dynamic and may attract a different kind of visitor.
For the potential blogger the Euractiv USP of being able to offer an instant readership is a strong one. Building a readership is not an easy task, especially in a world full of blogs. Its USP is especially important if one is seeking to reach out to those of us who live firmly inside the Brussels Bubble, a core section of Euractiv’s readership.
However, with respect to the development of the EU blogosphere we remain to be convinced. While the blogging platform is it seems open to all, the site pitches itself as “expert-generated content for Europe”. How is Blogactiv going to decide who is expert and who is not? The great thing about the blogosphere is that of course it’s the readers that decide with their mouse clicks and their links. As Blogactiv points out, the web is full of rubbish as the barrier to entry is so low, a few minutes on WordPress and hey presto. However, in addition to “expertise” to create a successful blog one needs sack fulls of patience and time. Natural selection occurs. Only the strong survive. If Blogactiv is an open platform, then expect as much rubbish as expertise. Especially if Disgruntled of Doncaster starts off on an anti-EU rant.
If Blogactiv is an “expertise” platform, i.e. you need a ready-made reputation and an invite from the Euractiv team, then it is in effect the same people from the Brussels Bubble talking to the same people in the Brussels Bubble. Looking at the Alpha authors (Stanley Crossick, Willy De Backer) one has to suspect that this may be the case. As such, do not expect the site to have the kind of impact that US bloggers with new faces and new ideas have had on the US political scene.
Nevertheless the advent of Blogactiv is of interest. It’s a logical extension to a successful information portal and potentially something we and our clients could be interested in. A guest blog on an issue at an opportune moment may be of interest in the same way that getting an opinion piece in the traditional media is. Don’t expect it to change the political landscape though, for that look to the fresh-faced bloggers with expanding networks and readerships that are already creating debates online.