Is LabourList a new form of daytime TV?

I’ve been scratching my head trying to work out what Derek Draper is up to with the new LabourList site – and I think the answer lies with daytime TV.

I start from the view that (a) it is clearly a major part of Labour’s online strategy, and therefore of interest to anyone interested in politics and the internet, (b) some of the other people involved are people whose skills I rate, even if their political views are a little misguided (!), and (c) Derek Draper has plenty experience of politics and so, all in all, one should have an open mind about whether there’s a sensible strategy behind it all.

That open mind has taken a bit of a battering since Derek Draper has launched a sort of anti-charm offensive, berating other political bloggers in numerous comments around the place – and in terms which include other Labour Party bloggers in his criticisms.

Take, for example, this outing on Dizzy Think’s website:

Boy, the British blogosphere! What an introduction I have had. Never have I experienced such a self-important, self-regarding, self-obsessed group in my life. No wonder the British Blogosphere is such a tiny, tiny, tiny ghetto. Don’t any of you realise that I don’t care what you think? Why would I? Why should I?

“British blogosphere”? Ah, that’d be a bunch of Labour bloggers too who he is describing as “self-important, self-regarding, self-obsessed”. A curious approach to internet outreach, which I think I won’t be copying…

Derek Draper has also coined the phrase that he is building a site aimed at the 60 million people, not 60 bloggers. It’s a neat turn of phrase and I think it reveals perhaps a method to his apparent madness (winding up other people all over the place just after beta launch), but also a fundamental flaw that could sink the whole project.

The method? It reminds me of the Tony Blair media strategy, c.2005: fed up with political journalists, he and his team deliberately tried to side-step them and reach out to the public without having to go through the filter of political hacks and lobby correspondents. The answer? A media drive that saw Tony Blair more frequently interviewed on daytime TV than on heavy political shows.

So perhaps there is a deliberate attempt here to imitate that strategy, and by-pass political bloggers in a similar way. Which brings us to the flaw.

There are plenty of successful or large audience political blogs around the world, but I struggle to think of any which are based on this approach. The ones commonly quoted – such as ConservativeHome, DailyKos, MyDD, Guido Fawkes – all very much interact with at least parts of the wider blogging community rather than trying to cut themselves off from it. There is also a strain of blogs which do tend to be fairly isolated, usually hanging off the back of a traditional media outlet. But – despite the advantage of this media tie-up – they frequently have audiences smaller than those in the first group. And neither group reach audiences of the sort of mass Derek Draper is talking about.

So whilst there may be a method to this strategy of disdaining even Labour bloggers, it is a very tough call to try to achieve something that no-one has managed before. Especially when, as to be fair Derek Draper says himself, he’s rather new and inexperienced when it comes to all this blogging stuff.

That doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for success. Far more likely is that somewhere along the line this strategy of antagonising other bloggers will quietly get dropped and instead LabourList will try to plough the conventional blogger outreach strategy that is a tried and tested route to a different sort of success.

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