Why blog?

Welcome to the final part of our “Introduction to blogging” guide for Liberal Democrat bloggers or would-be bloggers. It’s been appearing each Saturday in the run-up to Christmas, with all the posts available via this page. The series will then be revised and collated into an e-book, so please do post up your comments as the series progresses. Today we’re finishing where we started, with reasons to blog. Alix Mortimer is at the keyboard…

Why blog?

The whys and wherefores of political blogging generate a lot of heat. Amble around the internet a little, and you’ll find denunciations of blogging as a self-indulgent waste of time, and see it lauded as the answer to every problem from lack of accountability to the rise of the far right. Personally, I have sympathy with the self-indulgent camp. It’s why I do it, after all. But there are, luckily, almost as many different reasons to blog as there are bloggers. Here are just a few:

Blog as an accountability tool

If you’re a councillor or MP and you don’t have a Vince-like profile, blogging makes your activities visible to constituents and press, in an informal way that obviates the need for fanfare. Not every single thing you do will result in a law changed or a hospital saved, but that doesn’t mean your daily grind isn’t worthwhile and worth reporting. MPs should be particularly tempted because it’s an opportunity to demonstrate that the recess periods aren’t just one long strawberry daiquiri.

Blog to campaign

To be honest, I’ve had my doubts about this. Of course, blogging can be one tool within a wider campaign. But the old campaign rules still apply – what exactly are you hoping to achieve and how will you know when you’ve done it? I know groups of bloggers periodically decide that this-or-that opponent should be targeted by co-ordinated blogging, or such-and-such an issue be pushed to the press, but I’ve rarely seen it succeed.

More scope, I reckon, lies in the supporting role. Telling your readers to sign a petition to outlaw Dan Hannan will result in more signatures, and then that petition becomes a useful campaigning tool. Repeatedly blogging that Dan Hannan should be outlawed is unlikely to result in a newspaper calling for this to happen, or a question being asked in the House. (Or at least, it hasn’t yet and some chaps have been slogging away at it for long enough.)

Become number 55

This is a sort of a fuzzy-edged version of the previous. Blogging may not get things done by itself, but it can contribute to the online “noise” in support of a political position. Quantity of blogging drives up quality and increases the chances that interested punters will find your corner of the blogosphere. Political blogging is still, just about, news in itself, and political activists still vie with one another to show that their party, or cause, has the most-read, the best-written or the highest-profile blogs. If you care about that party or cause, then you might want to add your voice to the chorus. Jo Christie-Smith put this rather well once – she said that, assuming it would take, say, 100 women bloggers to achieve gender parity in the Lib Dem blogosphere, she wanted to do her bit by becoming number 55.

Become the go-to blog for the latest on Giant Newts

Actually, Giant Newts is a bit of an over-subscribed niche. What I’m getting at is that you might want to take ownership of a particular individual or angle. Politicalbetting.com is the example par excellence, Boriswatch is another. This is, at the moment, the only scenario in which I can see the blog-as-campaign thing working. If your remit is specific enough (and, obviously, your material good enough), people will get into the habit of reading you for your special subject, and that may well include journalists who want to write about it.

Join in the conversation

Blogging needn’t be a glorified timesheet or a sifting pan for the newspapers. The internet is full of interesting people saying interesting things (obviously not quite full, because there has to be room for the nutters). If you’re into the same stuff as they are (we’re back on the interesting people now) why not talk to them? Of course, you might already be in the conversation, as a commenter. I can think of plenty of people I would consider part of the Lib Dem blogging “community” who don’t have blogs of their own. Blogging is just the logical next step, a place, as it were, to keep your stall so that you don’t have to set it out anew every time you join in a thread. Not everyone will have time or inclination to make that next step. But you might.

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This entry was posted in Blogging guide.


  • Grammar Police 21st Dec '09 - 4:35pm

    This is an element of “Join the conversation”, but I think probably the most important reason to blog or comment is because it makes it possible to join a community of likeminded (and not-so-likeminded) people to discuss an issue in depth, to test out your arguments or just because it can be pretty ‘lonely’ as an activist in a political party – and most local parties are about the practicalities of campaigning and are not the place for high calibre political debate.

    I agree with Alix in terms of having doubts about the campaigning value of blogging; however, I think they can and should be used in a supporting capacity – along with online petitions, single issue sites and specific email lists.

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