Independent bloggers writing about EU policy are nipping at the heels of their big media rivals, according to a survey on the EU’s English-language blogosphere.
“Despite the conclusion that the top blogs are affiliated to larger media houses, seven of the top ten most influential blogs are actually independent,” according to a survey by Waggener Edstrom, a Brussels-based consultancy.
Stephen Gardner’s ‘The Digger’, Stanley Crossick’s ’Stanley’s Blog’ and Jon Worth’s ‘Euroblog’ all came tantalisingly close to the BBC’s Gavin Hewitt and the Financial Times’ Brussels Blog in a survey that attempted to identify the key influential voices in Brussels policy debates on the Internet.
The Digger, Stanley’s Blog and Jon Worth also attracted more readers’ comments and were cited more in other blogs than the big media blogs, according to the survey’s criteria.
Bloggers were tested for the relevance of their content, the number of unique visitors to their site and their ranking in search engines, as well as their number of followers and mentions on other websites.
The EU’s digital agenda commissioner, Neelie Kroes, was the only commissioner represented in the ranking and came 10th in a list of the 33 most influential bloggers in Brussels, with The Economist’s well-known Charlemagne’s Notebook blog close behind.
The survey highlighted the emergence of blogging platforms such as Blogactiv.eu as providing a useful launch pad for first-time bloggers and driving a blogging culture.
“This study is very encouraging for everyone concerned. Of course those attached to major English language publications such as the BBC and FT have a big impact in the English-language EU blogosphere, as do some commissioners, but there is encouragement for the independents as well,” said Stuart Langridge, director of Blogactiv.eu.
On a less positive note, the consultancy concluded that the EU’s blogosphere had not yet reached maturity compared to its US counterpart. Nevertheless, it said EU blogging was showing signs of increasing in volume and impact.
In particular, the US blogosphere outsmarts the EU for providing “real sector expertise,” argues the consultancy.
Its 2009 US survey identified a substantial amount of influential blogs focused on the healthcare, financial services, technology and energy sectors.
“[The survey] suggests a startling lack of public commentary from real sector experts, and a major untapped opportunity for online engagement in the EU,” read one of the report’s key findings.
Critics argue that the consultancy’s study was too narrow as it focused on just one aspect of social media and only looked at English-language blogs.
A Dutch liberal MEP who spoke to lobbyists and policymakers at an event unveiling the report pointed out that you don’t have to gain a critical mass of followers to be a hit in the blogosphere.
“Bloggers must earn a reputation like any salesman. The blogosphere is like a marketplace of ideas. Most bloggers cater to a niche which is not always about high numbers,” Marietje Schaake told EurActiv.
“If you’ve reached the two people you wanted to reach, then two is enough,” Schaake said.
She also pointed to two EU blogs that are highly influential in her own country, the Philp Ebels blog and the Elsevier.nl blog, which did not figure in the study because they are in Dutch.