I don’t like to dwell on Iain Dale’s poll. As Longrider pointed out in the comments, it is of no real importance anyway. However, the first of Iain Dale’s category lists — media blogs — got me thinking. Why are there so few Scottish media blogs?
As far as I can make out, the list contains two blogs based on Scottish politics run by mainstream media organisations. One is the rather good Blether with Brian from the BBC’s Brian Taylor. The other is The Herald‘s politics blog (though going by Iain Dale’s list it is only Douglas Fraser’s entries that meet with approval). I have to say that while I was very aware of Brian Taylor’s blog, I was only vaguely aware that The Herald had a political blog.
You might think that two entries in the top 30 of Iain Dale’s poll is not too bad. But when you look more closely at some of the other entries, things don’t look so good for the Scottish media. Wales has no fewer than four blogs in the list: David Cornock, Betsan Powys, Vaughan Roderick and 07:25 to Paddington.
Three of those come from the BBC Wales politics department. In Scotland, Brian Taylor is the only BBC political journalist that I know of that has a blog. Even then, I suspect that Brian Taylor was asked by BBC News Online to start his blog. Blogs by the political editors of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all started within a very short period of time of each other, as I recall.
What interests me more though is the poor showing of commercial media outlets. Wales is represented by a blog from WalesOnline. Also on Iain Dale’s list is a local blog run by David Ottewell of the Manchester Evening News.
So where are the Scottish media blogs? I don’t think I would be alone in saying that I think The Herald‘s blogs are rather limp and half-hearted. Of late, Douglas Fraser has only updated once every fortnight or so (although, yes, I know it’s the summer — but there have been a lot of Scottish political stories too). Robbie Dinwoodie is much the same.
Scotsman.com is even worse. It has no proper blogs. It does, from time to time, call articles blogs, but they have no permalinks and no comments — just a normal page with some date headings. Worse still, many opinion pieces are behind a paywall, which means that bloggers — even if they can be bothered to fork out to read it in the first place — will seldom link to them and engage in the debate.
I doubt things will improve in this area. Ever since Johnston Press took it over, they have seemed determined to treat Scotsman.com like it is the website for a tiny local newspaper. The perfectly good website was replaced with Johnston Press’s own template which is used for all of their local papers, just with content from The Scotsman shoehorned in. This kind of approach to the web, which will be an increasingly important part of The Scotsman‘s business in the future, does not bode well.
I am sure the Sunday Herald used to have a separate site for blogging and comments. I don’t think I imagined it, but I can’t find any sign of it now. Mind you, I’m not surprised — it wasn’t very good.
It needn’t be like this. Despite claims from some that bloggers and the MSM are competing, this is simply not true. Blogs and the MSM are complementing. There are plenty of excellent, high-profile blogs run by media outlets based in London. The Spectator‘s Coffee House, The Times‘s Comment Central, The Telegraph‘s suite of politics blogs, The Guardian‘s politics blog and Comment is free, Nick Robinson and many other blogs from the BBC.
And Iain Dale’s list shows that they don’t have to be based in London, with respected blogs coming from other parts of the country. Why is there not more coming from Scotland?
It has to be said that the honourable exception is Brian Taylor. He seems to enjoy blogging and it is certainly a great place to catch up with recent political shenanigans. But what about everyone else?