Where are the Scottish media blogs?

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?

11 comments

  1. The BBC in Wales has two “official” blogs Betsan Powys and Vaughan Roderick. The reason for BBC Wales having two compared to Scotland’s one is that BBC Wales provides its services in Wales in two languages; Betsan blogs in English and Vaughn blogs in Welsh. Although David Cornock is BBC Wales’ man in Westminster his blog is not an official BBC blog – it is just a plain old blogger blog like mine.

  2. Yup. Still pretty impressive on David Cornock’s part though. I can’t think of a Scottish journalist who does that sort of thing. Iain Macwhirter has a blog, but I think it’s mostly recycled newspaper columns.

  3. I suspect it’s because of something you mention – that blogs are seen as competition. There is perhaps also the chance that blogs are seen as ‘odd’ because of the ferocity of points that are made on some online newspapers’ comments sections.

    It could also be due to critical masses. The blogs you talk about in England will attract many more readers (say 10 times, simply on a Barnett basis!). This might help justify their existence.

    In Scotland though there could be a fear that having a blog might not only cost them readers in the ‘real’ paper but also that the total number of readers would be so small as to be a waste of time. Of course perhaps the number of Welsh media bloggers undermines this idea.

    It might be none of these reasons. But I suspect these points are at least part of the rationale.

  4. Great post Duncan. I’ve kind of thought the gist of what you say though not been conscious of it if that makes sense. That is, I’d read “Blether with Brian”, enjoy it and then be a bit frustrated that’s there nowehere else in media-land to get another take.

    I think a part of it might be linked to the shockingly poor comments the Scotsman and Herald receive. Why would Johnston Press and journalists want to humour the numpties who leave such juvenile, squabbling chat?

    I have seen the blogs section of the Scotsman has moved into better territory with posts from Labour Home, Two Doctors and Calum Cashley. Maybe this crossover is a bit of a start to brining main stream media and blogging closer together.

  5. Jeff, there’s a blogs section of the Scotsman? Or is this the “dead tree” version you’re talking about?

    By the way, sorry for the strangeness being caused by the OpenID thing just now. I’ll look into sorting it out tomorrow.

  6. yeah, sorry, I meant the “dead tree” version that sits in the top right corner of the letters pages.

    No worries about the Open ID thing. I thought you were making commenters jump through a few extra hopes to test just how much they wanted to say something…!

  7. Nah. I used to have a separate field for OpenID, but it was optional. But I decided it was silly to have two fields for your URL. But this isn’t working quite the way I want it to… I’ll have a look tomorrow.

  8. God please not a Scottish Guido.

    Maybe its because the Scottish Media is shite blogging abouit shite media would be dull?

    PS Lets just ignore Iain Dale

  9. There are a few Scottish media/PR blogs on the go written by freelance outfits. Admittedly in my case not as high brow as The Hootsman or Herald and unashamedly has tittle tattle but each to their own. Check out http://www.surepr.blogspot.com/ and other links for Shaun Milne, Scott Douglas, Craig McGill and Stewart Kirkpatrick are on my blog roll.

  10. Thanks Stephen. I knew of Craig McGill and Stewart Kirkpatrick but not the others. Looks like a good list of blogs to keep an eye on.