July 20, 2010
The lack of specialists in EU-oriented blogs is impeding the development of the European online public space.
One of the observations in the recent Waggener-Edstrom survey of influential blogs that resonated with me was the lack of specialists in Euro blogging circles.
Finding 1: a major gap in sector-specific blogging expertise
The study contrasts this with the US, from where they imported the methodology (possibly creating more problems than solving them), and echoes something I’ve written about a number of times (e.g., missed opportunities in using the long tail of Communities of Interest and Practice to communicate Europe).
So what’s a specialist blogger? A few weeks ago, Steffen – covering similar ground – defined it thusly:
An influential policy blogger is an authority on a policy area who has a professional interest in it. They represent an organisation – be it a single issue pressure group or a global corporation – that is one of many stakeholders on a set of policy areas and present that organisation’s positions in blog format.
No base for bridges
The thing is, all Eurobloggers are specialists – but their specialisation is the EU.
Unlike most of Europe’s population, they know the difference between the Commission and the Parliament, President Herman van Rompuy and the rotating Presidency.
What’s worse, they actually care.
Which makes us a tiny, hyperspecialised bubble, talking about EU arcana noone else understands – and, increasingly, talking about ourselves. With barely any bridges connecting us to other online conversations.
We cannot expect those bridges to form that easily – why would anyone outside our bubble connect to a microscopic, hyperspecialised echo chamber where people talk a language they do not understand?
So it’s up to the Brussels Bubble to build those bridges outwards if we want to create a European online public space.
If that’s what we want (I sometimes have my doubts – do large fish in small ponds vote for lakes?), then these connections are going to be built on specialist subjects.
Because, out there, people are engaged in conversations on their topics of interest. Privacy. DRM. Biodiversity. Employment regulation.
All of these topics are touched by the EU, but these conversations rarely hear about relevant legislation on the way from Brussels, because:
- They’re not connected to Brussels, and the media won’t be telling them anything before it’s too late
- Brussels doesn’t reach out and engage with them directly – some online community managers from the Institutions would help here;
- As both Steffen and Waggener-Edstrom recently point out, there are hardly any bloggers out there who blog at the intersection of Europe and a specialist subject.
A cohort of specialists blogging about the EU-level issues in their particular subject would give those who don’t understand the EU a ‘handle’ on how the EU affects their field.
Because if these cohorts do what bloggers normally should – engage with others blogging in the field – they will be engaging with people outside the Brussels bubble. Thus forming bridges, and helping pop the Brussels bubble.
Which raises the question – what’s the motivation for a specialist to blog?
I always imagined that becoming the leading blogger on – say – the EU and digital privacy would be a useful reputation to have. In fact, that was the ‘basic pitch’ we used when foisting Blogactiv on an unsuspecting Brussels bubble almost 3 years ago.
I still think that … but three years have passed, and specialists blogging intelligently about specific subjects are still notable by their absence. Either I’m plain wrong, or I’m just wildly optimistic about timing.
While it’s true that Brussels is s-l-o-w, Stefan sees three more concrete reasons for the slow uptake. I think #2 is probably the most important:
it’s just a question of sticking to what they know best – and frankly, who can blame them? It’s worked for years … why bother unless someone is twisting your arm?
In this perspective, it’s a wonder any specialist blogs at all.
Specialise to survive
So while lobbyists and associations will always be part of the ecosystem, maybe it won’t be them primarily bringing EU policy debates to the wider online conversation.
Which means that it’s probably up to the generalist Eurobloggers – generally citizen bloggers.
Fortunately, the more creatures there are in an ecosystem, the greater the need to specialise to survive. Which means that Europasionaria was right: we need more eurobloggers.
Preferably ones with specialist knowledge. And quite some free time.Mathew Lowry