Mathew Lowry

A few weeks before the Hungarian media storm broke late last year, the BloggingPortal editors were contacted by the (then upcoming) Hungarian Presidency team, seeking ideas for how they could cooperate with the Euroblogosphere. Being a loosely-at-best organised gang of volunteers, it took us a while to respond.

To their immense credit, the Presidency team didn’t bat an eyelid when we eventually accepted their offer and I organised the first meeting, despite the fact that we had all been being particularly busy slamming the Hungarian media law(1).

I hope one day to analyse the Presidency team’s move as probably the first true piece of social media engagement by an EU Institution, particularly given the fact that we could have been seen as a hostile audience. But for now I’m simply going to (try to) curate the results so far in this Blogtour. If I miss something it’s because we still don’t have the right tools to knit the EU online public space together(1), so please forgive me; add it in the comments; and I’ll update.

Blogger-Presidency meetings

I never got around to blogging that first meeting, due both to work commitments and the fact that Ron and Europasionaria covered it so well. I still intend to, because a few good ideas came of it, notably the idea of social media platforms and/or strategies that could be passed from Presidency to Presidency.

More importantly, that first meeting laid the ground for others, focused more on briefing bloggers on specific topics. As far as I can see(1), nothing has been posted on the 2nd or 3rd meetings, but the fourth meeting includes an audio file, and covered “how the Presidency organises all the meetings of the Council and the challenges they face thereby … [and] on interpretation in the Council, the different rules and arrangements and the demands that the interpretation practices create for the interpreters and the presidency“.

Update1: Turns out there have been 3 meetings, and that Ron blogged about the second. The fact that I missed that, and got the number wrong, illustrates both my points, below.

Update4: Well, apparently there were 4 meetings, and Vasistas blogged about the third (on network neutrality, in German). This confusion proves my points about the lack of curation infrastructure in the Euroblogosphere, below, even more.

Sometime between the first and second, moreover, Kovács and Kováts, the two Presidency team members we met, launched their eponymous blog.

Blogger Accreditation

These meetings probably helped the Hungarian Presidency team organise blogger accreditation to the following week’s Competitiveness Council (previewed here), which resulted in :

  • live blogging from the Council (day one, day two) by @europasionaria and @ronpatz, who could be followed using the #EUpilot hashtag;
  • a post by Michael Malherbe (FR)
  • some thoughts from Kosmopolit, who rightly points out both the significance and the limitations of blogger accreditation, and that “somehow a blogging link between the EU level and the national and subject spheres needs to be established” (more on this below).

Update2: see also a post by Macarena Rodríguez (in Spanish).

Blogger accreditation has been discussed for some time now, but to my knowledge noone has managed to actually define what the criteria are. It’s a non-question for now – only a few bloggers were even able to turn up to the above groundbreaking meetings, or attend the Council.

But that might change if the number of Eurobloggers grows. Then it’ll become a tricky question, sure to generate as much heat as light. There have doubtless been posts on this too, but for now I can’t find them(1).

(1)Is it the technology …

So why all those (1)s in the preceding paragraphs? Well, as I write the first version of this post, I see only 3 posts about 2 of the 4 meetings with the Hungarian Presidency – meetings that any keen Brussels-based Euroblogger would have surely wanted to attend.

There are two possible explanations, and one is that I missed a lot of posts. In this case, the conclusion would then be that either (a) I’m an idiot; or (b) today’s information infrastructure for the EU online public space (i.e., bloggingportal) isn’t yet powerful enough to draw together blog posts on specific subjects. I’ll go for both (a) and (b), as evidence for (a) is apparent from anyone who’s met me.

For (b), I point to the fact that blogtours like this are necessary. Why? Because I couldn’t simply link to a single page aggregating all posts on the Hungarian media law, or a single page aggregating all posts on meeting the Hungarian Presidency. Hell, I only found Michael’s post, above, because it was mentioned by email and then I Googled it.

Update 4: other posts added here after this post was first published came via email and Twitter.

Bloggingportal does have a tagging system, so I can link you to all posts about Hungary, and to all posts about media, and even – if I dig hard – all posts on media freedom. But not to all posts about the Hungarian media law, because creating a tag is not simple. I’d post something about the potential of combining machine-translation and federated search, but the last time I wanted to improve Bloggingportal all I did was waste everybody’s time in fruitless email discussions which went nowhere.

… or the time available?

Not that I’d know how difficult tagging an article is on Bloggingportal, because I’ve never done it.

Which brings me to the second possible reason why the Hungarian Presidency’s efforts have resulted in so few posts: people are busy. We’re all doing this in our evenings, on our weekends, during our lunchbreaks.

It’s amazing anything happens at all, and if there weren’t a cohort of 20-somethings-without-kids driving the European online public space, it would stumble to a halt within a week. Sure hope they don’t fall in love.

Looking for RoI

So should the Hungarian Presidency look at this outcome and conclude they wasted their time? After all, they could have spent their time on ‘real’ journalists, with real readerships, and had a bigger impact, no? Well, maybe. But assessing Return on Investment in social media is a very young, very inexact discipline.

As I posted a while back (Vacancies: Specialists required to build bridges), we need to somehow form bridges between the Brussels Bubble and national social media conversations. And as Ron pointed out in his comment to my post earlier this week, if these bridges are Eurobloggers, this also solves the scaling problems which would limit EU social media to the Brussels Bubble.

We are now seeing this more and more. This week, for example, Ron pointed to one example in his comment, and another (by email), about how Michael’s post indirectly triggered a translation of Ron’s post about finding Council documents into German. I presume there are more … but I can’t find them(1).

Hence a model emerges where the EU Institutions engages with Eurobloggers less for their Bubble readership than for their bridging function to national online conversations.

Recognise the model? Yep, it’s called press relations. The model also means that:

  • defining blogger accreditation should be a priority in 2011
  • as should better systems for connecting national and EU discussions (e.g., improving Bloggingportal tagging), as they would demonstrate the RoI of EU social media engagement
  • and that, as an Australian, in the long term, I’m screwed! 😉
Author :


  1. The fact that not much has been blogged from the second meeting with the Hungarian presidency was that it was basically off-the-record. I still blogged afterwards what I could blog:

    And,as mentioned before, the third meeting has been blogged on the largest German blog (cross-posted from vasistas):

    So there has been a post after every meeting. And the live-blogging has been followed-up on another German blog already:

    Given that this is a really new thing with a small number of limited topics without being widely announced it is not surprising that it has not grown big. I think it would make a large difference if institutions would announce invitations to bloggers from around Europe or announce widely that they’d be ready to accredit them, there would be more responses.

    But we are in a test/pilot phase, so I hope the next steps will come.

  2. Thanks for the info – have updated the post.

    My point was that if this does grow, the Institutions will have to bite the bullet and set out criteria for accreditation. Right now that’s unnecessary, because there are so few and they’re piloting it.

    There was some Twitter chatter about this last year. Did it go anywhere?

  3. Matthew, this post shows great strategic thinking! Congratulations!
    1. I think you pinpoint the main problem for bloggers: how to connect Brussels to the home audience. We did succeed on one occasion, with the proposoal to fight child pornography, the discussion was covered in the widely read Netzpolitik: However, this is a very specific subject, where the blogosphere is active. We cannot expect the same for chicken farming.
    2. The UK Office of the European Parliament has an interesting project running parallel with ours:
    I am sure you know the impact of Mumsnet in the UK.
    3. The point of involving bloggers is exactly that they don’t have to be in Brussels on a regular basis (although a visit can help, to touch and smell the bubble). If we had a method of disseminating information on upcoming debates, then interested bloggers could put their questions in advance and the few bloggers present could pose them and the rest could be answered in writing/online.

    I think we should not be trapped in the old-fashioned offline thinking, but approach this accreditation issue from an online perspective. (Bloggers also often have day jobs, so very few can be present at press conferences.)
    We will talk to the EP and see how we could cooperate (e.g. with the local EP information offices).
    Gergely (Kováts)

  4. Hi, Kováts, welcome to my blog and thanks for the comment, particularly the MumsNet case study.

    Re: “we cannot expect the same for chicken farming”, let me put my tongue firmly in cheek to disagree a little. A search for ‘chicken farming blog Europe’ produces over 4.7m results. Presumably European chicken farmers will also view North American and Asian blogs on this topic, so it’s also worth considering some of the 10m extra results when one drops the ‘Europe’.

    The very first result in the first search leads to “Free range eggs in danger of being overcooked“, which refers to rural development programmes and the impending EU ban on conventional cages. Presumably farmers have a view on this.

    Tongue out of cheek. My point is the same one I made in “(When) Does EU blogging matter? – that everyone is interested in something, and the EU is probably involved in it. I used butterflies and organic farming to illustrate that post. Now that we’re talking chicken farming and animal welfare, so it’s more than interested – we’re talking livelihoods, not hobbies.

    The initial reaction to such a statement is – obviously – that “we can’t possibly scale our social media strategy to that!”, which is why my 2009 post talked about EC-convened Communities of Interest/Practice. In these spaces, the EU plays an important convening role, but it’s a many-to-many conversation, similar to the ideas Ron and I discussed last week in Can EU social media scale to the EU?.

    It’s also why I think the ‘blogger as bridgebuilder’ model discussed in that post will still at least partly be carried by specialists (see Vacancies: Specialists required to build bridges). Here the idea is that an “agri-blogger” who follows the CAP would stand out in national online conversations.

    Interestingly, such architectures and supporting online spaces are ideal for, as you say above, “disseminating information on upcoming debates, [allowing] interested bloggers [to] put their questions in advance and the few bloggers present [to] pose them [with] the rest answered online.

    This echoes lessons I learnt while building online communities for the EC 5-10 years ago (here): holding physical meetings stimulates online exchanges, and vice versa.

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