I posted up a “wordle”or tag cloud of all speeches given by the UK’s political leaders at their national conventions over the last three weeks – US readers might be used to wordles but they are unknown in the UK so far.
There is no point doing that without putting a comment on the blogs of the national papers to drive traffic to my site. I managed to do just that within an hour for both Prime Minster Gordon Brown and opposition leader David Cameron. The result was an instant spike in traffic.
So, from the process, which UK national newspaper is the biggest friend to the blogger? Which one encourages links and collaboration? Which one respects the people formerly know as the audience, as Jay Rosen put it?
Numero uno certainly goes to the Guardian. You have to be logged into the Guardian to leave a comment, like most newspapers in both the UK and US, but the process is pretty straightforward. I had done so previously so I managed to get my comment up within 20 minutes of political columnist Michael White posting his blog.
Surely the most important sign that a newspaper takes people’s comments seriously is that you can leave the URL of your blog on any comment? And, you can replace the anonymous avatar with your own photo? Neither of these is possible. The Guaridan, instead, is set up so that you click from the person’s name to a small profile which can include the blog address. There is no option to upload your own photo.
I managed to cut and paste the URL of the posting directly into the text. There is a “link” tab which turns the URL into a hyperlink for any chosen word. I overlooked this so my posted comment looked really unprofessional with the full URL of my posting blaring out. I alerted the Guardian’s moderator through the “abuse” button and he had soon deleted it, allowing me to upload a new one with the URL embedded nicely.
Traffic landed on my site immediately. The following day, the WordPress dashboard showed that traffic had come from several different parts of the Guardian. It was as if the moderator had spotted a popular comment and had then placed it in several areas of the site. Nice touch, I thought, making the guy not just a moderator but also a community editor.
Nombre dos is The Telegraph. I was put off linking the wordle of Brown’s speech, intimidated by the names of some of the commentators- “Gay Mafia”, “The Orange Party” - but I bit my lip when it came to David Cameron’s speech. The politician and newspaper theoretically share similar views so I was going to have to use it this time.
The first problem was where to find the blogs – there is no sign from the main navigation and search does not produce anything. Instead you must scroll to the bottom of the page to find the word “blog”. Interestingly the newspaper makes a distinction between “commentators” and “blogs”. Both can be written by staff journalists but the former refers to words in the paper, the latter on the website – very old media.
Again, like the Guardian, I was expected to fill in a profile - ”My Telegraph”. Your comment links back to this – so yet again no direct link back to my blog. You could at least post your own photo unlike the Guardian. I can imagine strategy meetings at The Telegraph where the concept of a profile for every reader seemed a really good way of harvesting readers’ details and keeping them on board. Today, it feels just like another of those old media concepts – controlling the readers rather than collaborating.
Finally I got to comment on a post by Gerald Warner, again placing the URL to my own blog within the comment. Traffic was good but not as good as for Brown. Indeed if my WordPress dashboard was the UK general public, Brown would win the next election by a margin of 3:1.
Last must be the Times. This paper manages to place a limit of no more than two comments on any story. What is that about?
So, in conclusion, from my “rigorous” research, not one of the three national papers really gets blogging. The Guardian and Telegraph try but without the functionality of being able to link directly to a commentator’s blog, they are really staying “stuff you” to one of the core principles of blogging – that is linking.
As for traffic generators, of course they are brilliant. I certainly do not dwell in the world of UK politics but it did not stop me attracting lilly-livered pinko Guardian readers or suited-and-booted Telelgraph readers to this little blog during the political convention season!
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