On this week’s Soccerlens column, I made a fairly basic error. In a sleep-deprived state thanks to a bout of insomnia (at least that’s what I’m blaming it on), I said Droylsden were thrown out of the FA Cup for fielding an illegible player, not an ineligible one. An easy mistake but one, at the time, I said highlighted the need for sub-editors, which is something all of blogging could benefit from.
It goes without saying that I love teh blogs, and that they’re something that the media – be it journalists, broadcasters, magazines or PR are going to have to increasingly deal with on a professional level and/or incorporate into their work. But that doesn’t mean the medium itself is without problems.
One of the main problems is nicely illustrated between the differences between this blog and the weekly blog I do for Soccerlens. On this blog, I write about what I feel like, when I feel like it (or have time). On one respect, this is liberating. On the other hand it leads to its own issues.
For a start there’s no consistency to the postings. A lengthy, well-researched post about the future direction of broadcasting could be followed by a quick three-paragraph posting about the brilliance of Brie. Although this blog has found more of a niche in the year or so as I’ve got more interested in social media and the future of the media, it’s still difficult to classify it as anything other than a personal blog.
Contrast this with my stuff at Soccerlens. I know exactly what my brief is, although it’s possible to stray beyond this. I know who my audience is. And I have a deadline for completion. You could say it’s a very old media way of doing things, but by God it works. It’s why (I think) my columns there have slightly more consistency than what I write on here.
There’s another level that makes Soccerlens a slightly easier writing experience (other than the fact I could talk about football all day). Ahmed, the site’s editor, will occasionally question facts, which encourages me to double check everything I write. He also makes suggestions for columns, and I can run ideas by him.
By the same token, it’s no coincidence that some of the best posts on here (in my humble opinion and all that) come from earlier conversations with friends or colleagues that are later expanded to include further thoughts.
As for editorial policy on here, I’m never entirely sure what this consists of. Taking pitching, for example. Infrequently, I get pitched for both here and football writing . The football requests are a lot easier to deal with because I know whether they’ll work with any of the places that’ll publish me.
The pitches for here are a slightly more arbitrary bunch that some often than not don’t entirely fit in with what usually appears on here, yet could also find a home here.
I may find it fascinating on a personal level, but does this mean my readers will think likewise if it’s far removed from the usual blog posts? And if I’m starting to consider the thoughts of my readers, does this mean this blog moves from the personal to the professional? And, if so, shouldn’t I be trying to make a lot more money than I do out of this lark? .
And then consider this. The traffic for this blog only really rises significantly when somebody like Roy Greenslade links to it. What does that say about the power of a individual blog that doesn’t operate within the parameters of a mainstream media organisation or larger blog network.
The obvious solution to this would be to pitch the ideas that are interesting but I don’t feel fit here to other publications, but I have a full-time job (as most other bloggers probably do) and, also, a social life, both of which are important to me . If I were freelance and made money from this blog, I’d consider it.
So, we come back to the problem that I’d imagine isn’t just confined to this blog. They may be challenging the media’s hegemony, but, unless there’s a self-imposed set of deadlines and a clear editorial policy, there’s still somewhat rough around the edges. Some are rough diamonds, some are just rough.
The best individual blogs I’ve seen are the single issue ones, like Nosemonkey’s EUTopia (and it’s noticeable this really improved once he refined the editorial policy), Vee8, Two Footed Tackle (which is appealing for more writers), Going Underground, Random Acts of Reality and others of a no less eclectic, yet similar, ilk.
For all that’s been said about blogging changing the media, I suspect what is really meant here is mainstream media blogging or large group blogs. And it’s the large group blogs like Soccerlens, or the collective of excellent Shiny Media blogs that offer the greatest threat to the established media world rather than a stream of opinion from an individual blog like this.
And let’s not also forget that this blog is just that: opinion. Soccerlens, Shiny et al are well established and are in a position to break stories quicker than traditional media. They have the contacts, the editorial focus, and the clout. If you were breaking a story, you’d give it more credence if it’s on a larger, more professional blog than the word of one man and his writing.
That isn’t to say certain individual bloggers won’t break news, or aren’t well-respected within their community. But if that news is to go beyond the community, it needs a wider audience.
The individual blog won’t go away. People won’t stop writing in them overnight. Thousands will continue to start new blogs each week. But it takes time for these blogs to start picking up traffic and search. These aren’t the blogs that will change media in a major way (although may still have the capacity for changing it in smaller, less tangible ways).
The group blogs may, in many respects, ape the mainstream media model. But they’re still a different beast entirely – a hybrid of what’s gone before and what’s coming now. And most importantly, they have editors.
And with editors come coherence, standards, and direction. There is encouragement, creativity, standards and a chance to bounce ideas around that wouldn’t necessarily have come to light had it just been one person at their keyboard.
In the current round of job losses, editors and sub-editors (and, by God, don’t we just need the latter) have been among the first to go. Next to go, we may well find, will be standards. If the media is heading down that path, the web may just find that tightening their own editorial area could do them a world of good.
The only problem, as Katchooo Tweeted the other day, is who is going to pay for them.
 Soccerlens isn’t the only place I write about football, but it’s the only one I do regularly.
 And, with my work PR hat on, this is why, when I’m pitching to bloggers, I like to make damn sure that if I’m emailing them, it will be a) worth their time to read the pitch; and b) something that they will be more likely than not to blog about.
 For ‘social life’ don’t just read ‘going to the pub’. It’s downtime with friends and family, which is just as important. You need a work-life balance.