Behind New Labour’s online operations


9:35 am - December 22nd 2008

by Sunny Hundal    


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So, last week New Labour’s Derek Draper hosted a breakfast at party HQ, inviting some left-leaning bloggers, party members and technology people to hear what two senior execs at Blue State Digital had to say about working on the Obama campaign. Thanks to hilarious spinning by Guido and Iain, this non-event has taken a life of its own and, since I attended, various people have been asking how it went.

Two points are worth making overall: (a) the Tory bloggers are more deluded than I thought; (b) Derek Draper’s online initatives are misguided.

First, a brief description
Blue State Digital mostly developed the My.BarackObama.com platform that allowed the campaign to roll out customised social networking for the campaign’s supporters. BSD are a very political company; they focus on working with progressive organisations. The event was mostly a Q&A, with the execs recounting their experience in online campaigning, and questions arounf how the model might work here.

The short answer is: with great difficulty. BSD sell platforms rather than small, cheap tools, so they’re out of the league of individual bloggers. They did develop the platform for the successful Firedoglake, and have tools that plug into their own platforms but it’s largely useless for us.

BSD are pitching towards NGOs and political orgs that want to use their flexible VoteBuilder software, which the Democrats use, to gather info on subscribers and hit them with highly targeted emails. The Labour Party is unlikely to use that since it already uses Contact Creator. I’ve heard some trade unions are looking into it, and that is no bad thing since its a good tool.

That is pretty much all that needs to be said of the event. It was Draper’s second event and there’s another planned in January. I doubt I’ll be invited – I asked the BSD people if they had to persuade the Obama campaign to become more open and allow grassroots members to self-organise without trying to assert control over everything, since the Labour Party was anything but democratic at local level. Draper laughed and invited me to join the party and contribute from the inside. I said ‘thanks but no thanks’.

Compass had held a similar, smaller event the day before. BSD are doing the rounds because they are opening an office in London and putting themselves out in there in political / NGO circles.

Deluded Tories
When self-obsessed right-wing bloggers such as Guido Fawkes think Labour’s strategy is to win the blogosphere battle, they’re more deluded than I thought. Same goes for Harry Phibbs and Iain Dale. Labour wants to win the next election and Derek Draper has enough brain cells to rub together to realise blogging dominance doesn’t mean electoral success. Sure, the Westminster bubble press hacks worship Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes but that doesn’t translate into votes since they preach to the converted.

Tories have nothing to crow about anyway; ConservativeHome is the only project worthy of note and scale, but its externally funded and frequently runs stories the party wouldn’t want out there.

The Conservative Party operations have failed miserably too. Their Stand Up Speak Up help us shape the manifesto website has been quitely ditched. Their new online blog is pretty lame, and going by the examples offered by their new spokesperson, it will remain as such. And that is the extent of the party’s online operations. Even Platform 10 has tumbleweed all over it.

Deluded New Labourites
I get the feeling many within the Labour party, including Derek Draper, think implementing the online technology used by Obama alone can give them the edge. This is deluded. The technology makes it easier for voters to do existing activity: donate money and organise with others to support their candidate. It also allows the campaign to reach voters cheaply and, in certain cases such as micro-targetting, it also offers an edge above traditional voter contact.

But New Labour has to overcome biggers problems first: they need a charismatic leader who can communicate well; they need policies that will appeal to an energised base; they need to reach out to people through grassroots mobilisation. The party isn’t doing enough of it, so even if they bought the entire BSD range of software – it would have little impact.

Saying that, its likely New Labour will launch some sort of a group blog anyway. It will undoubtedly be rubbish. My advice is: forget trying to engage bloggers, spend more effort trying to voters instead.

Other than that it was a decent chinwag. There are plenty of Labour bloggers I get on with and there’s plenty of intelligent people who understand what’s needed, but don’t have access to the upper party hierarchy.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Labour party ,Media ,Westminster

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Reader comments


I thought that was rather Iain and Guido’s point as well wasn’t it? That official blogs directed by the party are almost inevitably doomed to failure, and that any political battle in the blogosphere (ick) will be won by the people who can attract the biggest audiences – which fight, probably, is currently being won by the right of centre.

If the Labour Party believe that they can direct a reversal of this trend from the centre, then they’re going to waste their time.

I think most central projects are doomed to fail because they are precisely that – central.

I think the parties should stick to the policies and if the policies are any good, the blogosphere and MSM will follow them without the need for meetings or new software or whatever.

3. Alisdair Cameron

Sunny:”New Labour has to overcome bigger problems first: they need a charismatic leader who can communicate well; they need policies that will appeal to an energised base; they need to reach out to people through grassroots mobilisation.”

So, just the niggly wee details for New Lab to get sorted then..?

Draper (and he can still be a nasty piece of work) has got himself a nifty wee sinecure doing this, but,
a) He’s trying to polish a turd
b) Damn near anything online which has an ‘Official’ tag to it (like an official party site, an official corporate site) is superficilaly glossy, but enervated, and tends (rightly) to be shunned.
c) (akin to a)) Content is king.I simply cannot see Labour’s inner circle allowing too much off-message stuff to get out there. Maybe a bit of kite-flying and some dog-whistle politics, but the real debates that are needed to reinvigorate the liberal left will take place elsewhere.
d) It wasn’t the bleeding software platform that got Obama in, really was it? Makes about as much sense as insisting every New labour minister eat the same breakfast cereal as Barack. A very New Lab solution: pay lots of money to external consultants and miss the point completely.

I think most central projects are doomed to fail because they are precisely that – central. ~ LFAT

Yes and no.

The Obama netroots operation embraced a multi-cell approach, but don’t think it wasn’t coordinated. You say they fail, when the only large-scale and intelligent experiment was a huge success.

The reason the Labour and Conservative operations have floundered, is that they aren’t savvy enough. Some slick salesperson turns up at PartyHQ, with a “plan” to deliver a thriving web presence, and they swallow it.

In my opinion, any plan must softly “corral” and nourish individual bloggers. The Lib Dems are probably the leaders in this. Rather than attempting to steamroller the sphere they’re just providing a loose framework and recognition for bloggers and activists.

…an in return, Lib Dem bloggers are providing some of the best, most constructive, content out there.

I’m not sure what use the ranting Tory blogosphere offers*, other than demonstrating what a hateful and resentful bunch they can be.

*there are some decent tory blogs, it’s just that the angry ones tend to rise to the surface

Sun,y ignoring the partisan jibes I’d like to pick you up on one thing. You say blogs like mine preach to the converted, almost as if I have no non Tory readers. Wrong. Every survey I carry out shows that at least 35% of my readers are not Tories. I wonder what that figure would be for Liberal Conspiracy – ie how many non left readers you have. It would be interesting to ask the question.

I know from my email inbox that there are a lot of people out there, especially in the 18-25 age group who have got interested in politics through blogs. They’re not necessarily politically aligned but are using blogs as a news resource and something which can help them form where they are on the political spectrum

But isn’t the whole point of blogs that they are not there to preach? We are here to give our opinions and have them argued with. That’s not preaching, that’s debate.

Iain:

I wonder what that figure would be for Liberal Conspiracy – ie how many non left readers you have. It would be interesting to ask the question.

Not really. You specifically write a blog aimed at anyone interested in politics, but specifically aimed at journos and similar. Tim’s ToryHome is aimed at Tories. This site is aimed at building a coalition of liberals and lefties.

Counting our non-target audience as a measure of success seems a little, well, strange, don’t you think? Each individual blog out there will have a differing readership and a different target audience. One of my blogs had a target audience of 6 people. Each of those 6 read it once or twice a week. That’s 100% market penetration and was thus successful.

If we really wanted, we could make this site a left equivalent of you, Guido, ToryHome and other places, and undoubtedly get a massive readership. But mostly that’s not the sort of thing that interests me—I certainly don’t want a comment box bearpit like Guido’s, and while yours is better now, it’s still not something I want to contribute to (unlike 2-3 years ago when I did every so often).

I’m actually of the opinion that the online organisation system of the Obama campaign is something that a genuinely grassroots party could learn lots from and benefit from. Shame that BSD need money to pay for their stuff, the only grassroots party of the three UK parliamentary parties hasn’t got any.

8. Mike Killingworth

There are two or even three quite different things going on here.

First, using on-line networking to produced better marked registers for knocking-up on election day – British practice on canvassing traditionally was way ahead of American, partly because we have better electoral registers in the first place: the problem for British parties is the lack of bods on the ground – a single full canvass is now regarded as excellent in a marginal seat, whereas two or even three were pretty standard a generation ago. So the internet can be used to save footsloggers’ time.

Second, using websites to encourage party membership, or at least donations. The Labour Party hasn’t really wanted members since John Smith died – Mandelson has always been quite open about this. Doubtful the internet can really replace face-to-face begging: if you’re really interested in this ask Mike Smithson to write a guest article on it, he knows his stuff in this area.

Third, and this is where blogs come in, there’s the battle of ideas. All parties need to stand back officially from this, whilst encouraging their activists (e.g. councillors) to blog and ensure that their Party’s position is fairly presented on independent blogs – a sort of “on-line rebuttal” unit for the blogosphere. They need to do this but probably don’t have the resources.

9. Alisdair Cameron

That last point is notable, Mike: there have been some amazingly clumsy attempts by Draper and co (risibly on-message, no deviation from the script) to rapidly rebut stuff on Comment is free, but so ham-fisted they do the reader an insult and so are utterly counter-productive.
Hints to Derek and co include not suddenly having an avalanche of new faces register and post strikingly similar sentiments, using stock phrases, not trotting out unusually hard to find/arcane statistics, not pretending that everything is perfect in the Labour garden (y’know, some realsim gores a long way, as does admitting one’s flaws), being readable, having a sense of humour, and not simply being snidey etc etc

There’s basically some separate issues here.

1) Marketing/campaigning by politicians using internet tools.

This is the Obama story. They took the Dean internet model of touching on small contributors from a really wide area and married it to Obama’s existing “community activist” style organisation. It worked well, but it has to be remembered that in part it worked so well because it helped channel an existing electoral desire for change.

The Tories might be able to use some of what Obama’s team put together in the coming election, but I doubt it will have as much impact. Because, in the end, as unlikeable as Gordon is, he’s not GWB and equally Obama is a different level of symbolic change to Cameron.

I think the reality of internet marketing and organising for British political parties is that it’s a slow burn (adverts apart) that depends on the second strand taking off, to generate some communities for the parties to capitalize on:

2) Creating a political ecosystem in the blogosphere.

I think there’s generic agreement that this is a much more hands off enterprise. You can funnel money at it if you have some to spare, and it might help, but the reality is it’s about human conversations and none of the parties have enough of a base to build a serious presence solely out of their internal conversations.

However, the growth of independent blogs is hampered by a number of challenges. One is that we have a more complicated online media scene here. Indeed, if the Times (for example) even got as good a technology setup as CiF (and that’s not saying much) I think it would clearly change the market for ConservativeHome.

I also think, looking historically, we can see that CiF has put the UK on a different path for blog development on the left. The US progressive blogs grew in an emptier environment, so we should expect things to evolve differently. Even more interesting is the presence of Tim Montgomerie pieces on CiF. Will Sunny start getting pieces on Times Online? Or are there some more complex dynamics going on…?

Another issue is that, so far no-one has the recipe for turning an enthusiastic readership into an impact on a by-election. Part of the tipping point for US blogs was that they could aggregate donations and because there was a strong existing infrastructure for turning money into impact in a House race (for example) then as soon as they aggregated enough donations, they made an impact. Similarly with volunteers, Obama has proved that in-state volunteers are best, but there’s a long tradition of out of state volunteers, which lent itself to a blog (with wide geography) being able to use volunteers to affect a single (narrow geography) race.

And affecting elections is a vital step to credibility in politics.

Of course, Iain and Guido have taken a different route, the Drudge route, which is to use the blog as a centre of media influence. It seems to be working pretty well, but equally, it seems dependent on the Daou triangle theory (mass media – blog – politician) which positions individual blogs as good influencers (good for Guido and Iain) but like tall trees blocking the light maybe stunts some of the ecosystem around them.

Talking of making comparisons… who are the equivalents of say Ezra Klein or Matt Yglesias in the UK? (Not just on the left… I’m just more familiar with the left.)

That is to say… who are the young UK journalist/writer types who’ve got jobs that may involve producing the odd long report or print article a month but are truthfully paid to blog and blog quite a bit each day?

Metatone: the Indy has a bunch of them on Livejournal – look at Rhodri, for starters.

13. Derek Draper

I get the feeling many within the Labour party, including Derek Draper, think implementing the online technology used by Obama alone can give them the edge.

Where on earth would you get that idea? I don’t.

PS the membership point was a JOKE!

Derek: your sense of humour was always too subtle for many people!

My first memory of you was during the 1987 election, listening to you read the contents of a Daily Mirror editorial (or maybe it was the Daily Mail) praising the skills of Labour’s newly appointed head of media operations – Peter Mandelson – to a group of Conservative party pensioners, somewhere in Manchester where Thatcher was about to arrive on a constituency visit. We could tell even then that you were destined for greater things. . . . . .

Tim J
I thought that was rather Iain and Guido’s point as well wasn’t it?

Nope, they seem to think the entire point is to wrest away Iain Dale’s supposed dominance of the British political blogosphere.

Alasdair:
A very New Lab solution: pay lots of money to external consultants and miss the point completely.

I dont’t think they’ve paid out any money yet. The BSD people are instead trying to use their networks to hawk their own wares.

Iain Dale:
But isn’t the whole point of blogs that they are not there to preach? We are here to give our opinions and have them argued with. That’s not preaching, that’s debate.

I’m afraid it doesn’t quite work like that. All the non-tory readers you have, and I bet its a lower percentage than the Tory readers we have, already know your bias and will take your news with a pinch of salt.

Secondly, you are preaching to the converted because most of your writing is commentary (nothing wrong with that) rather than analysis. And hardly any of it is original reporting in the style of American blogs such as TPM, Huffington Post and others.

Only when we start doing original reporting can we drive the new agenda. Until then, we can try and shape it but even then we’re competing with a large cacophony of voices in the MSM who are also paid to write opinion, and reach far bigger audiences.

Sunny, That’s very illustrative. You see, I don’t regard myself as having a mission, or trying to shape an agenda. I am not interested in doing original reporting. I am interested i having opinions and voicing them. Yes, there are a cacophony of voices both in the MSM and the blogosphere. If I have an agenda I suppose it is to project myself above the cacophony. Sometimes I do , sometimes I don’t.

Do you really think 35% of your readers are Tories or on the right? I think not.

One of the reasons for the rise of the American liberal blogs is that those liberal voices were completely frozen out of the American MSM. Since the abolition of the fair doctrine in the 1980s and the deregulation of radio, which allowed a handful of firms to buy up most of the radio stations in America, the media has move more and more to the right. The MSM, partly because it was intimidated by the Rights constant attacks of ‘Liberal bias,’ and the commercial realities of having to make profits from advertisers, moved to the Right as well. Fox News only made the situation worse as most of the MSM copied the formula of filling their airways which rabid, right wing attack dogs who spouted their hatred of all things liberal.

When Bush came in the media changed on a sixpence. They went from attack dogs of the govt to lap dogs of the govt. Every lie and scandal was ignored, and Bush was given a free ride. Even public broadcasters were filled with right wing pundits and management to blindly obey the Republican view. Anybody who did not share this right wing utopia had nowhere to get their news from. Which is why the internet for the liberals became so important. To start with it was just a chance to talk with other like minded people who thought their country had gone insane. But as time went by, and more people came online, it grew.

We have a more balanced media in this country thanks to the BBC, (which is why the right wants to get rid of it)

Ian Dale
“Sunny, That’s very illustrative. You see, I don’t regard myself as having a mission, or trying to shape an agenda.”

Now that is the funniest thing I have read all day.

“Only when we start doing original reporting can we drive the new agenda.”

Interesting assumption. I’d say the opinion-informing is at least as important, if not more so. Driving an agenda is all about information and how you repackage and transmit it, rather than who uncovered it. Original reporting doesn’t in itself, as a rule, have mass appeal or impact. For every sensational instant-scandal story an investigative journalist uncovers which gets on the news and speaks for itself, I bet they do five rather dull years of donkey-work uncovering smaller stories of no interest to anybody. It’s the people who repackage these small stories into whatever narrative they like who have the more consistent power.

And the blogosphere is an egalitarian paradise for niche opinion-formers who’ve never done a day’s original reportage in their lives. Everybody blogging who’s any good has their select band of fanpeople who basically have their minds changed as a result of stuff that the blogger has written. That the fanpeople might number half a dozen or less per blogger is immaterial. Each blogger only needs to reach the 6 people in the world whose wavelength they’re on. The more bloggers there are, the more wavelengths there are.

The mass reach of MSM opinion formers is an illusion, because beyond a certain level they have no capacity to grow their audience. There’s a limit to the number of people Polly Toynbee can appeal to. There’s a far, far higher limit on the number of people the Lib Dem Blogs can appeal to, because there could be thousands more Lib Dem bloggers than there are Polly Toynbees. Strength is not in unity (sorry, Unity!) but in diversity. All veh veh liberal.

If Iain has a potential flaw, it’s that he’s too close in style to MSM opinion formers and risks going down the same generalist route. The online future is in specialism.

I don’t regard myself as having a mission, or trying to shape an agenda.

A former Tory candidate, and former chief of staff to a Tory leader wannabe claims he isn’t trying to shape an agenda or has no mission??

Iain, with all due respect, I think you’re talking out of your arse mate!

I think most of the points I would have made have already been made but I have to say that I agree it is totally wrong to say Iain Dale etc preach to the converted. Whether I agree with Iain’s politics or not (and it tends to be the latter to be honest) I still read his blog. I tend to also agree with Iain that it is not an agenda thing but about voicing one’s opinion and to have the debate…

Obviously, Iain has done very personally well out of his blog but I am not sure you can read prior intent into that; as I have just blogged over at my gaffe I question LC’s inclusiveness as a project at the moment and Iain is hitting rather hard there and I dont see what reply there is…

Think what you like. I started my blog as a personal diary. It evolved into something a bit different, but for me to claim I had a mission would be both pretentious and wrong. Sure, I want my blog to be successful and readable, but beyond that I’m not sure what the mission would be. Perhaps you’d like to define what you see as my mission, because I am buggered if I can!

Alix, you are right the future is indeed specialist. Everyone needs their niche. And there was me thinking I had found mine!

Iain, I’m not saying you have an agenda to take over the world but you have made it obvious you would like to see the back of this govt. That is an agenda whether you like it or not and your editorial is shaped by that view.

Sunny, that is true, but that is not the reason for my blog existing. It’s not my mission to get rid of this government, although if I can help do so I certainly will! An agenda indicates a singularity of purpose and that everything you do is geared to that goal. That is certainly not the case with my blog. Some days it may appear so 🙂 but in reality it is just not the case.

I suppose actually a generalist approach is in itself one of the specialist niches we need!

What Alix said @#20

There is one interesting idea on the current Labour website – Labourspace:
http://labourspace.com

It allows you to set up and promote campaigns, and lets others vote and comment on them. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work properly (though it’s hard to tell as the usability is so poor to start with). Or maybe that’s deliberate: one of the more popular campaigns is “Re-Nationalise Railways” – but according to Labourspace it’s only gained one vote.

Labourspace does claim to be in “Beta” but it’s live on the site and has been up for many months so should have been sorted by now.

The intro blurb won’t set the world alight either: “If you start a campaign which gains the most popular support your ideas will be bought to the attention of senior Labour politicians.” Senior Labour politicians? Wow, but I’m just an ordinary member!

I’ve given my take on Obama/Labour web usability on my fledgling blog here:
http://cliffordsinger.com/obama-fy-your-website/

(And if Conor is still reminiscing about the old days – it is Christmas after all – he might enjoy this too: http://cliffordsinger.com/dtp-saves-the-day/ )

“BSD are a very political company; they focus on working with progressive organisations.”

I presume they decided to overlook New Labour’s political credentials then?

What was interesting from the questions from the floor was that they were at best technical, i.e. can u fix the backend of my website – or at worst missing the point, i.e. should i use facebook or bebo to engage young people.

Except for Sunny who asked BSD how they challenged Democrats to give up power to grassroots activists to self organised, everyone wanted to find out what tool could solve all their problems.

It’s great that Derek Draper organised this breakfast – bringing together the cheerleaders and the critical friends – it would be easier for everyone to self indulge in their own chapels. But either people were touting to sell their services to the party to help them “do” new media, or they were being asked to get involved in 2.0 cheerleading.

If Labour HQ really want to empower our activists, give us some of your power and give up some of your control – we’re already engaging people in new ways, just believe in us and champion us.

We know that deep down, it’s easier to conform to the political consensus of keeping up with “public opinion” – the quick fixes of triangulation, but it’s not just what works that matters to people, it’s what matters to people that works.

Labour HQ – it’s only by being able to write the story together that we will feel part of the story. If you want us to tell your stories, you need to tell our stories.

Iain Dale:
I know from my email inbox that there are a lot of people out there, especially in the 18-25 age group who have got interested in politics through blogs.

Oh, I get emails all the time from people saying they were on the left and supported Labour and are now thoroughly disillusioned, so thank god for a liberal-left operation that isn’t about sucking up to New Labour.

But this doesn’t translate into electoral influence on a mass scale. And that is my point – unless there is evidence of that, then political parties can ignore blogs when it comes to winning elections. In between those elections, they may indulge blogs for winning the media narrative war, but that’s it.

Metatone, I think your comments are fairly spot on:
Will Sunny start getting pieces on Times Online? Or are there some more complex dynamics going on…?

I doubt it – as far as I can see, its only the Guardian that is interested in a wide range of political commentary. I’m not exactly supportive of that because I’d prefer the liberal-left papers concentrate on building that conversations rather than letting it become an open field. But there is some value in it I guess. either way, the Guardian is a lot more open than the Times.

MatGB, Aaron – agreed.

Mike K, while I agree with the first two, I don’t think LC would be the place for an online rebuttal operation in favour of Labour. Other sites may run with that (Labour Outlook and Labour Matters were trying it)… and sometimes I may pull up the Tories on a particularly stupid example of spinning – but I don’t think our space here is merely to be a Labour cheerleader like the American left blogs are of the Democrats.

sally – agree with all of that.

Alix:
I disagree with your premise. For a start, the blogosphere may give everyone a voice but its not true that everyone’s voice counts for the same. Here too, a loud blogger like Guido will spin something endlessly to the point where that becomes the point of discussion rather than what a smaller blogger may be saying.

Secondly, I don’t buy the idea that the limit online is endless. It isn’t. If that theory were true, then blogs would be growing increasingly exponentially. But they’re not because there is also a limit and a churn rate.

I know for a fact our stats jump when we report something that’s just hit the media or hasn’t yet. The newest and most influential recent blogs have been the boris blogs – that have gained far more prominence recently because of the time they spend delving into Boris’ affairs. They will get a scalp sooner or later and will see their traffic rise rise as a result.

Just churning out commentary endlessly is actually rather limiting and will sooner or later mean you lose as many readers as you gain new ones. There is no exponential growth unless you’re breaking stories or doing digging, or have come to prominence thanks to some activism (TPM, HuffPo and FiveThirty Eight grew exponentially over the last year thanks to this model. Americablog has come to prominence recently because it led the boycott of Mormons following Proposition 8 losing in Cali).

Similarly, Guido’s stats have grown so much thanks to digging up dirt, not simply because he throws mud at the political system. Without that original reporting, you’d just like every blogger out there….

“For a start, the blogosphere may give everyone a voice but its not true that everyone’s voice counts for the same.”

That’s my point. It doesn’t have to. I think you’re still thinking in terms of how to be “biggest and best and most influential”. I’m suggesting that a multiple-cell network where each cell has a distinct and limited but DECISIVE appeal is ultimately more sustainable, and potentially much more effective in campaigning terms, than trying to pull off a high-wire mass appeal act. The latter is definitely subject to losing readership because it uses only one approach/style/voice, and is therefore vulnerable to whims of fashion, political change etc.

“If that theory were true, then blogs would be growing increasingly exponentially.”

This may just be my ignorance, but how do we know they’re not? And why is exponential the right measure, particularly? Dale has a list of ten new blogs every week, doesn’t he? A lot of wastage and white noise, of course, but that’s natural selection for you. The limits at the moment are nearly all to do with the fact that not everyone even uses the internet, never mind uses it to get political news. In terms of potential for size and range of content provision the limit is stratospheric. That’s just not true of newspaper columnists.

“or have come to prominence thanks to some activism (TPM, HuffPo and FiveThirty Eight grew exponentially over the last year thanks to this model”

Absolutely. Agree on the activism point. That’s a whole different ballgame from the value of original reportage though. Guido is a great example of the latter, but he’s by far and away the most successful example.

I think what Sunny and Alix are really discussing is what is Liberal Conspiracy?? Sunny seems to initmate that it is purely a web-based magazine where as Alix is putting forward a view of it that it is in fact a place where different strands of liberal-leftist thought come together on the web to discuss, debate and act.

I tend to think the ‘half-way house’ approach isnt actually working to be honest because if it is the latter, which I always thought it was, then there are clear representation issues. Now you can have elements of one in the other but you have to make a fundemental choice about which way you are going to orientate or else it will hit a glass ceiling which it will never actually break through.

Sunny “I doubt it – as far as I can see, its only the Guardian that is interested in a wide range of political commentary. I’m not exactly supportive of that because I’d prefer the liberal-left papers concentrate on building that conversations rather than letting it become an open field. But there is some value in it I guess. either way, the Guardian is a lot more open than the Times.”

Totally agree Sunny. And it is why I am so anti Tory trolls. Liberal newspapers and bloggers are much more tolerant of opposing views than the Right. I think the Guardian and Independent give far too much coverage to right wing tub thumpers like Bruce Anderson.

I have noticed in the letters page of both papers a massive increase in the letters from Right wing supporting voters. I very much doubt that these people actually buy the papers concerned, and many are sent via e-mail. Nothing wrong with that I guess, but it dilutes the feel of the paper for me, and makes me less inclined to stay loyal. I don’t buy The Mail or the Telegraph because I know what crap it is going to be spouting. I don’t expect to read the same rubbish when I buy a Liberal paper. It is not as if the Right has a shortage of outlets to spread it’s views.

Alix:
I’m suggesting that a multiple-cell network where each cell has a distinct and limited but DECISIVE appeal is ultimately more sustainable

but is that any different to the wide array of small circulation socialist papers and their small audiences… all claiming they had so much influence (within their small constituencies)?? In that sense then, small blogs that are part of small networks aren’t any different. They certainly aren’t going to be more influential than the Polly Toynbees of the world then, really. I assumed you meant that a wider range of networks would have more impact – but the fact is many of the networks are quite closed. The feminists talk amongst themselves, the Libdems do the same… Greens… Boris blogs.. and so on.

The limits at the moment are nearly all to do with the fact that not everyone even uses the internet, never mind uses it to get political news. In terms of potential for size and range of content provision the limit is stratospheric.

Well, we can compare state with America to here. Per capita, we have lower stats for the top political blogs even though internet penetration is higher in the UK than the states. Besides, not everyone will engage in political commentary… so you have to reach by via other tools such as email based campaigning (MoveOn.org style).

My point is, internet usage and consumption of political news online is probably reaching a plateau. The only way to grow the market now would be to become more strategic through original reporting and different kinds of ways (analysis, reporting, muckraking) that would keep people coming back for news mixed with commentary. The latter alone has limited appeal and shelf-life…. because its aimed at a narrow audience.

I think you should forget Move On and look at Daily Kos which sucessfully combines reporting with activism and brings people together very successfully and allows them all to interact in a community way….now if LC was much more like Daily Kos then nobody would be able to complain about representation because they would be able to participate freely themselves…..and we also wouldnt have paranoid talk about one party wanting to ‘take things over’….

so thank god for a liberal-left operation that isn’t about sucking up to New Labour.

Except when a Neo Labour Minister comes on here then we all have to behave and offer them polite conversation…:P

* is so glad Leon said that and saved her getting into trouble again *

😀

My bad habit/gift is speaking inconvenient truths at seemingly inappropriate times…

Except when a Neo Labour Minister comes on here then we all have to behave and offer them polite conversation…:P

My annoyance then was more about the fact people wanted to discuss every failure by NL under the sun rather than the substance of the article itself. I would apply the same if Lynne Featherstone’s articles were inundated with people complaining about the ineffectiveness of the Libdems.

now if LC was much more like Daily Kos then nobody would be able to complain about representation because they would be able to participate freely themselves…..and we also wouldnt have paranoid talk about one party wanting to ‘take things over’

Darrell – well, I did think about the Daily Kos model actually before launching LC, but realised it would require a significant infrastructure and work investment.
I do like that model, but remember that it only has about 5-6 front page posters that then highlight diaries by other people. We have a lot more front page posters from wider political spectrum.
My intended model is actually more a hybrid of TPM and HuffPo…. with a bit of dKos activism thrown in. I’m not looking at aping MoveOn, primarily because that also requires a big investment, and because a group is looking to do it beginning next year.

Sunny,

Well is it not the case that LC now has a significant infrastructure and a readership base and in terms of work I am presuming you are more than capable of delgating that to an editorial team. In terms of a wider political spectrum you know I disagree and the fact is that there are international posters on Daily Kos so that simply cannot be true.

The fact is that it would solve the issue of political balance straight off the bat and actually make LC a better read all round. It would keep the mix of activism and reportage along with discussion and debate that you seem to want for the site….

The Labour vote is actually mostly people who have no interest in “Issues” and vote for their perceived economic interest . On top of this is a light dusting of middleclass people who use that vote and support for their careers .Few ordinary folk have left wing views so far as to write about them for this reason a handful of callow swots are over praised .
Hopi Sen – Employed by Labour Party to write good-speak about it
Sadie thingy- Was employed by a Labour MP
Sunny – Clearly a career whatever he is ( A professional Hundal ? )
Lib Con- Really a forum not a blog per se

Hard to find ordinary people blogging for the left. Judging by the voices here I would say the few lefties are
1 Young , no kids .
2 Rarely employed in mainstream industry or Commerce
3 Often Politics graduates
4 Fabulously ignorant about everything else and tricksy on their hobby horse
5 Little concerned with the particular and usually concerned with running the world

When the general election pops up , and it has to be early next year , you will see that there are many many Conservatives and others who do not have the time to devote to a quasi media career on a daily basis but who will blog as a local effort with real on thre ground knowledge . There will be a few Liberals but Labour is never going to figure much in this popular and democratic form . It is neither , it is a coalition between a Fabian elite and an economic interest who detest eachother.

42. Mike Killingworth

[31] Sunny – absolutely. The last thing I want is for LC to be a NuLab cheerleader: the brand is irredemiably toxic – the political equivalent of a 110% mortgage – I was simply teasing out things blogs might do.

I expect the Tories to win the next election fairly easily and probably the one after that too, unless the European question pulls them apart from inside – the question really is, what sort of alternative with the voters be offered in ten years’ time or so when they are beginning to tire of them? Can we get open primaries, initially obviously informal caucuses, in constituencies so that candidates are adopted who are acceptable to both Labour and Lib Dem (and Green) activists locally and so positioned to reach out beyond traditional party allegiances?

In the shorter term, the Labour in-fighting after its defeat will be of unprecedented viciousness – and I was active in that Party in the early 1980s when “fraternal” was indeed a joke… both the blogosphere generally and LC in particular will have a role to play here. Do you intend to run pieces by ex-ministers defending their corner or, hopefully, say – only forward-looking articles, please?

Newmania strikes again.

44. Mike Killingworth

[45] Maybe the time has come to rename him Not So New Mania…

Darrell:
Well is it not the case that LC now has a significant infrastructure and a readership base and in terms of work I am presuming you are more than capable of delgating that to an editorial team.

It’s a non-starter for now, honestly. Scoop is a big piece of software and I’d have to hire someone almost full time to install it and maintain it. Its flexible but I don’t know how to change it around, whereas WordPress is relatively much easier to hack through.

This doesn’t even take into account the cost of a dedicated server and all the rest…

“Tories have nothing to crow about anyway; ConservativeHome is the only project worthy of note and scale, but its externally funded and frequently runs stories the party wouldn’t want out there.”

Errrrrrrmmmmmm, that’s the point.

The reason that the Left is crap on the internet in the UK is largely due to the centralising tendency. The UK Left (arguabky all Left) is about central control. That doesn’t work on the internet.

You are also wrong in fact. As you point out, ConservativeHome is not part of the Conservative party. If you include that then you have to include Iain Dale and Dizzy Thinks, among others. I hardly think that anyone describing CH as “of note and scale” can leave out other Conservative-supporting online operations.

Oh, sorry to post twice but this needs an answer.

“the Westminster bubble press hacks worship Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes but that doesn’t translate into votes since they preach to the converted”

That contradicts itself. The Westminster bubble and press hacks themselves have influence, so influencing them has a disproportionate effect. If they are talking about issues raised by blogs, even addressing those issues in a practical way, or using arguments they have seen on blogs, then this will influence the wider world. If you can only influence a few people, then who would you choose to influence if you wanted political advantage?

Also how can you assume that the media hacks (more left wing than right) and Westminster bubble are the converted? They have many different views. That’s the point of politics, in case you had missed it entirely.

New Troll “The Labour vote is actually mostly people who have no interest in “Issues” and vote for their perceived economic interest .”

Has the troll ever said anything as ridiculous as that? So economic interest is not an issue then?

And Greedy Tories never vote for their economic interest ? All those rich people in the south of England who are going to vote Tory because they want to pay less income tax and no inheritance tax, they are not voting for their own perceived interests then?

This is typical of the Tory mentality. Total contempt for anyone who does not vote Tory, and a ludicrous belief that Tories vote for some higher calling than pure self interest.

The reason that the Left is crap on the internet in the UK is largely due to the centralising tendency. The UK Left (arguabky all Left) is about central control.

Bwa ha ha ha ha.

*tries to calm down*

Ha ha.

Sorry.

Um, Richard? I have no idea who you are, but I’m assuming from your comment that you are a Conservative supporter?

The party that when last in Government removed much of local Govts revenue stream, centralised control of as much as they possibly could, and introduced and expanded the principle of ‘capping’ so that it has become the norm?

Also? As observed here and elsewhere on a number of occasions, the majority of the top ten blogs are either avowedly left wing, left aligned or neutral. The Liberal Democrats have more blogs as a proportion of their membership or voting numbers than either of the other two main parties.

Your facts are wrong, your understanding is lacking and your hyperbole is punctured. Never mind, eh?

If ever there was clear political self-interest, it has to be the unions and the public sector with Labour.

This is now the split between Labour and Tories. The former the party of the controlling, suffocating centralised State and its minions and the latter the party of the free private sector and true liberal-minded people.

“The party that when last in Government removed much of local Govts revenue stream, centralised control of as much as they possibly could,”

Yes, to avoid left-wing LAs going bankrupt and to ensure their residents received at least a minimum level of services. Its now used by Labour to gerrymander votes.

Also? As observed here and elsewhere on a number of occasions, the majority of the top ten blogs are either avowedly left wing, left aligned or neutral. The Liberal Democrats have more blogs as a proportion of their membership or voting numbers than either of the other two main parties.

Probably because most of the left do very little else -working for the State or students.

52. Mike Killingworth

[53] I suggest you go and ask your boss – if you have one – whether or not he wants to pay you. He only does so because you’re a greedy git – from his point of view – who won’t take less than your current wages, and he can’t find anyone who will (or, ideally, someone who’d do your job on a voluntary basis) – and by “can’t” I mean “too idle to”.

So what does this vaunted “freedom” of the private sector amount to in practice? Your greed and his sloth.

Chavscum:

Probably because most of the left do very little else -working for the State or students.

Strangely (and I’d have thought similar when I first started out) you couldn’t be more wrong. Most of the Lib Dem blogs I read (in fact most of the blogs I read full stop) are written by people who also have a very busy work and personal life. And very few are working in the state sector.

In fact, I used to post a lot more on various blogs when I was in a full time private sector management role than I do now I’m a part time freelancer and primary childcarer (I had planned to post this afternoon, instead I got attacked by demands for help glittering). The most prolific blogger I know is my fiancée, who writes 4-5 posts per day, in various places, minimum. And she also has an energy sapping full time job.

The best blogs are written by those with the most knowledge—thus someone in a job has more knowledge, generally, than someone who has yet to start one (like a student). The more I study around this area (one of my consultancy gigs is using the internet to communicate with customers/voters/ etc), the more I become aware of the old truism, “if you want something done, ask a busy person”.

The best bloggers are those who fit it in between a hectic life, one of the best I enjoy reading writes most of his posts while travelling all over the world on business, after you’ve read all your briefing papers, what else do you do in the departure lounge?

So, as counter-intuitive as it seems, your assumption is actually completely wrong.

Chav troll “This is now the split between Labour and Tories. The former the party of the controlling, suffocating centralised State and its minions and the latter the party of the free private sector and true liberal-minded people.”

I love the contempt the Tory rank and file have for people who work in the public sector. I mean, no policeman ever vote Tory do they? No Doctors or nurses or teachers or judges, nobody in the military ever votes Tory, oh no. All those Majors and Admirals they never vote Tory. Nobody at the Ministry of defence or the Ministry of agriculture ever votes Tory.

No, they all get paid by the private sector and live off their private pensions.

My annoyance then was more about the fact people wanted to discuss every failure by NL under the sun rather than the substance of the article itself.

Your annoyance demonstrates a lack of understanding about how the executive works; all Ministers are bound by collective responsibility thus can be questioned about everything the government does. 😉

New Labour can operate using internet grassroots about as well as the BNP can operate in Tower Hamlets. They are top-down technocrats and that sort is never going to get past the “struggling” phase when it comes to something that involves people acting instead of receiving.


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