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Blogging is more important than ever

by Sunny Hundal     November 1, 2013 at 4:58 pm

If the demise of Liberal Conspiracy marks the end of the ‘amateur blogger’ then I’m the next Pope. I always have one piece of advice for my new students at Kingston University: start blogging.

The media landscape has clearly evolved since 2005, but blogging has only become more powerful and influential. When I launched Liberal Conspiracy in Nov 2007, I was unknown in Westminster; six years later this site was read at the top of the Labour party.

None of this happened because I was well-connected, had worked at a newspaper or had influential friends. It happened only because Liberal Conspiracy ran stories (thanks to tips from many readers) that got noticed. The national media cannot ignore us like they used to. For all its faults the new media landscape is far more meritocratic than old media or the political establishment.

But I had an edge – a good understanding of web programming and technology. Before blogging I used to run messageboards and online magazines that ran on code (HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL) I had written myself. For Liberal Conspiracy and Pickled Politics I developed new designs and WordPress themes myself (with some help), and was able to make changes, experiment and evolve quicker than others who paid for customised designs. I was also very comfortable with, and more aggressive than most bloggers, in using social media to find and promote stories.

Unsurprisingly, my work at Kingston involves teaching digital journalism: teaching web programming and technologies to leverage journalism. There are far more qualified people at Kingston to teach journalism; my focus is is on how to use the internet to take that further. And I’m grateful to them for taking me on (I’ve given a few lectures on the topic at City University too).

Whether amateur (i.e. independent) multi-author publishing is dead wholly depends on how people approach it. Here’s my advice: don’t expect to start an opinion blog and get 100,000 readers a month. The market is over-saturated with opinions on the Guardian, New Statesman, HuffPo and IndyVoices (just on the left). Only the Guardian pays and yet the others have no problems attracting submissions because so many want to make a name for themselves.

Worse, most opinion blogging only talks to the already-converted and changes minds only at the margins. It may be cathartic for some but that’s not enough to attract a lot of visitors regularly.

‘News’ publishing on the other hand has a bright future and I suspect we will see much more of this. But I’d like people to think outside the box.

Firstly, popular ‘news’ doesn’t always have to mean exposing Traditional Britain, or leaking the Coalition Agreement, it can involve finding interesting stories from social media or putting together publicly available info. Our most popular posts this year have been a collection of Tweets (on British Gas and the EDL’s Tommy Robinson). Another example: How one Twitter troll went from abuse to apology in minutes. All these were stories Buzzfeed or HuffPo would (and did) do but we got there quicker and went viral first.

Secondly, the platform has become irrelevant. We need to move away from talking about blogging, and setting up a simple WordPress blog, to thinking about publishing. The traditional advantages of blogging (simple format, popularity through inter-linking, simple set-up) have become largely irrelevant as HuffPost and Buzzfeed have shown. Both developed their own content system, and meanwhile WordPress has become bloated and slow.

My model for Liberal Conspiracy was simple: use fun and interesting news to amass readers and followers; then get them to read policy material and get involved in campaigns.

There is now more opportunity than ever for someone to start another political news site, make it popular, and figure out a business model to earn a living from it. I stopped Liberal Conspiracy because the traditional blogging model has become defunct, not because online publishing is a waste of time and effort. A budding journalist or publisher has no excuse not to use this medium to make a name for themselves. I hope many more will do.

The Liberal Conspiracy is coming to an end (in its current form)

by Sunny Hundal     October 25, 2013 at 10:41 am

After 8 years of running blogs as an editor, and blogging almost every day, I think it’s about time to hang up my boots. I no longer have the time to maintain Liberal Conspiracy as a daily-updated news and opinion blog, so as of today I’m going to stop. This site will become an occasionally updated personal blog, with the odd guest-post.

Eight years. That makes me a granddad in internet time. When I started blogging in August 2005, YouTube hadn’t even launched yet, let alone the widespread use of Facebook or Twitter. In total I’ve written around 3000 posts on LC (around 1 million words), and another 3000 posts on my previous group-blog Pickled Politics. Around 2 million words in total; the mind boggles.

I founded Liberal Conspiracy (with the help and support of many, many others) as a hub for left-wing opinion and news at a time there were hardly any group blogs. It was an attempts to raise our collective presence. Editorially, it was an independent and non-aligned left platform with a focus on campaigning. But the enduring success of Guardian CIF, and more recently the New Statesman and Huffington Post, have made other general opinion-blogs redundant. Frankly, there is just too much opinion out there. There is more space for news-focused blogs I think, but they require a level of time and energy I no longer possess.

With the help of its readers, this site has had some good hits. We:
- leaked the Coalition Agreement before the parties published it.
- exposed Nadine Dorries’s fundamentalist friends during her anti-abortion crusade
- exposed Jacob Rees-Mogg MPs links to the xenophobic Traditional Britain
- helped stop Rod Liddle becoming editor of the Independent
- organised the advertiser boycott of the News of the World over its phone-hacking.
- helped hobble the government’s Workfare programme
- exposed how BBC journalists were ordered to use ‘savings’ instead of ‘cuts’
- forced Newsnight to apologise for misrepresenting a single mother

… and much, much more.

This site also gave a platform to lots of people to build their name (including Laurie Penny, Owen Jones, Adam Bienkov, Ellie O’Hagan, Tim Wigmore, Tim Fenton and many others).

As for me… I’m certainly not bored of news, politics or even blogging in fact, but I just can’t dedicate the time. I’m working with the BBC to get a documentary off the ground; I’ve been invited to speak at two TEDx talks abroad (and have to prepare) on violence against women in India; I’ve started lecturing p/t at Kingston University. Plus, I want the time and space to work on new projects.

It’s time for something new. I’ll continue tweeting news and opinion of course, and occasionally blogging here and elsewhere, just not with the same vigour. Better to go on a high than when in decline. It was a good run, and a long run… but everything must eventually come to an end. Thanks for all your tips, guest posts and comments.

Addendum
The pissy right-wing response to this has been a joy to read. Remember, the more vindictive they sound, the more they were burnt by my blogging.

Also, there are a few thanks I missed out for friends who went beyond just contributing to the site. Special love to: Aaron Heath, Shantel Burns, Sarah McAlpine, Jennifer O’Mahony, Ellie Cumbo and most of all, deputy-editor Dan Paskins.

Editor’s note: News will be slow all this week because…

by Sunny Hundal     February 12, 2013 at 9:30 am

Hi readers,

Liberal Conspiracy won’t be running much content this week, and perhaps next week too.

The reason behind this is that I have been commissioned to write a short book. In fact I’ve been working on it and researching it for a month.

The mini-book will be ‘published’ by Guardian Books and Amazon Kindle Singles. It won’t be in print and will only be available on the Kindle (and other devices via the Kindle app).

It’ll be on the broader context around the Delhi gang-rape and the crisis in India over attitudes to women. I’m making a specific argument about what’s going that I will detail in the future.

Anyway, it’s my first ‘book’ so this is very much a learning process. I really have difficulty concentrating for long form writing.

This was just a note to explain why there won’t be much content on LC for a couple of weeks.

I’m off to the US to volunteer for Obama

by Sunny Hundal     September 27, 2012 at 1:06 am

Readers, coverage on Liberal Conspiracy will be light for the next 6 weeks.

First, there’s the Labour Party conference from this Sunday. I’ll be in Manchester tweeting regularly and maybe writing a few updates from there.

Straight after the conference I’m flying to the other side of the Atlantic. First for a week’s holiday and then to volunteer on the Obama campaign.

I’ll be working in Los Angeles (I know it’s not a swing state, but they do have offices there to coordinate from), and then in Nevada – which is a swing state.

I’ll have some sporadic web access but it will be difficult to update the site regularly. I will be tweeting less too.

In the meantime, Don Paskini will be responsible for the site and Shantel Burns and Sarah McAlpine will be adding to news coverage.

I’ll write more about how campaigning for Obama is going once I get settled in there and establish web access.

Taking a break, and coming back different

by Sunny Hundal     August 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Hello readers,

News and opinion coverage on Liberal Conspiracy will be markedly slower over the next few weeks, at least until September starts. This is partly because I’m taking a break to focus on other projects and partly because there isn’t much interesting news around.

Secondly, and more importantly, the site will unveil a new front-page design with a markedly different focus.

More of our content will be focused on news, information and video than on opinion blogs. We will start publishing more general, cultural news and information than just politics.

There won’t be any celebrity news, I promise. But there will be more news from around the web, more videos and more short posts linking to interesting stories.

Some of you will complain about the change in focus, but from our stats it’s quite clear that more light-hearted content is way more popular than highly serious, deep policy content.

This isn’t to say we will do less of the latter. In fact, having more traffic to Libcon (which now regularly tops 100,000 absolute unique visitors a month) thanks to lighter content may encourage more visitors to read the serious, policy content.

Also, I’m interested in hearing from readers (in the comments below) on what you like or dislike about the front page and whether you check the front page regularly or not.

Changes at Libcon, after our best month ever

by Sunny Hundal     August 5, 2011 at 11:30 am

I’m pleased to say that Liberal Conspiracy had its best month ever, in terms of readers, during the normally dead month of July.

Obviously the News of the World scandal pushed up numbers, but other topics including Melanie Phillips were also popular (thanks Mel!)

The website had over 164,000 ‘Absolute Unique Visitors’ (Google Analytics) in July, although the real figure is likely to be over 200,000 as it does not include people who read the site only via RSS feeds.

Total page-views for the month were over 450,000.

Inevitably, this has put a lot of strain on the server and is costing a small bomb in hosting costs.

As I said earlier, the Guardian is now selling our ad space.

I have to increase ad space here with a banner at the top, since the Google ads aren’t as good.

Plus, our hosting costs are set to increase as the site keeps going down whenever we get a big spike in traffic. I’m also looking into moving hosting companies and will have to pay extra for flexibility to increase server memory when traffic shoots up.

These were the top ten stories in July, by page views:

1. Leaked audio: Rebekah Brooks angrily questioned by NotW staff
2. Watch: Jon Stewart on the Murdoch hearings
3. Charity workers dispute allegations against Johann Hari
4. Oslo Terrorist cited Melanie Phillips in his manifesto
5. An advertiser boycott of NotW – how you can help
6. Factcheck: Tory MP did lie about Piers Morgan
7. What are people like Melanie Phillips calling for then?
8. Daily Mail’s attempt to blame teachers for girl’s death backfires
9. Compare Melanie Phillips now to her writing after 7/7 attacks
10. George Michael wades in on NotW revelations on Twitter

Cheers for reading!

The editorial position of Liberal Conspiracy is…

by Sunny Hundal     July 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm

When I first launched Liberal Conspiracy in Nov 2007, blogger and journalist Paul Linford was one of core contributors. He hasn’t blogged here for quite a while and last week wrote:

For a while I contributed to Liberal Conspiracy, but although I am an economic leftist, I have always been a small-c conservative on social issues and it soon became clear to me that my views on such matters as abortion were not appreciated by my fellow group bloggers there.

I think this is worth picking up, partly because we’ve had a huge influx of new readers who also don’t seem to understand the point of this site.
continue reading… »

My introduction at Netroots UK today

by Sunny Hundal     January 8, 2011 at 9:15 am

Today, Netroots UK brings together a new generation of left activists, working and discussing politics online, with the veteran institutions of trade unions and many others.

Our plan isn’t to have long-winded discussions, but create useful spaces where people can discuss strategy drawing on their experience of local campaigns: what works and what doesn’t.

Some people have asked whether this is an event just to celebrate how great blogging, Twitter, Facebook or social media generally are. That would be absurd.
continue reading… »

A year of campaigns and statistics – How 2010 shaped up for us

by Sunny Hundal     December 31, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Anyone remember Rod Liddle? Just over a year ago, during the Christmas holidays, I was out in the sticks and saw on my twitter that Rod Liddle was in the running to be editor of the Independent.

And so started our first campaign of 2010 – one that was ultimately successful in no small part with help from Facebook, from fellow bloggers and from email-campaign gurus 38 Degrees.

Rod Liddle even threatened legal action, but like most of his work – it came to nothing. Ah well.
continue reading… »

LC Blog Nation: the aftermath

by Sunny Hundal     June 27, 2010 at 9:30 am

Thank you to all who came to the LC Blog Nation event. It was a lovely, sunny day and you should be commended for willing to give up your Saturday for that. We had a packed theatre hall, and I would post some pictures but I seem to have left my camera in the hall (did anyone find it?).

We also had live coverage on Twitter.

It was the first in what I hope will become an annual fixture in the political calendar. My aim was two-fold: (a) two create a space for many bloggers, activists and campaigners to meet each other and share ideas and plans; (b) discuss strategy on how the left could move forward.
continue reading… »


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