This post by Gary Sauer-Thompson on the decline of solo political blogging prompted me to take one of my periodic looks at the state of political blogging in Australia. I used the blogroll at Club Troppo, which is as close to a representative sample as I’ve seen, to get an idea of some trends. Comparisons are to my recollection which may be inaccurate
First up, there’s no doubt about the rise of group blogs. Although there are still plenty of individual bloggers (in fact the number is increasing, I think) group blogs are clearly much more important now than in the past. Most of the individuals who were blogging back in 2002 or 2003 have either given up or joined a group.*
The other striking feature of the Troppo list is the extent to which it’s dominated by the left and centre-left. Troppo uses the classifications Leftish, Centrist, Moderate Right and Right Wing Death Beast, but most of the Centrists could be counted on to prefer either Labor or the Greens to the Liberals or Nationals most of the time. I count 50 Leftish blogs, 24 Centrist, 10 Moderate Right and 16 RWDBs. What’s more, a large proportion of the latter two groups of bloggers have either shut down or shifted away from political topics. No doubt there have been some new entrants who haven’t been counted, but there are no obvious (to me) omissions of major political bloggers in the list (feel free to point out examples).
This is a complete reversal of the situation when I began blogging in 2002. At that time, the number of leftish Australian bloggers could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand (Rob Schaap, Rob Corr and Tim Dunlop are the only examples that come to mind, again feel free to remind me) while (IIRC) there were more active rightwing blogs than there are today, reflecting the upsurge in what used to be called “warblogging” that took place after the September 11 attacks. The obvious reason for the shift is the fact that, much more than general public discussion in Australia, blog debates have been focused on issues that have gone badly for the right, such as the Iraq war, global warming and the Bush Administration. A few bloggers have bitten the bullet and changed their views on these issues (for example, Ken Parish was a global warming sceptic until the evidence became overwhelming) but the more common response has been to close up shop.
A more recent development has been the adoption of blogs by the commercial media, who first ignored and then derided the whole thing. Even a year ago, the MSM was mostly keeping its distance, but now all the major newspaper sites I visit have blogs, and often lots of them. They’re guaranteed a big audience by their location on highly-trafficked sites, but they seem pretty mediocre taken as a group (MRD alert
Those are my thoughts. Comments, criticism and prognostications for the future are most welcome.
* I’ve had two bob each way on this, having joined the international group blog Crooked Timber a while back, but maintaining a solo identity for Australian stuff