Are Australia’s political blogs there yet? “Are we there yet?” is a question you often hear asked at seminars on new media these days. It refers to blogs. Nobody is really sure where “there” is, but the question is generally understood to be whether or not blogs have a real impact – whether they can influence public opinion, and whether, as they have in the United States, they can affect election results. Usually the answer is something like “no, but we’re getting there.” And today the left-leaning Larvatus Prodeo, which claims to be the country’s best read political blog, has released statistics which suggest that might be true. LP claims to have had 31,612 unique visitors in October – showing steady growth from January, when it was just 17,148. The increases have probably been driven by Mark Bahnisch’s blogging on the Queensland election, (his best stats were in August, with over 32,000 unique visitors) some of which was also run on Crikey and other sites. He is now putting a consistent effort into recruiting bloggers for the Victorian state election. To put this in perspective, the monthly figures mean that LP is comparable with most small politically inclined magazines. The Monthly, for example, is generally thought to sell about 16,000. The Bulletin claims around 80,000. Of course there is probably more than one reader for each issue of a hard copy publication. And it is doubtful whether LP’s readers are swinging voters. Nevertheless, at its best (which is not every day) LP runs perspectives and analysis as good as you find on the op ed pages, and on a wider range of issues than they can cater for. It’s figures suggest that “getting there” is about right. — Margaret Simons

AMENDMENT – 6 November, 2006: A couple of bloggers have contacted us about Mark Bahnisch’s claim that Larvatus Prodeo was Australia’s best read political blog. Tim Blair has provided statistics for his visitors, and Bahnisch acknowledges that they show Blair convincingly in the lead with 400,000 visitors in October. One other well known political blogger has credibly claimed to have figures roughly 50% better than LP’s, but since this blogger is shy of giving the details, we can’t verify this. Perhaps the significant thing is that all three blogs are clearly and steadily increasing their visitor numbers.

High-profile Sydney media lawyers defect. There’s been a significant defection in the Sydney legal community with high profile media litigator Mark O’Brien leading what seems to be a small posse of operatives from Gilbert and Tobin across to the smaller but national firm of Johnson Winter & Slattery (JWS). A press statement issued this morning revealed the move by O’Brien, Paul Reidy and Kate Fitzgerald to JWS as partners in its Sydney office. Reidy work at the Nine Network years ago as a corporate counsel while O’Brien’s work for Nine and the Packers has been the stuff of legend, plus his work on behalf of Alan Jones. He and Gilbert and Tobin were replaced on the pre-litigation and defo work for Nine earlier this year by Deacons which then proceeded to distinguish itself by trying to suppress the publication of the Mark Llewellyn affidavit. That backfired, costing Nine an estimated $200,000, and Gilbert and Tobin regained Nine’s work. The move is something of a shock as partners at the level of O’Brien seldom move firms. Of interest will be if O’Brien takes any of the PBL-Nine Network work with him. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Wednesday is usually Ten’s night but sneaky Seven set Border Security lose at 7.30pm and that blunted Ten’s mega hit Thank God You’re Here. So in the end Ten and Seven headbutted themselves silly between 7.30pm and 8.30pm and Nine snuck up on the inside and won. Thank God still topped the night with 1.556 million viewers for its second last show of the year: that’s down around 300,000 on normal. Border Security averaged 1.432 million (700,000 down on Tuesday nights – is Seven blunting its appeal for next year?) and Police Files at 8pm on Seven averaged a high 1.329 million. CSI Miami cleaned up at 8.30pm with no competition on Ten or Seven, averaging 1.302 million. Temptation continued to beat Home and Away, averaging 1.301 million and A Current Affair did well with 1.273 million. Home and Away was 7th with 1.255 million, in front of Nine News and Seven News both with 1.214 million. McLeod’s Daughters struggled with 1.170 million at 7.30pm against the big guns on Ten and Seven, while Today Tonight languished on an unimpressive 1.165 million. Spicks and Specks had 1.101 million (it has lost a little bit of ratings oomph in the past month) and Tripping Over, Ten’s new series at 8.30 pm averaged 1.032 million, down by around 260,000 on its first outing last week. The fifth last episode of The Glass House averaged a high 835,000 (up 134,000 on the previous week) thanks to the decision to kill the program off.

The Losers: Seven’s The Unit at 9.30pm with 695,000. Not good but it will hang around. It does relatively well in Perth: is that because the SAS is based there and there’s a “special interest” in the program because of that? The ABC’s New Inventors continues to slide, averaging just 683,000 last night at 8pm. Its lost a lot of viewers this year. Will it be renewed by the ABC? Survivor: Cook Islands on Nine at 10.30, 596,000. Who cares, Nine is burying it.

News & CA: A draw between Nine News and Seven News: Seven won Sydney (comfortably), Adelaide and Perth, Nine won Melbourne (by 108,000 viewers, a huge margin) and Brisbane. The Melbourne margin for Nine (108,000) was larger than the Perth margin for Seven News (65,000). But A Current Affair easily beat Today Tonight as the Naomi factor again asserted itself. TT won Adelaide and Perth but ACA won Sydney (reversing the news loss) Melbourne and Brisbane.The 7 pm ABC News averaged 967,000, The 7.30 Report though was crunched by the Ten-Seven battle at 7.30 and fell to 607,000. Ouch! Sunrise beat Today.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 29.0% (26.6% last week) to Seven with 26.9% (25.6%), Ten was third with 24.4% (28.8%), the ABC with 16.0% (15.3%) and SBS with 3.6% (3.7%). Nine won all markets bar Perth. Nine still leads the week, 29.2% to 28.2% and with the Rugby League in Sydney and Brisbane in prime time this Saturday evening, will win the week. In regional areas Nine affiliates WIN/NBN won with 30.7% from Prime/7Qld with 25.7%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 23.5%, the ABC on 15.4% and SBS with 4.6%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Ten and Seven battered themselves into submission between 7.30pm and 8.30pm and then both lay bleeding on the living room floor and allowed Nine to sneak home with CSI Miami and ER doing well, after the News, ACA and Temptation won or drew their slots. I can understand the logic of Seven’s move but from a viewer’s point of view, what was the point: from a ratings viewpoint it let Nine win the night. Ten’s new series, Tripping Over lost viewers but that was partly due to the lower audience for Thank God. It still finished above a million which was OK. It got close to Criminal Minds on Seven in its first 8.30 pm slot which will encourage Ten. The Glass House did well, a lot of viewer support and showed why the ABC is stupid killing it off. It was a failure of nerve at Ultimo.