News Limited is moving in on the Australian blogosphere. Tim Dunlop, the man behind one of Australia’s oldest political blogs, The Road to Surfdom, shocked his readers yesterday by announcing that from Monday he would be writing a blog, Blogocracy, for news.com.au.
In the next couple of weeks two more well known blogosphere identities will announce that they, too, have contracted with the Murdoch Empire.
Who are they? The editor of news.com.au, Hugh Martin, will say only that their genres are business and entertainment.
Some sources suggest that a likely suspect is Jess McGuire, who runs the painfully witty ausculture blog under the motto “we suck so you don’t have to”. McGuire is also known for having once “channelled” her inner Andrew Bolt on a very funny spoof blog.
Martin says he hopes to recruit more “non-traditional writers”. “One of the extraordinary things about the blogosphere at the moment is the amount of good talent that is emerging. You get really sharp and funny writing and original points of view.”
The recruitment of established bloggers is sad in many ways – a co-opting by the empires of independent, small voices. On the other hand, the bloggers are likely to liven up the mainstream media’s approach to blogging, which is generally regarded among blogophiles as lame at best. Most mainstream media blogs consist of one ponderous post a day followed by comments, rather than the lively, faster paced dialogue on the best blogs in the wild.
With the barriers to entry shrunk to nothing, we can be sure that the independent blogosphere will continue to reinvent itself. Blogs may come and go, but blogging is here to stay.
Martin says News Limited is getting into blogging “belatedly but finally”. The fact that the news.com.au site is not tied to a particular masthead is an advantage. “Traditionally we have been an aggregator for News Limited newspapers, but now we want to branch out and be more creative and commission our own content.”
Dunlop, generally seen as being slightly left of centre, will bring a mix to News Limited’s predominantly right-of-centre stable of writers.
Meanwhile Dunlop has been busy reassuring his readers that he will continue to be an independent voice – and he will continue to run The Road to Surfdom in tandem with the News Limited blog.
Nevertheless the reaction from his readers yesterday was a mix of sadness, pragmatism and horror, with a few, like Dunlop, excited by the possibilities.
Dunlop, an Adelaide based academic and former small business owner whose doctoral thesis was about public debate, intellectuals and the role of citizens, says he wants to take advantage of the “mainstream” position to “do some interviews or whatever, the sort of thing that most people I have approached (like politicians) refuse to do for a mere blogger.”
At the very least, the News Limited move suggests that a a back door into journalism is ajar. Don’t want to do a communications course followed by a cadetship to break into journalism? Consider starting up a blog – if you can make it good enough to get noticed.