The online media and their blogs

I just finished something I’d been meaning to do for months: investigating the blogging policies of France’s “big papers”.

What do I mean by blogging policy, you ask? Just whether and how they offer blogs to their readers. There are many kinds: journalists’ blogs on their own newspaper’s website (e.g. Corinne Lesnes’ on lemonde.fr), a blog platform offered to Internet users under the paper’s brand (monblog.lemonde.fr), etc.

Though things have been changing in recent months, French journalists are not big on blogs, whether as a source of information or a means of publication. And the general impression in the blogosphere is that journalists are rarely bloggers and that the few who are take a top-down approach, not answering comments, etc.

The other reason I’m interested in the issue is that the online media is a major host of blogs, some of which are excellent, receive a very large number of comments and – one imagines – are very widely read. Yet their style of promotion is quite different from the most visible blogs, those at the top of the Wikio ranking.

Indeed, the blogs hosted by the online media’s websites and platforms often belong to authors who are not very involved in the blogosphere, who understand the notion of incoming and outgoing links and who use it to gain visibility. On the other hand, when they are linked on the homepage of their host media, they can operate as true meeting places for readers.

Perhaps influence – that much-sought grail – is not where we thought (in the Wikio ranking) but also in these less communitarian tools with a major potential for attracting an audience: blogs published by the media?

So I examined the blogging policy of a good twenty general-interest online media: the web versions of traditional media and a few pure players. This produced the following typology and quantitative analysis:

0. The non-policies

Among the media I looked at, five didn’t offer any blogs:

– Marianne2
– L’Humanité
– France Info
– RFI
– Le Point

1. The “closed” policies

These media offer blogs for reading, but not for writing. Internet users are not invited to create their own. Here the purpose is to promote one’s image, not to provide a service.

There are two sub-categories in this “closed” policy:

1.a. Closed policy – only journalists’ blogs:

–    Le Figaro
–    Valeur Actuelles
–    La Croix
–    La Parisien
–    RTL
–    France Inter
–    Europe 1
–    RMC

See the table for their quantitative data

1.b. Closed policy – journalists’ AND invited guests’ blog.

•    Libération
•    L’Express
•    Rue89
•    Métro
•    Backchich

2. The “semi-open” model

These media invite their subscribers – but not other internet users – to create a blog. One could say they are offering a “limited service”. Their platforms present the blogs of journalists, guests and subscribers.

Only Le Monde and Mediapart are in this category.

Note that Le Monde doesn’t offer any “staff blogs”: journalist bloggers are to be found in the same section as the guests. This allows lemonde.fr to list 20 quality blogs, only four of which to my knowledge are written by Le Monde journalists (such as courtroom blogger Pascale Robert-Diard).

While Le Monde has one of the most interesting and complete blogging platforms, its journalists’ participation is scant.

3. The “open” model

These online media invite any passing Internet user to create his or her blog under the media’s brand (eg monblog.20minutes.fr). Naturally they have to sign up first, but it’s free.

Here the purpose is to provide a service and attract an audience. It works fine for some (20 minutes, LePost et le NouvelObs) and not nearly as well for others: Journal du Dimanche, where the blogging activity is almost nil.

All the quantitative data I collected by looking at these platforms is summarised in the table below:
online-media-and-their-blogs
(click to zoom)

Conclusions.

The dominant model is therefore 1.a.: only journalists’ blog.

Regarding journalists’ blogging practice, I found about a hundred “staff” and “journalist” blogs in the media I looked at. Not bad, though I suspect the figures would look quite disappointing if one examined how many journalists post comments on these 100 “official” blogs.

The Figaro, with 15 journalist blogs updated throughout the week, is where blogging journalists are to be found most easily.

Only a few manage to maintain “guest” blogs: Le Monde, Libération, L’Express, Rue89, to a lesser extent Mediapart and – in its own way – LePost. But do they make good use of this asset?

Bear in mind also that the real difficulty is ensuring that blogs’ editorial production keeps up at a good pace. It seems crucial for the media’s image that the blogs showcased are not inactive or – worse – a cemetery like the Journal du Dimanche’s.

From the media’s perspective, a blogging policy requires a true strategic consideration and real availability. Blogging is a demanding activity and as I often say: a blog’s not a tool, it’s a strategy.

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