Update: See the collective anniversary post by 12 Bloggingportal.eu editors!
Tomorrow, on 26 January 2012, Bloggingportal.eu celebrates its third birthday. I haven’t been an editor right from the start, but I followed the development of the portal right from the beginning, and for me it feels as if the journey we went through was much longer than tree years. So let me take stock of Bloggingportal.eu and the euroblogosphere as I see it today.
For those not familiar with the portal: We, the editors, run this platform on a voluntary basis, without any funds nor any legal structure. On Bloggingportal.eu, we try to list all blogs covering EU affairs, tag their posts according to certain topics, and select blog articles we find particularly interesting as “Editors’ Choice” for the portal’s front page, the RSS-feed, the Twitter feed and the daily email newsletter (subscribe on the website). In addition, almost every week, we write a weekly summary (‘The Week in Bloggingportal’) with a wide selection of links to articles we’ve been selecting all week. Sometimes, we speak on public events or organise these ourselves, depending on what’s coming up.
One thing we have managed to do last year and which was a first in three years of our existence was to get a question asked by an unknown commentator in a blog post written by one of us to be asked to an EU Commissioner during an official press conference of the EU Council (see minute 4.45 of this video). Joe and I had been accredited as bloggers to the Council for the second pilot project “Bloggers at the EU Council” (thanks to the spokespeople of the Hungarian Presidency) and, as Joe has written here, we brought the question from the web to the real life and the answer back into the web.
I think this may be one of the particular roles that citizen journalists aka bloggers could play in Brussels, namely being the bridge between the Brussels bubble and the outside world. It’s not done enough and we haven’t managed to get this to a noticeable level through Bloggingportal.eu, but I think we have several times proven that bloggers can push for new approaches in the way EU institutions interact with the outside world (and vice versa), and sometimes we have even seen that this outreach crossed the invisible border of the Brussels bubble.
Observing the developments over the last three years I think EU blogging has become much better in many senses, covering a more diverse set of topics in a variety of styles by authors with a much more diverse background. If you take the last weekly summary on Bloggingportal.eu, you can see that – much more than two years ago – EU blogs today speak about different EU-level policies, EU-level politicians, EU-level political debates, national politics with relevance beyond borders, general EU issues and the obligatory social media issues, both in very serious or more mocking styles. That more or less equals many political national blogospheres as far as I can notice them. What is still missing is genuinely independent yet at the same time well informed citizen blogging as I have argued here in May of last year. Still, in styles and in scope one can speak of a maturing blogosphere with regards to EU blogs.
The number of blogs Bloggingportal.eu lists has been rising steadily, although a good number (that we still list) is not active anymore. Nevertheless, almost 250 blogs we list have published at least one article over the last seven days. And particularly thanks to Twitter, we are also made aware of EU-related blog posts from other blogs that we include into our stream of posts and our Editors’ Choice. And this is just in the languages we actively cover ( in particular English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Finnish, Swedish, Dutch plus a little bit of other EU languages). This is a proof to me that there is a vibrant EU blogosphere, not huge but well beyond a tiny group of bloggers, and that we at Bloggingportal.eu are able to cover this sphere to a good extend.
Now that was the upside.
On the downside, the fact that we all are doing this beside whatever we do else – working as communication professionals, academics, think tankers, lobbyists, journalists, lawyers, EU officials – has made that the platform as such has not developed much over the last years, both concerning style, outreach, traffic, enlargement of the editors’ team and the languages we actively cover. This is not a problem in itself, but it reduces the impact we have as a uniting platform that creates the sense of a common blogosphere for all listed and for all coming to our platform.
We also did not manage, except for a few times and topics, to bridge between different national spheres in EU matters and between the EU sphere and national blogospheres. Bloggingportal.eu has thus not become the central hub in common online sphere as it could have become had we had a stronger ability and sense of growth and active development.
Somewhere between the down- and the upside, the world of social media has also considerable moved on in the last three years. Twitter was just starting off as a tool used by more than the obligatory tech enthusiasts when Bloggingportal.eu was born and Facebook was just developing from a growing platform to become the new centre of the web. Bloggingportal.eu is based on RSS, and although we also transmit our main feed on Twitter and although we also have a Facebook page, blogs are just one part of the growing social web today.
Blogs are thus not forming an independent blogosphere but they are elements of a social communication online that crosses platforms. For a platform like ours it is difficult to curate the whole social media communication around EU affairs as it would be ideal in this new world. It also means we are not able to generate considerably more traffic for the blogs we curate and the blog posts we select than a link shared on Facebook or retweeted on Twitter may generate. We are thus just one of the many ways through which people find their way to good EU blogs and good EU blog posts today.
That is neither good nor bad because it means that thanks to new social platforms of general nature it is easier for good EU bloggers today to get attention to their content, something that Bloggingportal.eu wanted to do right from the beginning. What we add is to link all this in one place, make it easily accessible and help to understand that even if not all bloggers may realise themselves that they are part of one bigger community, by putting them in one context we create a small EU online sphere that is worth noticing and following for those who are aware of our work.
Talking about community brings me back to one of the upsides of Bloggingportal.eu not mentioned so far, something that is not visible as such through the portal and its public channels. Behind this portal there are about 15 active editors and almost 30 in total who have been active in the past, coming from a total of probably more than 10 countries.
We editors know each other for several years now. Many of us have moved on over the last three years, changed jobs and countries and life situations, but we still form this constantly interacting group that functions as a cluster of online activists that runs a small platform and a number of activities surrounding this platform. And it works. We are certainly no well-functioning traditional organisation – because we don’t have organisational structure – but although some of us have never met we still interact online and offline where- and whenever possible, showing that a real European social sphere is possible outside EU-funded activities or specialised institutions.
Since I have joined in the course of 2009, my email account has seen well over 2700 emails on our mailing list and several hundred more written with reference to Bloggingportal.eu. We have also had several dozens of meet-ups in different configurations at different places in Europe to discuss EU blogging, EU social media, the future of the platform and all the other issues worth discussing when you are blogging on EU affairs. This is a considerable activity and it shows that despite the lack of growth of the platform and the lack of any concrete structures we are definitely more than just some bloggers who write about EU affairs.
For the outside world, the thing we do best and that we do constantly well is aggregating a mass of EU blogs and selecting diverse and good content from this mass so that you don’t have to read all of that – so feel invited go on a (daily) discovery tour of EU blogging through our portal. For ourselves, we are a group of bloggers interested in developing a European sphere online and although we don’t always agree about the path or manage to start the walk, we have gone this way for three years now and will continue to do so in the future.
Happy birthday, Bloggingportal.eu! And thanks to all my fellow editors!
PS.: If you want to join the team, develop the platform or organise blogger outreach, bridge between the EU sphere and national social media spheres – feel free to contact us.