Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A is for Aussie A-list, oi oi oi

Dead media zombie parasites Mark Jones and Charles Wright have had a bit of fun while at Phil Sims' MediaConnect conference in sweaty Queensland with Frank Arrigo's declaration that journalists can't be A-list Australian bloggers by having a stab at compiling a journo-heavy Aussie A-list of their own. Mark gives me a gig (but misspells my name), and Charles leaves me out. Cameron Reilly reports (like a real journo!) that the assembled lizards discussed gaming tech.memeorandum, and supports ex-coworker Frank.

Behind all the cheerful ribbing lies a real issue: being a good journalist does not automatically mean you are a good blogger. Australian technology journalists have largely not made the Web transition to become worthy of being called A-list. Some of them have used their Web site simply as a list of pointers to their professional articles on the Web, like Nicole Manktelow and Dominique Jackson. Some stick to personal blogging such as Angus Kidman, Alex Kidman and Caitlin Fitzsimons. Roulla Yiacoumi's dog has a blog, yet Roulla has a Web site but no blog. Alex Zakharov-Reutt's blog seems to have been stillborn (Alex Online isn't online?). Graeme Philipson seems to be stuck in 1995 back when men were men and GIFs were made in MS Paint, before we heard of blogs or Web GUI designers.

Some join the millions of other bloggers whose entries all centre around a link to a random MSM article with a modicum of comment, such as Mark Jones, Brad Howarth, Dan Warne, Stephen Withers, Rob Irwin and Rodney Gedda. Usually, these kind of sites become popular only if they keep a very narrow focus on a hot niche. Of course, the granddaddy of this approach among Aussie IT journos is Charles Wright, but he cheated somewhat by using Fairfax's considerable traffic to publicise his professional prose. I must confess to not having read Charles' stuff before, but the first thing that strikes me is that Bleeding Edge is not inherently blog-like, as evidenced by the lack of hyperlinks - not surprising, since Charles is used to writing for the Age Green Guide and it appears to my practiced eye as if what links there are have been added post-facto to a print-centric article. Another dead giveaway is that quotes from external sources are handled in-paragraph in quote marks, not encapsulated in blockquote tags. Does this make it any better or worse? No, but it doesn't help Bleeding Edge succeed as a standalone blog among those other millions of generic MSM link blogs without the infusion of incoming MSM linkage.

So what defines an A-list blogger? Part of it is luck and part is simple hard work, of course, but there also has to be something within the blogger: a spark of inspiration. Instead of parroting mainstream thought on every topic, the blogger must have strong convictions which s/he will defend to the last despite majority censure, opinions which may annoy or incense but are backed by steady beliefs. Instead of reacting passively to MSM stories as they pass through the ether with an "I like it/don't like it" as befits a lazy consumer, the blogger must develop cogent arguments to attack or defend the subject of each issue. Instead of a series of disconnected vignettes about disparate topics, the blogger must treat their entire blog like a single conversation which they are consistently influencing - anathema to the journalistic code, but necessary for a successful blog. The blogger must develop a narrative, which can only be done by allowing their own personality to express itself through the blogger's words.

Some personalities aren't suited to blogging, even if they are good journalists. There are many styles of journalistic writing corresponding to the various types of articles you may be expected to write, such as short news, long news, news analysis, feature, interview, editorial, and comment pieces. Blogging shares some of the characteristics of most of these article types, but is not exactly the same as any of them. To become a memorable blogger, the author requires a more personal, conversational tone that goes beyond anything written for a journalistic publication.

I can't help but use as an example the late Alicia Camphuisen, whom I worked with at Knapp Communications for many years (and still miss greatly). She was an excellent journalist in many ways, but editorials were not part of her repertoire. Even when she graduated to become the editor of IDM magazine she never wrote an editorial, despite having learned more than enough about the subjects of the magazine to do so. It was not in her non-confrontational nature. She had strengths in areas where I was weak - for instance, she was the most organised person I have met - but she did not feel comfortable expressing her opinions in print.

I wish Alicia was still around, but she would not have made a good tech blogger. Neither, I suspect, would many Aussie IT journos, even if they put their full minds to it. That is not a criticism, since that's like saying they would not make good nuclear scientists: the skill sets are different. This entry has not been my best work either, but I blame my journo upbringing. I'm trying to change, honest!

8 Comments:

Anonymous Nik said...

I think Techcrunch is the #1 Aussie blog :p

11:11 pm, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Angus McDonald said...

Only while Nik's writing for them ... oh, hang on, you are Nik!

Hmmm ... does commenting on A-list posts make us link whores?

5:51 am, March 03, 2006  
Anonymous Renai LeMay said...

hi Paul,

great list of Aussie tech journos blogging...but you left off the entire ZDNet Australia team.

We're one of the biggest ICT publications in Australia, in terms of both revenue and audience (despite, some would say, being purely online publishers), and we've recently entered the blogosphere.

Where would you categorise us? ZDNet has five bloggers, (including Angus Kidman), who are all professionally blogging.

Cheers,

Renai LeMay

6:47 pm, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Paul Montgomery said...

Ask Brian about why I left you guys out, Renai. :P

12:09 am, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Rob Irwin said...

Interesting points, Monty. I know that my blogging has evolved since 2002... and it still evolving... which is why I've regularly destroyed my blogs -- which could be a capital offecne in some blogger's eyes -- to start afresh. Personally, I find the conversational tone quite easy -- it's a good way to "dumb down" (for want of a better phrase) an industry that is in danger of disappearing up its own wazoo half the time.

9:31 am, March 08, 2006  
Blogger Dan Warne said...

Bit of a shame my blog has been consigned to being "just another blog" that links to other people's random articles.

Some of my posts have been quite original:
http://danwarne.com/now-this-is-wireless/
http://danwarne.com/ebay-fraud-under-scrutiny/

and although it's not completely original, it has attracted quite an extraordinary amount of traffic:

http://danwarne.com/mistakes-made-by-new-mac-users/

However, as a journalist, I find it hard to post too much original stuff up on my blog for the simple reason that all my best ideas get piped into (paid) published articles. Good ideas have a direct connection to my bank balance (which is usually on the 'low' to 'very low' end ;-)

On the other hand, with the rebuilding of the APC website in the next few months, this will change. Page impressions in the online world can be driven in many different ways... professional blogging is one of them.

6:55 pm, April 09, 2006  
Blogger Paul Montgomery said...

Fair enough, Dan.

6:57 pm, April 09, 2006  
Blogger Caitlin said...

I'm not trying to be A-list or any other list - I'm quite comfortable with the fact that my blog is a personal blog. In fact, I find it a little weird that I have so many readers (so many by my standards that is). I have considered having a blog with a wider audience but I need a good idea that will sustain my interest and, as you say, that spark of inspiration. It would be fun to do as a venture with a few like-minded people.

4:37 am, April 19, 2006  

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