Wednesday, April 25, 2007

When old media meets new media

There is much debate whether the advance of new media tolls the death knell of old media. True, it is easier to access the news you want, from a range of media outlets, from a single PC screen (an it is more environmental). However a safer bet is that old media will evolve to provide an online resource (as most do) but as a brand trusted for providing a certain style and content will retain a large audience. This allows the media brand more scope to offer a wider range of news and serve their audience better.

Newbury Weekly News has certainly taken these ideas on board and are offering the local people a political forum and their council election candidates the potential of the Internet without the hassle of creating their own online presence. Their website is putting readers questions to the candidates and publishing the answers on the hottest topics: today it is recycling! Given that council elections seem preoccupied with a mixture of local and national issues, and that voters like the big issues to be translated into political outputs that shape their life experience, this seems invaluable for democracy.

Why invaluable, because it forces the parties and candidates to engage with the issues people really care about. As commented elsewhere on this blog, for politics to appear interesting it must engage with voter's lives and aspirations and offer real choice. I suggest it is not about who leads the party, but what will the leader do for me that gets voters into the ballot box. Whether the party responses to the question posed by Carmel Owens (44 yr old Newbury resident) offer real choice is debatable without understanding the full context of their comments, and I don't live in Newbury so I do not claim that; but such initiatives offer the responses voters need when asked to make their choices. Maybe this should be a key function of the local newspapers during elections!

What must be remembered is that new media is not a magic bullet, you must have the 'pull' factor. If you wonder what theat means see the blog by Lisa Chambers (left) a Forest Heath District Councillor, it reads as little more than a chat between her and Robin (who uses the comments to tell Lisa that: May get a call from Sue McAllister about a visit at Studlands this week) sadly her efforts seem to have no pull at all.


ShaneMcC said...

A little harsh on Lisa Chambers. She's been blogging for a little over a month and has three comments! Not too bad.

You also need to bear in mind that some people have different reasons for blogging. For some the protection of the name on Google is enough (Lisa of course should register a domain), others find it useful to put down their thoughts in public, some do it to help network with other councillors, and others think it might win them votes.

Darren G. Lilleker said...

OK, point taken, but I guess looking at Lisa's blog my question was 'what is the purpose' and so in turn 'where is the pull factor'. There is evidence of a MPs and councillors creating an e-constituency; Lisa seemed not to be thinking of what users would get from visiting. Also the comments read as a private conversation that excluded others not encouraging the ordinary voter and ward resident to contribute. Party politics aside, looking at Steve Webb's or Boris Johnson's web presence they seem to want some form of conversation they can monitor and perhaps in some cases respond to.

I think every elected representative should have a blog but actually promote and use it to help their representation; a bold statement but in terms of keeping in touch it could have a significant impact. There is the debate on the incumbency advantage etc etc, but in terms of e-democracy and promoting democracy there is a huge potential. I hope if Lisa reads this it encourages and not demoralises her.

ShaneMcC said...

I think it is fair to say that too many people do start something off because "it is a good idea" without thinking about the direction and audience. I think the majority of people need support to help them work these out. Not everyone is a natural communicator. Even elected representatives.

I'd go further than just elected representatives and say that all candidates should have a blog so that the first the electorate know of them isn't a name and party on a ballot paper.

Darren G. Lilleker said...

I could not agree more. And the personal touch does work, though it must not be seen as simply about vote grabbing; provided people feel represented or there is strong potential for representation they respond positively. If you are interested in the research let me know by email and I can send you an article and put you in touch with a colleague who has surveyed users of political websites and e-newsletters

Nigel Jackson said...

Political weblogs have a constituency, but I am not sure it is a geographic constituency, rather it is one based around interest. Therefore, I am not totally convinced by shanemcc's arguement for all candidates to have a blog. Though I certainly support the sentiment behind it of developing a dialogue between elector and elected. Turning to Lisa Chambers, I think it is clear that the political blogosphere is a hierarchy. Some have gained a position by being one of the first to blog, but most gain it because of their political status. As a result only some of these political blogs attract what might be termed the policy making community, and thus have disproprotionate influence. I agree with Darren that if blogs like Lisa's (and we are probably being unfair in singling her's out)want to be successful then they need to drive traffic to them, otherwise what is their purpose, audience and impact?

Lisa Chambers said...

I really feel I need to comment, half of me at the moment is saying why should I bother but that said.... I started my blog to connect with my community to be able to update them on issues that are local to them. I have not started this blog to be a dynamic future looking political animal, but because I thought I could use this blog to reach my electorate with local news, its not suppose to have the "pull factor", I never wanted it to. In fact I had a good giggle reading your comments!
I gave a lot of thought about my audience & direction and I can sum it up in six words - the local people of my division.

Last comment - lighten up you guys lifes to short.

Robin said...

Hi Darren - I introduced Lisa to blogging after she saw my own blog, the .

Am intrigued by this whole area - you may be interested to see our other political blogs which we have started for the election.

Our main
is advertised in the printed press and election literature.

You can also link from there to the

Really welcome your critique!

Robin said...

For some reason the three links showed ok in Preview - but not the published comment, so here they are in plain text:

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