Monday, February 25, 2008

Why thought leader can't truly be a "blog"

Ok so I might take some flak for this but here goes.

I am currently studying media management at the Sol Plaaitjie Media Leadership Institute at Rhodes University.

One of the topics discussed today was the emergence of "internet journalism" and the involvement of audiences in reporting news and often making the news. An important part of this new information landscape is the so-called "blogosphere."

Now, to me at least, my definition of a blog is somewhere a person makes comments, chronicles events and their lives, talks about their hobbies and so on- "true" blue-blooded blogs are ones which information is unsolicited, unmoderated, unpaid for and unregulated.

Under this definition (and I suppose you can call it quite conservative) Thought Leader cannot be a blog. It is instead a case of "old media" using a new platform to do something the mainstream media has always done: Make people little-known people into well-known people and finally, into experts who are always called upon to make comment on particular things (eg: Guy Berger et al).

While the content may be, for the most part, unsolicited, it is most certainly moderated (you or I mortals cannot just email in an article to Thought Leader) and it is certainly sponsored as it is a Mail & Guardian initiative- no doubt a Maher/Buckland meeting of minds spawned it. It is therefore elitist and this goes against everything that blogs stand for, in my opinion at least.

If one were to look at the internet as merely a platform (which, in part, it is) then what Thought Leader is doing is extremely clever, laudable and an excellent exercise. While I am not saying that Thought Leader isn't any of the above- I happen to find it extremely interesting myself- I feel that blogs are way more than just a platform, they are a social phenomenon where, in the words of Willis and Bowman millions have a "press" in the form of the internet.

I read somewhere that in the case of the internet, change happens at the fringes...not at the centre and I would situate good old Thought Leader firmly on the mainstream, elitist "New Media" bandwagon.

Thought Leader may be a great forum for who the Mail and Guardian think "leaders" are, it may be a pioneering piece of on-line wizardry, it may be relevant, it may be needed, it may be the best thing to come onto the media landscape since podcasts were invented...but a my most certainly isn't.


PS If you made it this far well done, for those of you who don't know what Thought Leader is then here is the link, click and be amazed!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post Peter. You make some good points... quite a few of them semantic. We don't know what Thought Leader is. We know that it works and that it produces good content. I've tried to define it myself and the word I came up with was "editorial blog" -- I saw it as a blog-media hybrid bringing the best of both worlds from: 1. corporate media, gatekeeping and 2. blogging software, culture, publishing. It's a media-blog partnership combined into one platform. Would you agree?

Peter Barlow said...

Hi Matt, thanks for taking the time to come and comment here.

I certainly agree that TL produces some excellent and insightful comment, it is a great success in that regard.

I also see your point that it is a media-blog partnership (which has proven to be quite potent).

I suppose it does all come down to a bit of semantics and subjectivity. I say this because I feel that the definition of what a "blog" really is may different from person to person...

It defies definition...

But what I will say is that, with any social commentary (a primary use of blogs), bloggers becomes victims of the their own success...and ultimately begin to form part of the mainstream establishment- losing their "edge".

Tis a tricky topic and one which needs exploring! :-)

Darren said...

Interesting points, Peter. This was quite a hot discussion around the time of the sablogawards when TL received so much attention, but as you say, a very tricky topic.

My own issues with TL were more content-related - Thought Leader? Really? But again, its a topic for debate.

I won't argue that its a great platform though, and their team has created something great there.