Friday, April 28, 2006

Power to the bloggers

[Summary: Bloggers are increasingly influential as independent voices outside of conventional news media. How do they challenge the perceptions or worldview we sometimes take for granted?]
An article in The Guardian (18 April 2006, Technology) reports on a finding in a technology study that bloggers are becoming a strong influence on society by dominating public conversations and creating business trends. Bloggers can wreak havoc for companies by raising awareness and campaigning against the corporations or their products. They can also become independent sources of news and opinion outside of the usual media multinationals or (in some countries) government-controlled press.
It made me think about how we perceive the wider world we live in. We get our news usually from the radio, TV and papers. We go to see films and plays and buy CDs that we've read rave reviews about. We choose freely to go to or buy what interests us. Or do we?
Have you noticed how many traditional media sources suddenly have nothing but Tom Cruise in them, or the latest Harry Potter, or the new Madonna album? And after a week or so, it's as if they never existed and we're reading about the next big thing to go and see/ listen to. Why is that? It's because this kind of news is driven by the marketing people with the biggest budget to spend - like the person with the loudest voice in the room, they drown out everyone else.
Look at the recent Academy Awards. The Academy members vote for the best film and so on. The production companies that sent out DVDs of their film to all the members got more votes in general than those that didn't. It's only natural of course that the members would be more likely to vote for a film that they've seen - and that was easy for them to see. It seems to me that it's the same for the print and TV/ radio media - their time is limited and they have to sell copy in a competitive environment: if the big thing that they are being sold by a publisher's marketing team is Harry Potter, they cannot risk losing out by not reporting it.
It's like when I travel - I like to hunt out an obscure restaurant or cafe with great food and ambience that only the locals know, rather than go to what's been recommended by all the tourist books where all I'll get is the tourist experience with other tourists. The risk is that I might end up in some dive with horrible food and an unpleasant evening - but that's a risk you run even with a so-called recommended restaurant. But the reward might be a treasured memory forever and that feeling of real exploration that is so difficult to attain in our ordered, modern world.
I feel a similar sense of exploration seeking out interesting blogs. The thing about bloggers is that on the whole they are not paid to blog. They do it out of passion - so you can get quirky, off-beat or unusual information from them or alternative views that are not dependent on selling the morning's paper. You can also hear the individual voice and heart of the writer. They'll tell you about a book or film they love because they love it and not because they've been sold on it in a press pack by clever marketing people. The downside, though, is that there is no editorial control so you may need to wade through a lot of self-indulgent verbage before you get to the gem. And there is no guarantee of the journalistic truth or integrity - so you shouldn't always believe everything you read. I still read the solid news media like The Guardian or Newseek, but when I want a change from the same-old, same-old being told what to read and see and think, exploring the blogosphere can be fun and strange and curious.
If reading my blog is an early foray into the world of blogs for you and you'd like to explore other blogs, here are some ways you can do that:
  • At the top of this page, there is a button in the banner that will take you to the "Next Blog". This will randomly shoot you into another blog. It's always a different one every time. Once, when I was exploring I came across this amazingly beautiful site:
  • Go to Google and type in a topic of your choice followed by "blog" and see what comes up eg music blog, malaysia blog etc
  • Go to (there's no "www") and type in a "tag" (ie any keyword) in the Search box and see who/ what appears.
Please do come back and leave a comment to let me know what you've discovered.
If you're a regular web traveller and all this is a bit old hat for you, I'd love it if you could leave a comment and share some of your "travelogues" on the net and recommend any blogs that might be interesting for me - and the other readers - to visit.
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