The State of the Political Blogosphere

It's well over a year since the last time I had a look at the state of political blogging in the county, and there have certainly been some changes!

A number of stalwart blogs have closed operations, a range of new ones have started up and several have gone through a change of focus, but here is a compilation of the 42 most prominent active individual (ie voluntary) blogs with a primarily political focus, together with their local authority area:

Conservative (5):
Isobel Ballsdon (Reading)
Richard Willis (Reading)
Alvin Finch (Bracknell)
David Burbage (Windsor & Maidenhead)
John Redwood (Wokingham)

Labour (10):
Rachel Eden (Reading)
John Ennis (Reading)
Jan Gavin (Reading)
Sarah Hacker (Reading)
Chris Maskell (Reading)
Duncan Bruce (Reading)
John Howarth (Reading)
Tony Jones (Reading)
Richard McKenzie (Reading)
Andy Peacock (Slough)

LibDem (10):
Daisy Benson (Reading)
Ricky Duveen (Reading)
Gareth Epps (Reading)
Kirsten Bayes (Reading)
Warren Swaine (Reading)
Jamie Wake (Reading)
Darren Bridgeman (Bracknell)
Mark Thompson (Bracknell)
Paul Walter (West Berkshire)
Prue Bray (Wokingham)

Green (5):
Rob White (Reading)
Adrian Windisch (Reading)
Adrian Hollister (West Berkshire)
Derek Wall (Windsor & Maidenhead)
Marjorie Bisset (Wokingham)

Other (12):
Jane Is the One (Reading, from Europe)
In Tonight's Audience (Reading)
Gideon Mack (Reading)
Rob Fisher's Blog (Reading)
The Age of Stupidity (Reading)
Grasp the Mettle (Reading)
Left Outside (West Berkshire)
The Salted Slug (West Berkshire)
Countculture (Windsor & Maidenhead)
The Robin Smith Institute (Wokingham)
Idiot at the Back (Wokingham)
Beasley's Place (Wokingham)

A wide variety of trends is noticable, ranging from regularity of posting, through style, content and purpose.

Conservative local blogging remains limited as attention is split between national news commentary and areas of special interest. Sporadic individual efforts are occasionally made for particular purposes, although innovation is by far the exception rather than the rule as efforts would appear to be an attempt to transfer electoral dominance to the popular agenda and reap the benefits of incumbency.

After a slow start when the party leadership restricted the potential for individuals to waver from the party line whilst in office Labour has gradually picked up blogging as an effective tool for organising opposition. Styles generally concentrate on campaigning and partisan attacks, and central coordination is plainly evident.

LibDem blogging is largely a free-for-all with different authors taking different approaches across the whole spectrum - news, analysis, campaigning, commentary and opinion - and either self expressive or self-restraining from one to the next. Eclectic, but with more 'personality'.

A clear class division is apparent among Green party authors: representatives make efforts to engage with the public, and activists combine critical opinion with the promotion of party values by piggybacking on related campaigns.

Elsewhere, among the non-partisan political bloggers, a trend towards specialisation is starting to take hold as authors struggle to build an independent brand identity (albeit with varying degrees of success) and develop a stronger voice.

A number of group blogs covering political topics exist to complement the individual blogs, but these can almost exclusively be categorized as promotional vehicles with a specifically narrow (ie specialist, hyperlocal, community etc) audience.

Overall the spectrum of local political blogging in Berkshire is gradually increasing in diversity and depth, however the medium still faces challenges as it is squeezed between more immediate, intimate and more direct forms of democratic social media and the overlap of more authorative commercial journalism seeking revenues, as well as the constant problem of churn and the ability of bloggers to find original quality content to contribute.

It's also worth noting that individual political blogs are more prevalent where elections are contested more strongly and outcomes are more closely in the balance, so the pattern of changing regimes in Reading is mirrored by greater numbers of blogs as writers try to influence results, which compares to a fall-off in political blogging in safer boroughs, particularly marked in Slough.

Here is the same list by area:
Reading: 25
Bracknell: 3
Slough: 1
West Berkshire: 4
Windsor & Maidenhead: 3
Wokingham: 6


The State of the Berkshire Blogosphere

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