Opinion – Why the Observer's '50 most powerful blogs' feature proves print media knows nothing about new media

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kat-blog-photo-small.jpgKatherine Hannaford writes…

Last week, when reading the upcoming features for the next issue of the Observer Magazine, I was worried to see they promised an article entitled ‘The world’s 50 most powerful blogs’. Old media reporting on new media? It could only mean trouble, and stir a generous helping of some angry-sachet into the big online pot.

When having my weekly Sunday morning lie-in in bed with a copy of that day’s Observer, I realised I overestimated the knowledge of the journalists writing for that paper, and indeed, the magazine. Sure, I can’t tar them all with the same brush, considering the Observer and its brother-newspaper, the Guardian, have internet-savvy journalists like Bobbie Johnson and Jemima Kiss snuggled under their wings, amongst others. But what I saw before my eyes on the morning of the 9th of March angered me greatly.

It appears I wasn’t the only blogger infuriated over the dubiously-named list of ‘powerful blogs’ (available online here). The 26-odd commenters who’ve shared their opinions on the article online all agree, as do thousands more across the world, that the list is possibly the worst, most confusing collection of so-called blogs ever put together. Collaborators Jessica Aldred, Amanda Astell, Rafael Behr, Lauren Cochrane, John Hind, Anna Pickard, Laura Potter, Alice Wignall and Eva Wiseman, you should hang up your Bloglines accounts for good. Although I’m guessing one of them, if not all of them, doesn’t even know what an RSS Feed is, according to one of the many mistakes they made in the summary about Engadget.

It’s not just the fact that none of Shiny Media’s 37 blogs got a mention, I can write that off as being a conflict of interest for the Guardian, considering several of their blogs are direct competitors to our own, and I know Tech Digest isn’t exactly in the same league as Engadget or TechCrunch.

It’s the fact that so many worthy blogs got missed out in this appallingly named list. Sure, it was only 50 of the little time-wasters, and maybe they’d be included had the list been expanded, but for many of the sites they featured, I, and I’m sure many of their readers, could think of at least two more better-suited blogs to include instead of some of the shockers that were on there.

Several of those people left comments on the online article, with ‘AwkwardQuestion’ summing it up best, with “Bloggers 1 Print journalists 0”. This feature proves once again that it’s so rare to find print journalists with any understanding of the web, with the aforementioned commenter adding “it reads like something someone who doesn’t read blogs would draw up, which is probably quite useful for readers of a print newspaper.”

Just look at the title of the feature, ‘The world’s 50 most powerful blogs’, you’d think it would be chock-a-block full of blogs that inspire people, that can change people’s opinions, not blogs about celebrity gossip and Lolcats, as much as we all love them. Even Perez Hilton, a man not renowned for his intelligence, doesn’t agree with the word ‘power’.

Not even Bobbie Johnson of the Guardian, when blogging about their brother-newspaper’s article, quite knows what the list is about, even though one of the contributors is actually his partner. “I’m not entirely sure this is a chart that’s ranking the blogs in order of importance, or a list of 50 good blogs that are important or influential in their field”, he said in the comments field, adding to the mystery.

‘The world’s 50 best blogs’, or ‘the world’s 50 most entertaining blogs’, I can think of a dozen more suitable titles than what they gave us. But frankly, the title, as with the content, smacks of laziness and a lack of understanding surrounding the web. A lazy reporter usually looks at Wikipedia for their research, but it seems whoever included the summary about Engadget, Holy Moly, and several other blogs didn’t even bother with that avenue. I thought most people on the internet knew it was Peter Rojas who started both Gizmodo, and then later Engadget? Not Ryan Block, as the Observer magazine claimed. Still, I know at least one of the journalists who contributed to that round-up has shown her lousy reporting skills once before, when interviewing a Shiny Media Editor.

I wonder also whether whoever included the Gawker Media blog Jezebel bothered to actually read more than the homepage, as they have a regular feature where one of their writers, the appropriately named ‘Slut Machine’, smokes weed and then answers readers’ questions regarding sex, often from impressionable young girls, who get replies along the lines of “all the times that I’ve done anal, I’ve done coke first, and that usually helps me shit”, and “there are other forms of birth control, but I haven’t been pregnant in a long time, the last time I was pregnant I was on the pill”. That, my friends, comes from the Observer’s 22nd most powerful blog in the world.

I won’t list the many blogs they should have featured, as you can look at not only the comments field on the article for a fair amount of them already, but also thousands of blogs across the world who wrote response pieces on the article.

What I will leave you with is this question – is this a sign that print media is even more ignorant towards new media than we first thought? Does this article signal the end of newspapers as a credible source of information? Answers in the comments field below, please!

Katherine Hannaford is the Editor of Tech Digest, and realises that this inflammatory column may eradicate all her chances for ever writing for the Observer. But is OK with that, as the internet is not just the future, it’s the ‘now’.

Katherine Hannaford

6 comments

  • This is one of my favorite blog because whenever i visit this blog found something interested and different,you are doing very well job,keep it up

  • Can someone recommend a good list of the ‘world’s most powerful blogs’? I’d be fascinated…

  • I couldn’t agree more. Whenever I see lists like this, I can’t help think “yawn, I’ve heard of these blogs already three years ago, give me something new!”. Imagine if they said the most popular tv shows of 2007 were Top of the Pops, That’s Life, and The Tellytubbies, people would ridicule them in the street!

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