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The influence or lack thereof of Canadian political blogs.

I’ve read an interesting column tonight by Simon Houpt of the Globe and Mail, who laments the Canadian political blogosphere and the apparent lack of influence it has on Canadian politics:

..our blogosphere is tame and ignorable. For it is the very rare Canadian politics or news blog that manages to grab a critical mass of eyeballs and break out of its tiny community of like-minded people; and almost none that sets the agenda.  What’s wrong with us? Why have we been content to keep blogging as a primarily amateur undertaking? There’s no good reason Canadians couldn’t have created some of the most popular blogs, which rarely depend on original reporting that would require someone to have boots on the ground in a particular place.

..standalone blogs remain a vital part of a vigorous media ecosystem in other countries. They magnify important stories (and, yes, trivial ones as well), helping to transform sometimes abstract issues into talking points.

I was curious about how many Canadian blogs Simon actually reads, and asked him on Twitter.. I also wonder if he was implying there aren’t many Canadian political blogs up here worth reading.  I take issue with that, if he believes that.

That said, I don’t necessarily disagree with him that Canadian political blogs influence in politics up here is a shadow of what US political blogs have accomplished (Daily Kos as he mentions in his piece is a prime example). In fact, I do agree with him that the general population may not read these political blogs a lot, though the folks in the media and up on Parliament Hill do, and that it seems political blogs do not cause as much buzz as they might.

I think he skimmed over what the primary reason I believe it is – and that is scale. The US has 10 times the population of Canada. The US also has a lot more people who have joined political parties and are very willing to be politically involved. The ratio of people who are members of political parties up here in Canada is dwarfed by that, both in size and scope.

Also, mainstream Canadians are notoriously apathetic towards politics up here right now. 40% of eligible voters don’t and/or won’t vote in our elections. That implies Canadian politics has totally turned them off, and/or they are not interested. It would stand to reason even though Canadians may be the most “connected” to the net, that lack of political interest extends to wanting to seek out and read political blogs, be they partisan or not.

Edit: Simon’s twitter alias is @simonhoupt – drop him a line if you want to comment.. but be nice.

Additional thoughts: I’ll note there is one way to get noticed up here – at least by the media – and that is if you’re a noted partisan blogger who publicly takes issue with your own party over something, they’ll sometimes immediately run to the press officer of that party and ask if that doesn’t show “grassroots dissent”. That gets party operatives extremely worried or annoyed at opinions they’d otherwise not give a hoot about – the more popular or well known the partisan is in party circles, the more they get worried, particularly if a well known/well read reporter or reporters are the ones doing the asking, as that may make the news online, and that may be read by a lot of people. In my experience,  that currently is the closest any political bloggers seem to come to the state of political blogging and influence as it does in the US – still a far cry from when Daily Kos can make waves over a Democratic politician/Congressperson/Senator it decries is betraying the cause, and sets forth a movement to find and fund a primary competitor to them.

2 comments to The influence or lack thereof of Canadian political blogs.

  • While the article itself is instructive about the establishment media’s cluelessness about independent bloggers, it was the follow-up Twitter discussion between MSM journos regarding the article that really opened my eyes. I don’t think most journos know what a blog actually is. Sure, they know their own org’s blogs and the big ones like Politico, The Hill and Daily Beast (which I would argue are more well-funded news orgs than blogs) but these writers seem to be at a loss when talking about independent blogs.

    Yes, we do not have the influence of a Daily Kos. We don’t have the book publishing resources to publish our bloggers like Kos was afforded (writing a book automatically gives you credibility with the major media). We are also a country that does not celebrate the independent spirit like the States does. We don’t have a two-party ‘sporting event’ type political show system to inflame our discourse.

    We live in a different culture than that of the States. As you point out, it’s also a numbers game.

    But what bugs me the most about Houpt’s article is that he doesn’t address actual blogging. He is addressing the HuffPo’s. He doesn’t even mention The Tyee or Rabble, our version of the big news org blogs. Kady noted that he can’t call out blogs by name for fear of being accused of partisanship. That’s bull. How hard would it be to contact you as an aggregator and Taylor to get both your points of view.

    It was a lazy article written by a dilettante for an indifferent audience. Such an article needs to be written by someone who blogs independently themselves. It needs to address the nitty gritty of what we do. It needs to speak from our DIY perspective. Houpt did address why we aren’t more popular. He just didn’t address who we are, why we do what we do or the influence, however small, we have on the wider discourse. Such an article is way overdue. Judging by Houpt’s effort, we will not have any light given to us from the majors. We’re still here on our own.

    • The Tyee and Rabble are sites I’m also surprised he didn’t mention. On the other hand, if his thesis is they don’t have any particular influence or widespread reading audience, he may have a point.

      It’s interesting what he says about what he defines as a “well read blog”. In his mind, it has to be a bog that writes about North American (see US) affairs, with a good amount of Canadian issues. That criteria in itself says he doesn’t think a Canadian blog can get influential or well read up here without a sizable portion of it being an American audience (and American are even less interested in Canadian politics then Canadians are).

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