SBP column 17/02/08

Like the blogosphere or loathe it, if you’re an arts journalist working today, it’s high time you embraced it. Over the past year or two, I’ve spent plenty of hours listening to authors pushing their anti-blogging books and bemoaning the rise of the blogosphere, complaining that it fosters plagiarism, encourages inaccuracies and promotes superficial guff over profound thinking.

Even if these arguments have merit, they still seem small when you take into consideration the blogosphere’s incredible power and paradigm-shifting capacities.

There are thought to be more than 112 million blogs in existence. This morning alone, hundreds of thousands of people will have published new blog posts before breakfast. By Monday morning, in offices around the globe, hundreds of thousands of people will have read these posts.

Even if we are wary of the internet, we are still guided by it. A recent survey revealed the increasing influence of the blogosphere on the albums people buy. According to the report, which examined the surrounding circumstances of 108 albums, the number of blog posts written about an album before its release directly correlates to the sales it generates.

If there were more than 40 blog posts about an album before its release, the album ended up selling three times the average, according to two researchers with New York University’s Stern Business School, Professor Vasant Dhar and Elaine Chang. While it’s impossible to tell from the report if blog chatter causes sales or simply predicts them, the researchers believe it’s likely to be a combination of both.

In other words, the blogosphere has the power to make people spend money. It won’t be just advertisers who will be interested to hear that, it will also be the record industry, booksellers and the film people.

Already, some of the more enlightened publicists are ensuring that influential bloggers get copies of the new books and albums in exactly the same way as the traditional media does.

That sea change in thinking is also being reflected in Irish publications. Talk to any arts editor about blogging and the arts and they’ll tell you how hard it is to keep an audience when you are constantly being outscooped by bloggers.

Having spotted that the future doesn’t lie in print, several Irish magazines, including In Dublin and Foggy Notions, have changed to an online-only format, which will give them more scope to react quickly to events in the artsworld. Upcoming new Irish music magazine State, meanwhile, has decided to launch its website ahead of its first print publication in March.

But for every innovative step, there are a thousand more instances of editors, writers and management burying their heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge that the way we communicate has changed forever. Although such trepidation is understandable, a glance at the now beleaguered music industry will show how dangerous their stance is.

Two years ago, Paul Simon told an interviewer that he felt that the internet paradigm shift was akin to an uncontrollable forest fire. ‘‘In the short term, all that’s apparent is the devastation,” he said. “[But] maybe a fire is what’s needed for a vigorous new growth.” It’s a good point. But those who refuse to adapt could find themselves burned alive.

2 thoughts on “SBP column 17/02/08

  1. I didn’t realise foggy notions were changing to an online format only? Shame, because the look of the magazine (and even the kind of paper it’s published on) makes it one of my guaranteed purchases during the infrequent months in which it appears. At least the content won’t be affected i s’pose…

  2. “In other words, the blogosphere has the power to make people spend money”

    Tell me about it, I have hidden my credit card because were sending me all over the place. I also bought ‘The boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ on the strength of reading about it on a blog.

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