Following up on the latest LDV weekend meme, here are my thoughts on the state of the Lib Dem blogosphere:
What are the greatest successes of the Lib Dem blogosphere?
I think that the Lib Dem Blogs aggregator is one of the best things about the Lib Dem blogosphere. It enabled me to get an instant audience for my posts when I first started (and it still does) and I know it has helped many others similarly.
Lib Dem Voice is also an excellent hub for all of us and its existence has been a great anchor for me as I have become more and more involved with blogging.
What are we, collectively as bloggers, failing to achieve?
There are no individual Lib Dem bloggers who are anywhere near as widely read as Iain Dale or Guido Fawkes and a number of other right-leaning bloggers. Maybe some (perhaps many) in the LD sphere aren't so bothered about that but with readership comes influence.
We also collectively don't seem to have a very high media profile. For example, a couple of weeks ago Jonathan Sheppard (Tory Radio) popped up on The World at One to publicise his "Scrap Early Day Motions" campaign even though I suspect the website itself gets a very small amount of traffic (I am basing this on the fact that I wrote an article for it arguing for reform, not scrapping and got almost no referral traffic from it). I know a number of Lib Dem bloggers were opposed to the campaign but as far as I know, none of us got any mainstream media coverage for our views on this. Maybe it's because we are not as well connected as the Dales, Fawkes, Greers, Sheppards etc. but if we want to influence the mainstream debate then we need to be better at doing this.
How does the Lib Dem blogosphere compare with those of the Labour, Tories and other parties’?
I would say this wouldn't I but I genuinely think that the debate within the Lib Dem blogosphere is of a higher quality than that in the other two main parties. We seem to genuinely debate issues and largely respond to criticism constructively and without resorting to ad hominen attacks. I concede we are not always perfect in this way, but we are far, far better than many Tory and Labour examples, some of which are just plain nasty.
How helpful is blogging as a campaigning tool (are there examples of it making a real impact)?
I think it needs to mature. I helped set up a local campainging blog for Lib Dem activists in my area (Bracknell Blog) and there are many other examples of locally based blogs that may be able to make a difference if they can build up a decent local readership. National blogs are naturally going to find it harder to make an impact as the effect is so much more diffuse.
I do think though that eventually, blogs and other online media will make a big contribution to campaigning.
What do you think the next year holds in store for the Lib Dem blogosphere?
I think the run up to the election will be a very interesting time for us. The febrile atmosphere that will inevitably ensue will test our ability to be responsive but also measured in our approach and to properly debate issues. I hope we don't succumb to the lowest common denominator stuff that I see from too many blogs in the other spheres.
It would also be nice to see more Lib Dem bloggers and them being more active. My understanding is that there are already well over 200 on the aggregator but it often seems to be the same 20 or 30 I see posting frequently. Perhaps the galvanising effect of the general election will improve this and I hope the momentum can be maintained after the election.
PS: I started blogging as a Lib Dem blogger last November and I haven't looked back so if any Lib Dems reading this have been considering doing it themselves and you can devote a little bit of time I would suggest you go for it.
EDIT: I was in a bit of a grump earlier on and re-reading this I realise that I have been a bit harsh on the Tory and Labour blogospheres. There are great examples within these and I have had numerous enjoyable debates on here and on their blogs as well as across Twitter. I just feel that at the extremes there are some examples that leave something to be desired but they are to be fair very much a minority.