War Of Words: Why the Irish bloggetariat has yet to worry the commentariat

Mick ‘Slugger O’Toole‘ Fealty declared yesterday that ‘bloggers have won’ the argument with the commentariat, opinion formers who exert their influence through newspaper columns.

Well, maybe in some parts of the world, but there’s scant evidence that battle has even been joined in the Republic.

Here, the Old Media (and that includes me) trundles on, mostly oblivious to most of what’s going on in the minuscule online community.

Meanwhile, even the most mediocre national columnists have a potential audience of 75,000 to 250,000 for everything they write. Bloggers can only dream of numbers like those.

Then again, where would an audience for a mass market blog go?

There’s Slugger, but if you’re outside the six counties, maybe one post in twenty is relevant, and even there most of the comment is from northerners, and about as well informed on southern issues as Gerry Adams’ is on the economy.

Twentymajor? Bock?How many times can you read diatribes before the joke gets stale?

Politicsdotie? Improving, but mostly, newspaper clippings followed by noise.

In short, there are plenty of bloggers, but few readers. And while there are a few noble attempts, there’s not yet an Irish equivalent of the HuffPost.

Let battle commence.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.


  1. As you probably know Gerard, there isn’t a Irish HuffPo because there is only 4 million people in Ireland – while online readers remain worth a tiny fraction of print readers. Of those 4 million less than half would have internet access, less than half of that would consider online-only news sources.

    It’s the same everywhere regards online consumer value, if HuffPo sold as many print copies as it gets visitors it’d be massive in the print world, rivaling the biggest newspapers.

    Without the commercial market you can’t pay the journalists/writers or get investment therefore, you can’t have a HuffPo.

    We’re still three/four years behind and waiting for online consumer value to rise. In all likelihood the Irish online media market will be subsumed by outside online sources looking to spread geographically as opposed to commercially, not produce its own online-dominant news org.

    With respect to Eoin and Yellow Roman Candles, it’s an attempt to put a magazine online rather than an attempt to become the HuffPo – there’s no interaction, no mass of content and no attempt to do breaking news.

    Final point – I don’t think the model for an Irish online publication wouldn’t be a HuffPo, it’d be a TPM or a Politico.

  2. I don’t expect anyone to consider online-only news. For that matter, I suspect that HoffPo readers are above-average consumers of dead tree news. But it surprises me that there’s not one Irish blog that Breakfast Roll Guy can name, even if he never reads it.

    HuffPo runs with a staff of about 60. Comparing populations, that means we should be able to support a one-person breakthrough blogger, but we don’t even have a Drudge here.

    I disagree with you about us being five years behind though. I left the USA nine years ago, just as the DotCom bubble burst. We’re still not where they were then.

    Finally, regarding YRC, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with putting a magazine online. Not every blogger has to be the news source beating RTE or the Times to a story by five minutes. But at least one of them should be approaching their readership levels. Maybe not a HuffPo, maybe not even a TPM or Politico, but something. To be honest, given the Irish mindset, I suspect the eventual winner will look something like Twenty or Bock, angry, passionate, but with harder news values and a cuss filter so it doesn’t scare the horses.

    But until that winner comes along, bloggers will remain marginal. and marginal we are. How long did it take mainstream national outlets to cop on that micandidate was a waste of money? How long would it have taken if a strong website had broken the story? Would Fine Gael have had such an easy ride for hiring a Russian to do it’s website? Compare the reaction when posters were printed in NI.

    I think there’s a market for a strong blog that challenges the consensus. I’m not sure how it can be achieved, maybe a bunch of hacks and bloggers could set up a co-op together, maybe it just takes one caffeine fuelled fanatic. But in the meantime, lets not cod ourselves that because we read each others blogs and have twitter accounts, we are in any way holding opinion makers to account.

  3. Ì agree with the vast majority of what you say in your comment but just want to take a different angle on one or two of them…

    You say… “I suspect that HoffPo readers are above-average consumers of dead tree news. But it surprises me that there’s not one Irish blog that Breakfast Roll Guy can name, even if he never reads it.”

    then follow that up with…

    “HuffPo runs with a staff of about 60. Comparing populations, that means we should be able to support a one-person breakthrough blogger, but we don’t even have a Drudge here.”

    HuffPo averages 4.5m viewers a month, out of a US population of 300m that’s approx 1.5%. It’d be fair to say that not all HuffPo viewers would be US-based, so let us say that 1% of the US population views HuffPo a month. Switching those figures to our little island and taking our population as 4.5m would mean that an “Irish HuffPo” would reach 45,000 viewers a month. Mulley gets 50,000. So, I wouldn’t but it could be argued, that on viewing figures alone – Mulley.net is an Irish equivalent of The HuffPo.

    Re: YRC – I think trying to put a magazine online is okay if you’re going to do so and take advantage of the other opportunities (interaction, immediacy, space etc). Just putting random articles up is all well and good, but you can get that in so many other places – it needs a focus/niche/consistency, that’s why I think Irishelection.com is going in the right direction.

    Re: Drudge – It’s an aggregator that finds the best media coverage on a topic therefore it relies on a mass of media coverage to link to. Drudge wouldn’t work here because we don’t have the places to link to, an Irish Drudge would end up linking to The Irish Times, Examiner, Indo (and regionals), Irish diaspora publications and the odd Irish-related story if one popped up, one of five blogs and a Silicon Republic, would be the only places we’d end up linking to…

    Blogs are marginal over here but they are growing. People who I would not have expected to recognise the names or certain blogs are recognising the names – something that wasn’t happening even 6 months ago.

    Re: the video above – I agree with Mick Fealty, it’ll need a public service feel.

    Re: A few hacks and bloggers getting together. If only, I’d love that.

    … and lastly, agreed, I don’t think bloggers are holding media to account but they’re moving along and getting places…

  4. Yeah, but how many of those Mulley hits are the rest of us checking if we made his Fluffy list? 🙂

    Organising a few hacks and bloggers together shouldn’t be that difficult. There’s a silly season coming up after all.

    The regional press is an interesting angle. There are plenty of bloggers watching the nationals, too few watching the provincial papers. Elections are often won and lost on what a TD or councillor says on page seven of the Ballymagash Gazette but never makes national news. Particularly since the provincial press tends to report uncritically and in a hurry. A lot of their content is only available offline though.

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