First corporate blog post to find its way into mainstream media

Today might be a small landmark in the short history of Swedish corporate blogging. This has to be the first example in Sweden, where a post in a corporate blog finds its way into mainstream media (both entries in Swedish only, but see my comment in a recent post). Anders Kempe and Anders Lindberg at PR agency JKL comments on the state of Swedish media, and it got picked up by the political chief editor of Svenska Dagbladet (large Swedish daily).

Congrats to Billy McCormac (who I will have the pleasure of meeting on Wednesday, in real life…) of JKL who is one of the driving forces behind their pioneering corporate blog.

Blogs a vital part of a media revolt manifesto

Conglomeration, consolidation, corporatism and infotainment journalism prevents vital information from reaching citizens in favour of trivia and issues that serve the agenda of corporate powers. Big media threatens the few non-commercial voices, i.e. public service, that still don’t suffer from bottom line myopia and metrofication (short shallow news in contrast to investigative reporting, like the model of international free paper Metro). The result is a vanishing debate in society and a status quo in political regimes on both sides of the pond. This is, in short, the situation at the moment if you listen to some influential commentators. The solution? An extreme media makeover?

Pontus Schultz, journalist and media debater at web publication reflects on a debate he participated in the other day, where Eva Hamilton, potentially a coming leader of Swedish public service channels SVT voiced her worries over the threats against public service television. ”Public service has never been under such an attack as now”, she meant, not only referring to political pressure on SVT’s role model BBC. She also pointed at coordinated attacks on EU-level from the commercial interests that want to limit the space for public service, on programming level and regarding what possibilities public service should have in the new media arena.

At the same time Anders Kempe and Anders Lindberg at PR agency JKL argues that Swedish media needs to be challenged more and that Sweden has turned into a one party state (sound familiar?) where few dare to challenge the ruling social democratic regime and their followers. With the same party in charge 21 of the last 24 years, everyone pretty much assumes a leftist government win also in 2006. It costs more and more for those who have opposing opinions and the tendency by corporations is to nurture relations with the ruling crowd instead of focusing on opinion building, minimizing the debate in society down to a minimum. Few dare to challenge the powers of leading politicians and media.

Or as Amy Goodman put it when she spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Brian Braiker about what she sees as the corruption of mainstream media.

In your book, you fault the media for asking softball questions in return for access to those in power.

Right. We call it the ‘access of evil’: Trading truth for access.

David Neiwert, a freelance journalist based in Seattle runs a blog called Orcinus, where he not only analyses the problems of journalism today, but also suggest a solution – a media revolt manifesto (please read this post, it’s very long but it’s worth it). He claims that media is not fulfilling its obligations today. Conglomeration and infotainment journalism prevents vital information from reaching citizens.

”Conglomeration and the increasing grip of monolithic corporatism has reduced the diversity of voices and viewpoints that are available to the public at all levels, from small local papers to major networks.”

His suggestion for a counter attack on media is summarized in a Media Revolt Manifesto. Interestingly he points to blogs as a means of shifting the power balance and increase diversity.

”But we have to get organized. And after years of wandering in the

wilderness, I believe that 2004 is the year to make it happen — if for no other reason than that the stakes are so high.

The main reason, though, is that I think the tools for serious change are finally within our reach. And the chief tool is the Internet, the

blogosphere in particular.

Blogs represent, in fact, the real democratization of journalism, which traditionally has always been about the work of keeping the public duly and properly informed. Stories and vital facts now no longer need go through the New York Times and NBC News in order to gain wide distribution. Blogs can effectively reach as many people as several large city dailies combined. And the network of their combined efforts represents a massive shift of data around the traditional media filters.

Blogs can also be terrific means for organizing, particularly for putting together a concerted response to political and media atrocities. One need only survey the ability of blogs to affect real-world politics — their role in bringing about the fall of Trent Lott was just a start — to understand that their power can readily extend to reshaping the media, since they represent in themselves a kind of citizens’ solution to needed reforms in the media.”

He continues:

“Blogs, in other words, can and should play the role abdicated by the mainstream media both in monitoring their own behaviour and ethics, and in providing enough diversity that a wealth of viewpoints are given fair treatment, as in any healthy democratic society, and the public properly served.”

I’m not convinced that journalists agree with all this. Nevertheless, that’s a huge responsibility. Are we ready to bring the power back to the people, or do we rather lean back in the sofa in front of the latest reality show?

Rising coverage of blogs

Overstated has an interesting overview of how many times the word blog or weblog has been mentioned in media. There has been a significant increase in coverage since early 2003.

I touched on this in a previous post, when I looked at the situation in Sweden. I performed the same search again (but this time excluded the brand names Weblogic and Weblogistics) for the search terms “blog*” and “weblog*” in Swedish media via Retriever (searches web based sources only). In Sweden, the coverage started to take off in November of 2003. Noteworthy is that in my previous analysis I found that IT and technology trade press almost made up two thirds of all articles, while marketing and journalism press had almost none.

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The first Swedish mention I found was from a two year old unsigned article in Ny Teknik (New Technology) on May 2, 2002, explaining the new acronym “blog”.

Link via Corporate Engagement.

Blogging takes off in Sweden

Here is a short translation of my guest post on JKL blog yesterday.

Blogging is starting to become a hot topic in Swedish media. The number of articles has risen from just 2 articles in 2001, to 56 in 2002, 105 in 2003 and 81 so far this year. The lion share of these articles, or two thirds, are from IT and technology trade press while meta media (media about media) is almost invisible. But Sweden is still lagging behind the US where blogs are debated and exploited by both journalists and PR professionals.

Blogs affect how media work and thereby also people in PR and communication, since blogs have the possibility to transform the relationship media producer/consumer to a conversation. For example, the TV channel VH-1 recently put up a blog for a show they were launching and comments and ideas from the public found its way into the show’s script. Some journalists check facts with bloggers, while others find that their planned scoop for a follow up article is already out on the net, because bloggers have already thought along the same lines. A thousand minds think better than one, you might say.

Some of these new micro media become opinion leaders and how do we as communicators relate to them? Can you pitch a story to a blogger and how do you do that? Communicators often want to have control over information, not from a propaganda perspective, but to have the whole picture in order to make the right decisions. We want to know what is being said about our brand. All this becomes more complicated when blogs become more established in Sweden. One wonders when the first service is launched that monitors and alerts when my brand is mentioned in a blog. Maybe it already exists, if you know, please tell me.

So why is the blogging phenomena not being discussed at all in Swedish marketing and journalism press? The first and most obvious reason is that there are almost no commercial cases to talk about. Corporate blogs are still rare in Sweden. Another reason I think is that the blogosphere is like a universe of its own and if you are not participating in the dialogue, you just don’t realize the potential and the implications of this new form of communication. The blogospere is a little like a black hole, if you come too close you get sucked in and get absorbed, but before that it is all black, you just don’t see it.

My advice to PR professionals in Sweden is that they should start their own blog right now, just to get acquainted with the format, it is easy and free and you can blog anonymously. Once you have decided a theme and you feel that your blog is running smoothly you can make it public and start to market it, although the marketing bit seems almost unnecessary, since blogs are so viral they almost market themselves. That should be enough incentive for any marketer.

Guest blogging on JKL Blog

Today I am guest blogging on JKL Blog about the increasing attention for blogging in Sweden. Swedish media has written 81 articles so far this year about blogs, compared to 105 articles in 2003, 56 articles in 2002 and just 2 articles in 2001.

But the debate is mainly in the IT and technology press (two thirds of all articles). Marketing media is yet to discover this new form of communication, probably because of lack of local success stories.