What is the purpose of newspaper blogs?

For the lack of anything other to do on a wet Sunday afternoon — we were planning on lunch in Southwold but decided it was too cold and windy — I have started compiling the newspaper blog index. So far the data is just the numbers of blogs but I will develop it into a proper index by dividing the salary of the editor by the number of blogs, or something like that when another dull Sunday comes along.

The raw figures gathered this afternoon are Times 40, Telegraph 32, Guardian 12, Sun 10, Mail 5, Mirror and Independent none that I could find. The Independent should get a negative score of putting its site map behind its Portfolio barrier and demanding £1 before I could see it.

One can almost hear some editors shouting: “We need more of these blog things. Everyone has them my daughter tells me.” They have become one of the outward signs that the paper is up with the trends in journalism.

William Rees-Mogg at The Times likes to use questions as his headlines. He explained this on June 7 when he wrote: “I find the value of blogs is that they allow me to ask questions to which I genuinely do not know the answer.” On July 26 his question was: “A hung parliament in 2009?” Sorry, Lord Rees-Mogg even in the blogosphere none of us can help you with that.

Over at the Telegraph (list of 40 blogs) Natasha Cowan, one of four fashion bloggers, writes: “I’m not sure why, but I have got a niggling problem with the way the trend for leggings is being worn at the moment, and after discussing it with others it seems as though I am not the only one.”

More interestingly, at the Sun Louise Compton, the Girl with the Backpack, has discovered biodegradable knickers. I am not sure if this is really a blog as comments don’t seem to be accepted but the idea of reader-directed travel looks interesting.

At the Mail Peter Hitchens seems to take his blogging seriously. But a blog by an opinion columnist always makes you wonder whether you are reading the bits that were not good enough to get into the paper.

The Guardian’s score of 12 is rather misleading as only two of them have an author’s name as the title. They include readers’ reviews in the travelog blog, and the paper’s podcast feed. Jack Schofield has expanded his weekly computer agony column into a blog leaving Roy Greenslade on the media as the paper’s individual blogging voice.

This afternoon of browsing newspaper blogs leaves me confused. Some of the offerings are very good but too many seem like ways of presenting traditional content in a “look we understand the digital age” way, while others are dumping grounds for copy that would never get into the paper.

What would be really fascinating would be to know the numbers of visitors to the 99 blogs from the five newspapers visited.

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