EU Media - Blogging about EU Media and Blogs

I recently stumbled upon an article of the excellent blog Kosmopolito and discover Ideas on Europe, a new EU blog platform entirely dedicated to academics! Here are my thoughts about this new interesting project.

Ideas on Europe
Ideas on Europe
  • Description

Ideas on Europe, a new EU blog platform dedicated to academics and set up by the University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES), a membership organization with “over 1300 academics, practitioners and research students”.

  • Evaluation of positive / negative aspects

The EU blog platform is powered by WordPress, a very powerful CMS, and nicely designed. Moreover, the project seems to be backed up by James Clive-Matthews who knows quite a lot about EU blogging. Personally, I would have used WordPress Multi User as it aims to build a blog platform but that’s not the major issue. Indeed, the technical development is often a minor part of the work while building an online community and I see at least three great challenges :

  1. The conversion and adaption of the audience – The target group is academics. Not only the don’t have a clue about the art blogging but I know – from my own experiencethat it take type convert and train this type of audience.
  2. The competition of other EU blog platform – There are already four EU Blog platfoms (Blogactiv, BabelBlogs, EurosBlogs and Th!nkAboutIt) with strong presence and visibility which makes this market quite difficult to penetrate.
  3. The community management – Community-building and management is a very long process. You have to keep the bloggers coming, blogging and commenting. Once again, from my personal experience, I confirm that’s a tough job!
  • Popularity

I really hope that this new EU blog platform will be a success as any online EU blogging initiative. Howver, though being a noble project, it seems to me a real challenge.

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Comments

  1. You forgot another Euroblog platform – European Tribune. That started in 2005 or so. Doesn’t often interact with the rest of us, and its users’ blogs (or “Diaries”) don’t have quite the functionality provided by WordPress MU (which Ideas on Europe, like Blogactiv, is using) but still. There’s some good stuff there.

    As for your three main points, I’d agree with 1 and 3, but reckon that 2 isn’t much of an issue.

    Even after six years of blogging about Europe, I still find the Euroblogosphere to be a very small world. There’s plenty of scope for expansion – and Ideas on Europe is not aiming to go into competition with any of the existing blog platforms. Euros du Village’s blogs are still largely made up of Francophone contributors, despite its expansion into other languages – and despite being the prettiest and most technologically-advanced of the Euroblog platforms, doesn’t have as many updates as you’d expect; Babelblogs remains largely dominated by younger, student bloggers, with a strong focus on the cultural/entertainment/lifestyle side of things; Th!ink’s journalistic competition angle gives it a different USP, and its focus is currently shifting from EU politics to climate change in any case; and Blogactiv, though superficially similar to what we’re hoping to achieve with Ideas, is more geared up to people actively involved in the Brussels scene.

    By targeting academics, Ideas on Europe is hoping to get more informed, knowledgeable people commenting on European issues (not just political) – as well as to break down some of those ivory towers and bring academia into the 21st century.

    This is, of course, going to be tricky. I’ve worked with academics on blog projects before, and so know all too well how hard it can be to shake the ingrained academic feeling that all published writing has to meet rigorous standards (not something that’s common on most blogs), as well as to encourage them to write nice, bite-sized articles (rather than the usual thousands of words long pieces based on months of research that they’re used to). And that’s before you even attempt to get older academics with no previous web experience publishing online for the first time.

    But, with any luck, UACES’ existing membership network is diverse enough to ensure that we get a good few early adopters who can then prove the benefits to those that follow. Furthermore, with academics increasingly being forced to compete for funding, a strong web presence can prove a powerful tool – by pooling their resources via one platform, they will (in theory) be able to feed off each others’ successes to create strong web profiles that will be of concrete benefit to them in the real world.

    On your third point, the community management aspect, again agreed. I used to help run a UK politics-based group blog called The Sharpener. It died a gradual death after 2-3 years as fewer and fewer contributors bothered to write anything, and us founders/editors had too little time/inclination to dedicate to it. But, again, the existing UACES membership network should (in theory) make this process rather easier. We aren’t trying to build a network of contributors from scratch – as I tried with The Sharpener, and as Blogactiv has been (fairly successfully) doing over the last few years. We’ve already got over a thousand (paying) members of the organisation, who know, trust and respect the UACES name. This project is giving them better value for their membership money by offering tangible benefits, as well as the support of UACES staff. Down the line, there are also plans to employ postgrad students to help out on the management side of things.

    But that’s some time away. The site won’t be officially launching for another couple of months at least – its existence leaked out early thanks to Kosmopolito’s Andreas being a UACES member – and after that we’re not expecting to be working as a fully-fledged site for at least another year or two. Earlier would obviously be good – but convincing academics of the benefits is, as you rightly point out, likely to take quite a bit of time and effort.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

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