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Studying Political Blogs in the Netherlands

Finally we move on to Tom Bakker in his ICA 2010 session, who has undertaken a content analysis of political blogs by citizens. Tom notes that there are a variety of terms to describe this citizen journalism, and that political Weblogs still tend to be seen as an archetype for this field; hence the focus on Weblogs. Who are the people who start such blogs, and what are they doing? Is it really 'everybody', as Clay Shirky has said?

In the first place, though: how do we find them? Tom began by using five blog search engines (Google Blogsearch, Technorati, Blogpulse, Icerocket, and Truthlaidbear) to find active Dutch blogs authored by citizens; these were narrowed down to political blogs by examining how the blogger or blog described themselves, and by checking whether at least two of the last five posts dealt with political topics. For the Netherlands, this ultimately resulted in a list of some 163 blogs - so, hardly 'everybody', but actually a fairly small group.

Tom captured content from these blogs, then (some 2,000 pages all up), and examined this content. 85% of all blogs were male (where gender could be identified at all); the largest group were in the 41-50 age bracket; some 15% posted more than one article per day, but the largest group of bloggers were far less active. Content was distributed across describing personal experiences (37%), documentation (41%), interviews (4%), and quotes (23%).

63% sometimes linked to mainstream news media; for 20% most of the links were to the mainstream. 34% sometimes copied content from the mainstream, while 19% did it all the time; 47%, however, never did so. Key topics included party politics, the economy, integration, and local infrastructure. This enables the definition of three types of bloggers: thinkers (not linking much, writing political reflections in a column style), collectors (focussing on specific topics, acting as a filter blogger), and messengers (doing original reporting, often with a local focus). Of these, thinkers and collectors are in the majority.

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