Australian political bloggers and citizen journalists appear to have played an important role in the 2007 federal elections. They provided a highly critical corrective to mainstream journalism, seemed to influence public opinion on key election themes, and offered a coverage of political events which diverted from the customary focus on political leaders and bellwether locations only. Bloggers were wooed by political parties (such as the Australian Labor Party with its Labor First blog site), mainstream media (such as the online arm of public broadcaster ABC, which ran several blogs of its own), and journalism researchers (through projects such as Youdecide2007.org, which provided a space for a hyperlocal citizen journalism coverage of the campaign in participants' individual electorates).
But what remains unclear to date is exactly how information travels within the distributed network of the blogosphere itself, and from here to other (online) spaces of citizen and industrial journalism. To trace such movements may underline (or undermine) news and political bloggers' claims of influence and importance; it would highlight the extent to which blogging operates merely as an echo chamber for the political cognoscenti, or has impact in the wider population. It would provide insight into the extent to which news bloggers and mainstream journalists feed off and respond to one another's work, and outline possible avenues for mutually beneficial collaborations.
This paper presents findings from an ongoing investigation into the inner workings of the Australian political blogosphere, which is based on a long-term process of gathering and archiving new content on a large number of Australian blogs and news sites. Such content is then analysed using a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures which enable the identification and visualisation of page and site interlinkages within and beyond the network of sites examined, and the tracing of themes and memes across the corpus of data gathered by the project.
The paper will outline the underlying research and data gathering methodologies, and highlight key findings from its investigation. In particular, it will examine the shift in online political communication in Australia as the country switched from election to post-election mode, and seek evidence of a paradigm shift in terms of key themes, issues, and opinion leaders as the defeated conservative Coalition government of John Howard was replaced by the incoming Labor government under new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.