The Status of Blogging in the Republic of Ireland: A Case Study

The Status of Blogging in the Republic of Ireland: A Case Study

Lori F. Brost (Central Michigan University, USA) and Carol McGinnis (Central Michigan University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-744-9.ch008
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This chapter examines the phenomenon and the status of blogging in the Republic of Ireland. It focuses on the social, cultural, political, technological, and legal factors that have influenced the existence and functioning of the Irish blogosphere and seeks to ascertain whether it is in good health, in decline, or in transition. To date, there is no research on the history and evolution of Irish blogging, and there are no assessments of the status of the blogging practice in the Republic of Ireland. This case study scrutinizes the history of blogging in Ireland, traces its evolution, and draws conclusions about the state of Irish blogging. Data collection for the study involved an extensive review of Irish blogs as well as e-mail and phone interviews with Irish bloggers. The authors conclude that the Irish blogosphere is vibrant, diverse, and evolving; additionally, they offer directions for future research.
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Four men carried a large Styrofoam coffin on their shoulders into a room decorated with tombstones. “The Funeral March of a Marionette,” popularly known as the theme song from the Alfred Hitchcock television series of the 1960s played in the background, while fog flowed from a machine usually used for Halloween festivities. The mock funeral procession kicked off the 5th annual Irish Blog Awards held in March 2010 in Galway’s Radisson Blu Hotel. The theme, “Blogging is Dead,” was inspired by press coverage that had declared Irish blogging was dying—or at least in significant decline.

Journalist John Burns asked in the London-based Sunday Times in December 2009, “Where have all the Irish bloggers gone?” Burns estimated there were a mere 4,000 Irish blogs, the same number as in 2008, and quoted experts who believed that the adoption of newer social media applications, especially Twitter, was slowing the growth of the Irish blogosphere. Trevor Butterworth of Forbes magazine also weighed in on the topic in January 2010, as did several Irish bloggers. In addition to the influence of microblogging and social networking sites, Burns and Butterworth suggested additional factors in the decline of Irish blogging: (1) connectivity concerns, i.e., lack of broadband access in rural parts of Ireland; (2) legal issues, in particular Ireland’s strict libel and blasphemy laws; and, (3) demographic issues, such as Ireland’s relatively small population. Although most of Irish bloggers contested the idea that blogging in Ireland was in decline, some agreed and blamed Irish bloggers themselves, declaring their posts poorly researched and written and not worth following. Butterworth (2010) asked, “Is Ireland, then, a new-media Galapagos, weirdly unique—or is it a leading indicator for a broader trend of what the Guardian’s Charles Arthur calls blogging’s ‘long-tail’ decline?”

Arthur’s (2009) speculation about blogging’s “long-tail” decline is a reference to Anderson’s (2006) theory which posits that by providing a limitless number of choices, the Internet ended the era of blockbusters and opened the era of an infinite number of niche products—music, books, movies, and more—and triggered the fragmentation of the consumer and media market. This infinite choice is often referred to as the “long tail.” Pointing to anecdotal evidence and surveys conducted by Technorati, the leading authority in blog search and tracking, Arthur (2009) argued that the popularity of blogs is fading as bloggers switch to new social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook. He referred to this phenomenon as the demise of blogging. Butterworth (2010) further argued that Ireland might be leading in the “long-tail” decline of blogging. Therefore, researchers wondered: Is the Irish blogosphere shrinking, as Butterworth suggests? Or, as many Irish bloggers claim, is the Irish blogosphere merely changing?

In this chapter the authors examine the status of blogging in Ireland focusing on the social, cultural, political, technological, and legal factors that influence the existence and functioning of the Irish blogosphere. This largely descriptive case study summarizes the history of blogging in Ireland, traces its evolution, draws conclusions about the current state of Irish blogging, and offers directions for future research.


Background And Literature

The Republic of Ireland is a small country of 4.2 million people located on the island of Ireland. It shares the island with Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom and occupies a smaller part of the island. The Republic of Ireland, often referred to as Ireland, had for generations a largely traditional, homogeneous tight-knit community culture where everyone knew everyone and where the oral tradition of storytelling was particularly revered. The country’s news media traditionally were partisan, and in the dawn of the 20th century, were fiercely engaged in nation building. The picture changed dramatically, however, from the 1990s into the 2000s with the emergence of Ireland as a prosperous, dynamic modern European economy, nicknamed “the Celtic Tiger.” This was the time when Irish blogging emerged as a social phenomenon and a popular Internet practice.

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