The politics of blogging and the risks of burnt porridge…

I've been shortlisted for the UK Blog Awards 2016 Final.

THE porridge is on the hob, ready to bubble – and that’s more than can be said for my mind this morning. Is blogger’s block a recognised thing? Who knows, but it should be.

Writing a blog is not difficult if it is something you wish to do, but some days offer more meagre pickings than others. First task of the morning is to scan the headlines, lining up topics like bottles on a wall. Then you throw a stone or two. Words being stones in this line of ‘work’.

I am at my laptop, waiting for the lapping of ideas. Here comes my wife to sit down to eat her breakfast. She talks, shares a worry or two and airs something she wants to address at work. That interrupts my train of thought, but never mind because it was not a profitable train of thought.

My wife leaves for work, and that still seems odd. Off she goes and here I stay, looking for more bits of this and that onto which I may cling. A man sits in offices for 38 years, and then he sits at home alone, writing. Is this healthy? Well, it’s certainly not financially healthy.

Let’s look at those bottles again. Mostly they contain political slops. That’s the trouble with the news: so much of it is about politics and politicians. I enjoy the shin-kicking side of politics watching, and a blogger with a political bent can soon stir a few words into life.

But here’s the thing: my blogs about politics are not as widely read as those addressing other matters. I know this because beneath the bonnet of my blog there is a daily chart showing my ‘score’. As a certain gnarled nub of ego is required for the task, it seems likely that most bloggers look at their ratings from time to time – possibly even obsessively throughout the day, as I am given to understand.

This daily score suggests the popularity of certain topics. Write about beer in York and lots of people will read what you have to say. Write about your wife’s long-running gardening column being pruned by your old newspaper and even more people will read. Write about politics and, well, people might read or they might not.

My beery wander of Sunday was still being widely read yesterday, whereas my freshly-baked blog on David Cameron’s statement to the Commons about his father was read hardly at all.

On an old-fashioned newspaper in the pre-digital days, there was no real test of popularity. Readers’ letters represented one way – or simply readers saying, often long after the event, “Oh, I enjoyed your column about…”

With digital newspapers it is possible to see who is reading what and when, and probably what they had for breakfast, too (must check the porridge – don’t want blogger’s burnt porridge again; it never tastes that good).

All this click checking offers ‘proof’ of interest. But it does also lead to a debate about clicking versus reading.

Websites like to generate lots of clicks as this is taken to indicate success. Sometimes items are put up for no reason other than to generate clicks. You will have seen plenty of daft things on Facebook teased with the tagline: “You won’t believe what happened next…”

So you click on and what happens next is not all that surprising or illuminating, but your click counts – you’ve been suckered into having a look.

What this has perhaps removed is an individual editor or writer’s firm belief that a certain topic is just worth writing about because they believe it is interesting.

None of this, by the way, is to suggest that Man On Ledge has tired of politics. To adapt that old Samuel Johnson line, “When a man is tired of politics he is tired of life.”

The trouble is that at the present, all that “yes it is” and “no it isn’t” shouting about Europe is enough to make a man tired of politics.

Anyway, I’ve just had a cautious stir and that porridge needs eating.

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