Case Study – Two political blog articles which went viral

One of the areas which interests me is how independent publishers can cut through to build an audience, or drive a story into the wider public arena. This is a cross-post from the Wardman Wire.

Two articles from the last month by the Heresiarch and Anna Raccoon form an interesting study in articles by political bloggers which gained widespread attention. Both of these pieces went viral via Twitter, rather than Facebook or any other social network.

Firstly, a piece, which caught the moment when the conviction of “Twitter Terrorist” Paul Chambers was confirmed. This piece achieved almost 1000 retweets.

This is the headline and abstract:

Heresy Corner: With the Conviction of Paul Chambers, it is now illegal to be English.

There is something deeply and shockingly offensive about the conviction of Paul Chambers for his Twitter joke, almost unbelievably reaffirmed today at the Crown Court in Doncaster. It goes beyond the normal anger anyone would feel at a blatant injustice, at a piece of prosecutorial and judicial overkill that sees the might of the state pitted against a harmless, unthreatening individual for no good reason.

Secondly, a piece from Anna Raccoon last week, about the case of Stephen Neary, who seems to have been caught up in a bureaucratic whirlpool through his autism:

The Orwellian Present – Never Mind the Future.

Steven Neary, Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, Welfare Deputyships and The Court of Protection

These numbers of tweets are 50-100 times more than will be achieved by a reasonably well-received article. As a comparison the last 6 articles on the Heresy Corner homepage this morning are showing 3, 5, 4, 9, 40 and 2 retweets.

My observations:

1 – Both are non party-aligned writers embedded in the political blog niche, but also cover political questions from a position of non-political knowledge, with a degree of authority/respect which has come from their own work over two years or more.

2 – In these instances, both are amateur or professional subject specialists in the areas they cover here, and have an established readership who are able to give a boost to a piece in the social media nexus. As a comparison, in the world of Internet Consultancy much time (and money) is spent trying to build initial traction for articles and websites to give them a boost into wider internet prominence.

3 – The importance of “connectors”. Anna Raccoon’s piece received a significant boost from Charon QC, who provides an important hub-site in the legal niche – which of course is one place where a real difference can be made to Stephen Neary’s situation.

4 – The “edge of the political blogosphere” has become very important – both for specialist sites writing about political questions, and political blogs who “do more than politics”.

5 – These are two different types of article. The Heresy Corner summarised the online reaction to the “I’l blow you’re airport sky high” Twitter Joke Trial case at the right time to catch the Zeitgeist, while Anna Raccoon’s piece is a campaigning piece trying to direct attention to a particular case, in an area of society she has written about on perhaps a dozen occasions.

6 – Several legal commentators (eg Jack of Kent in addition to Charon) have pointed out (correctly) that for campaigning piece to convert attention into action, there needs to be more complete information about both sides of the story. A spotlight can be directed onto a perceived abuse, but there needs to be objective investigation afterwards.

That is a good distinction; but the rub is that officialdom can prevent both sides of the story being available to the public, and often only react to media spotlights – not to problems which they have not been embarrassed about.

7 – Neither of these bloggers are deeply embedded in the Facebook ecosystem, which is a distinct difference from some other mainly political sites, which report Facebook as a major source of traffic (example). I’ll write more on this another time, because I think it is important.

8 – During November, when the Paul Chambers piece was published, Heresy Corner jumped from 134 in the Wikio blog ranks to number 15 (illustrated). This was after changes which introduced a “Twitter” factor into the Wikio rankings. I’d suggest that this level of volatility may illustrate that they’ve overdone it.

Wrapping Up

The missing link for independent publishers is the ability to translate incisive observation or reporting into an effective influence.

I’ll return to that subject soon.

Can I ask a favour from brave souls who’ve reached the end of this article. I need a couple of dozen Facebook “Likes” for my own site’s new Facebook page to gain access to all features. You can “Like” me at the bottom of the rh sidebar here.

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