Neil McIntosh looks back on the year of blogging in British papers — at least five years after the year of blogging among readers — and reveals a few figures from the Guardian:

To lift the lid on stats we normally keep pretty quiet: blog traffic of 1.2m page impressions in December 05 grew to a record 7.1m pages in July 06 as the World Cup and troubles in the Middle East sparked lively discussion across our sites. . . .

Technorati records more inbound links to Guardian blogs in the last 180 days than to any of our UK rivals – Comment is free, by itself, gets more links from the blogosphere (12,027 at time of posting) than the Times, Telegraph and BBC blogs combined (a total of 11,552 at the time of posting). Our other blogs do even better (17,128 links).

But let’s not get too smug. For all the success we’ve enjoyed, the fact is blogs are the horseless carriages of social media, when fleet-footed rivals are already cranking out Model Ts. Social news sites such as Digg and Newsvine show how users don’t just want to talk about the news – they’d quite like to decide what it is, or add to it because they happen to be experts in the subject at hand.

Myspace and Islandoo, to name but two, prove that vast communities of interest can spring up around mainstream media content. The conversations, properly nurtured, can end up being bigger – in scope and popularity – than the material that sparked them off. . . .

But what of what we do? All this presents a huge challenge, and opportunity, for journalists. It’s difficult for us to accept we might create sites that are only tangentially about our journalism. It’s even harder to admit that, fanned by the viral winds that sweep the net, those conversations might be much more popular than the other things we produce, and start replacing them. . . . .

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  • The social media space still relies on an events-driven nucleus, be it sport, entertainment or politics – and that nucleus still comprises things like journalism. Whether there are the revenue streams to pay for the existing configuration of jobs in journalism is the question Neil doesn’t answer.

    Anyway, social media seems to me an intermediary stage. We’ve seen events ownership and information rights become more important in the last twenty years. Even in a marginal area like politics, FNC has developed a proprietary Republican news entertainment brand. I think there’s a lot more space for stuff like that to be monetized and come through and limit the space for social media, or else exercise more control over it.

  • Adrian – good question. The answer really depends on how you view the “existing configuration of jobs in journalism”. I think the New York Times will have a harder job keeping its configuration than, say, thelondonpaper. There will still be very difficult questions for everyone in the middle of that range. But another question, perhaps: why keep the current configuration?

  • Mary Specht

    Forget blogs—that battle has been won. Focus on user comments.

    Neil seems to hint at this at the end of his piece, which Jeff didn’t quote. Neil says efforts to attract bloggers “prove there’s a benefit to media organisations in bringing our readers together.” He says: “Cling to that thought and you’ll be fine.” He’s right.

    Clinging to that thought, I think, means giving user comments greater weight on your site and building community around your staff-written news and analysis.

    Getting linked-to from blogs is good, but it’s better to have users participate on your site and spend time there reading other comments. This is good for metrics and for your reputation.

    News sites are currently awkward about this. Why aren’t comments allowed on all articles? Why are comments under articles and not next to them? Why are they displayed in the order they were posted, instead of allowing users to vote them up or down reddit-style?