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"Is your blog really a blog if it has no photos of shoes on it?"

The headline quote belongs to Ida Jackson, aka Virrvarr, who told Oslo’s first Twestival last fall that this is a question she’s often met with when she talks to senior high school students in Norway about blogging.

Whereas, at least according to the last blog rankings I’ve seen, the most read UK blogs are political blogs (please correct me if I’m wrong here), in Scandinavia, the most read blogs, by far, are "glamour blogs". Mostly written by girls in their late teens and early twenties, these blogs all have a diary-like form with lots of photos – especially of shoes, make-up, clothes, accessories and/or the blogger trying out new shoes, clothes, make-up and hairstyles.

Among Norwegian teenagers this photo-based blog style is so pervasive that it is the text-based blogs that come across as weird, unusual and simply not adhering to common blogging practice.


Even among text-based blogs, I’ve seen the conception of what blogging is change with new ”generations” taking to blogging, so here’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

I’m fascinated by how the blogosphere grows and evolves and how new voices emerge and then establish themselves as thought leaders or trendsetters to new generations of bloggers. While thinking about how the blogosphere has evolved and is evolving, I’ve come to think that it makes sense to talk about generations of bloggers, as different generations often have different ideals, myths, heroes, ideas of what value blogging has.

These values are often summed up in who they see as thought leaders or trendsetters: who are the bloggers they look up to and are inspired by, who are they trying to emulate, who do they consider their peers, who do they hang out with. For the sake of clarity: I’m not saying that you should try to emulate other bloggers, but in some parts of the blogosphere it’s an accurate description of what’s going on.

For my own part, I discovered blogging in 2002 via friends who were early, and passionate bloggers. That discovery got me reading blogs and even books about blogging, but, blaming my deadlines and general lack of time, I didn’t start blogging myself until a friend set up a blog for me in September 2005, and it took me until January 2006 to really get going (my loss).

The bloggers I really admire are folks like Doc Searls, David Weinberger, Confused of Calcutta, Dave Winer, Jeff Jarvis - all thinking bloggers with a knack for making complex ideas sound simple, for capturing the zeitgeist in powerful and sometimes though-provoking metaphors. Not that I always agree with what they say, but I’m a big fan of the ease with which they discuss sometimes complex trends, ideas and technology and how reading them often gives me plenty of food for thought.

My friend Adriana, who kicked me into the blogosphere in the first place, can also be trusted to always give me something to chew on when she finds time to blog. But the bloggers I read most frequently are those who blog about the issues closest to my own field of interest, such as Kevin and Suw, Adam Tinworth, Robin Hamman, Paul Bradshaw, Richard Sambrook, Martin Stabe, Alan Mutter, Robert Picard, Hans Kullin, Undercurrent, Roy Greenslade, Joanna Geary etc.

The great thing is that there is also a steady new inflow of bloggers writing well on editorial development, on media economy, on the intersection between journalism and social media, on free speech etc. – and I do of course read and find pleasure in lots of other blogs as well - including scores of Norwegian blogs and some Swedish, Danish, German and… oh well, blogs from many parts of the world. But my references are very far from everyone’s references.

To some it’s Seth Godin , Brian Solis, Chris Brogan and other leading bloggers they look to, but often those who started blogging in 2009 will refer to blogs who emerged in 2008 or 2007, fashion blogs will have a whole different set of references, as will of course political bloggers.

I’ve always thought age is a state of mind, and with bloggers I think who they identify with, who they hang out with online, and what they’re trying to achieve is more indicative of what ”generation of bloggers” they belong to than the age of the blog or blogger. Among other things, this leads to the very obvious conclusion that how you measure if a blog is successful depends on what you set out to achieve – for instance, I would have thought I’d done something seriously wrong if I had been invited to a glam party on the basis of my blog, though to a glam blogger it would understandably be very gratifying – but there’s something much more important at work here.

What will blogging be in the future? A blog is of course only a platform, but in the part of the blogosphere I grew up there are strong implicit ethical guidelines, very clear ideas about what blogging is and isn’t, what good blogging is and isn’t.

Where do these ideas stem from? I found myself at loss when I tried to pinpoint it (in Norwegian). I could think of books and bloggers and discussions that helped shape my own ideas about this, but no one source. There’s a whole industry that’s grown up around teaching good and/or effective blogging strategies, around advising companies on social media strategy and issues, but as new practitioners enter the arena they also bring their own, or their thought leaders’, ideas to bear on what social media and blogging is.

My point? Only that blogging, and the conception of what it is, is changing and I’m trying to find a good vocabulary to describe that change while also being fascinated by what shapes the change; what effect it has now and will have long term. What is your take on all this? Who are your thought leaders? What are your daily fixes? I’d be grateful for any input as these are questions I’ve found myself thinking a lot about recently.

More links to follow


As you're saying, a blog is just a platform. Don't you think the main reason for such 'light' blogging in Scandinavia comes from the region's lagging behind in terms of Facebook adoption?

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I remember the debates in France over why blogging there was so developed... The main reason was that the local Myspace was called Skyblogs and accounts there counted as blogs.

Around Europe, I don't see a new generation of bloggers coming. On the contrary, I see blogging as becoming more and more professional, personal stuff having moved almost entirely to FB.

But I'd love to hear more on NO/Scandinavia if some specific trends are developing there :)

I think it has more to do with how blogging has evolved in Scandinavia. It was late to take off here, particularly in Norway, and perhaps because Norway's a much less polarised society than the UK we haven't had really the high profile political blogs like in the UK.

The political blogosphere evolved and become influential earlier in Sweden, it's also much more etablished and to some extent has becme part of the mainstream. But we also saw young women become really successful with glam blogs earlyish (in terms of when blogging in Sweden and later Norway gained momentum), and this was picked up and reported quite widely by mainstream media (MSM) - so msm had played a role in this as well. The most high profile glam blogs were presented as commercially successful, though that image has been modified a bit since. Most of these bloggers are of a certain age, but that's not to say everyone of that age become glam bloggers if they take to blogging.

Also, there are other cultural differences between e.g the UK and the Norwegian blogosphere in general, I imagine there must be some cultural differences between the UK and the French blogosphere as well in terms of e.g emphasis and what topics are most popular?

The Scandinavian countries are the ones with the highest Facebook-penetration in the world.

Instead of using Google Search as statistical data you should simply look at the number of Facebook users.

These figures are from April 2009 and show Iceland, Norway and Denmark as top three Facebook-countries in the world. Sweden ranks as #9.

I couldn't find updated stats at, but I'm certain they're somewhere on the site.

You pose a tough question Kristine. I enjoy your blog and visit Adriana because you write about media issues.

This introduces me to your life and I discover things about Norway or Hungary, for example, that I didn't know, which interests me.

I follow bloggers in the USA, Israel and other countries for similar reasons.

I started blogging in 2003 and don't know about "glam blogs". My 16yo daughter uses Facebook, but doesn't blog and she's not interested in shoes, thank goodness.

What will blogging be in the future?

It's social media for thinking people. That's how I see it.

I have been tracking Facebook usage every quarter for the last 2 years and Scandianvian countries were amongst the earliest to adopt. Facebook initially grew in the US, Canada, UK and Australia + Sweden, Norway, Denmark etc. The platform was only in English so it was the English speaking countries or countries where English was not a barrier where Facebook first took off (except the Netherlands where Hyves was already established.)

Then as Facebook rolled out translations into French, Spanish, Italian etc it started taking off in those markets - adoption and take up only happened once the platform was translated into local language.

If you want generalisations about why Scandinavian blogging is more graphic and designed than the text heavy blogs of elsewhere then I would look at your internet connection speeds. Nordic broadband / cable networks are significantly more advanced than in many other places. (For example UK government aspire to everyone in the UK having access to 2MB broadband by 2012.......)

In the UK until around 2005, even 2006, loading graphics / uploading video etc was very slow and difficult for most people. The design possibilities are far greater with high speed internet - which may also explain why so many groundbreaking ideas in digital advertising come from Sweden etc

At the same time I believe blogging is changing in general. New platforms such as Posterous and Tumblr are making it easier to keep something going (for example you just email them and they do all the post formatting automatically) whilst Twitter (and related services) have also contributed to a change in emphasis as well as mainstream news organisations directly providing areas for discussion (eg The Helsingborg Dagbladet allowing comments on articles.)

Effectively new mechanisms have made it easier and faster to post things to the internet - the need to 'blog your thoughts' has been reduced. I think this goes a long way towards explaining the sizeable volume of abandoned blogs or ever increasing regularity that people are posting things such as 'I know I haven't updated in a while....'

Clearly a lot to say and think about on the topics you have brought to life, but hope these thoughts help!

(For reference the latest Facebook statistics I have posted are here and I will be publishing up to date figures at the end of March 2010)

Thanks for a lengthy response, Nick. Sorry I was so late publishing this (I'm forced to pre-moderate comments these days due to all the spam I get), and thanks for the link to the Facebook stats.

I have lived in the UK myself, last time around from 2000 - 2005, and the point about internet speed is a really good one. Funny that I didn't think of that, I must have supressed the many stressful memories of crap internet connection too well (even though I've paid extra for a decent connection on most occasions).

And yes, new services/new web habits also goes some way to explaining the change in blogging, but I also think to some extent this is a generational thing. When I talk to bachelor students or high school teachers I get the clear impression that internet for those generations is very much about entertainment and documenting everything that happens by way for mobile video and photos uploaded to social networking sites.

In addition, I think there are differences btwn different national blogospheres. I love the idea of the internet as a place where belonging is defined by mutual interests and hobbies rather than by nationality, but in reality that's only partly the case.

The general trend of the Norwegian blogosphere is not dissimilar to the general trend of Norwegian litterature: a majority of the high-profile text based blogs, as opposed to the glam blogs, are big on introspection, on talking candidly about mental illness and trying personal and interpersonal issues such as depression and harassment.

Now, there might be a whole world of personal UK blogs like this that I've yet to discover, I've seen a few, but somehow all high profile UK blogs I've come across are issue/niche based (media, new media, poltics, food, movies, travel etc).

That is probably explained to a big extent by my own interests and the interests of those I follow/read online, but if you look at the most popluar blogs e.g in different European countries I imagine you'll find some interesting differences which is also down to the how blogging has evolved in the particular country. And compared to the UK, blogging was late to take off in Scandinavia, particularly in Norway and Denmark.

Okay, so that’s the blogs covered. But what about the comments?

As someone more glamorous than me once said while imploring readers to comment on her blog, ‘Comments are lurve.’ And she was right. What people say, and how—or if—the author responds to comments, is an important part of blogging; it’s the *social* bit without which blogging becomes just *media*. (Besides, reading a blog without occasionally commenting is like reading a text book without doing its chapter-end exercises: you don't learn half of much as you think.)

So what's the Scandinavian take on the important half ( :-P ) of the blog?

Well, there is no one answer for all Scandinavian bloggers to that question, most text based bloggers do answer comments, but it's spot on in terms of the glam blogs. Most of these don't answer comments, in fact are much more like a one-person reality shows than anything else: you may comment but there is little, if any, interactivity going on - usually the blog posts attract lots of comments but no answers from the blogger in question. Did I really not mention this in my blog post?

Hmm.. I must have written too much about this elsewhere, but you're spot on as so often a_spod: this type of "blogging" has so many similarieties with traditional media that it's perhaps no wonder it wasn't until this sort of "blogging" came along that Scandinavian mainstream media started paying real, sustained attention to blogging;-)

That again, has of course had the fascinating effect that blogging in Scandinavia, at least the way MSM presents it, too often is conflated with glam blogs, which, as you so rightly point out, can't really be described as social media;-)

Thanks for putting your finger on what made me feel so uneasy about this set up, and pardon my late reply (been mostly offline this weekend, and due to this year's very annoying onset of spam I've had to turn on comment moderation permanently for the time being).

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