Friday, 25 January 2013

Impartiality-manay

The 2012-13 New Year celebrations in Edinburgh saw a new format of reportage, "Blogmanay". A cunning portmanteau of Blogger and Hogmanay, remarkably enough this was not an offering from the same team that tried to give us gems like Incrediburgh, Wellfedinburgh and Romanceisnotdeadinburgh; no, this was blogging-style Hogmanay coverage set largely on Tumblr and Storify, which didn't bode well for quality or coherence of content. Unique Events brought a bunch of travel bloggers to Scotland from around the world to witness the Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations and go on a wee tour of Scotland - then write about it online. And this apparently came to pass for a measly £50,000.

In the current climate of social media ├╝ber alles this is nothing surprising. What is surprising is how much they were willing and able to spend on it, considering the trend towards crowdsourced media with no payment. For this, I give them credit.

There is a growing trend in the media to send photographers who can write on assignments, rather than a journalist and a photographer. This is a big saving and with time and appropriate training I can see it doing very well. What doesn't work very well is having events covered by a multitude of people posting to Instagram.

Yes, this could provide many perspectives on an event. Yes, it's very zeitgeist-ey. No, it's not terribly interesting or useful compared to having skilled workers reporting on things.

Having a large group of people creating many images of an event that are largely the same and of generally poor quality - especially if they've been put through Instagram - does not equate to having a handful of photographers doing the same job. Neither does being a travel blogger require one to be able to write with anything more than coherence and enthusiasm.

I've tried repeatedly to find the narrative of the Blogmanay coverage. I spend most of my time attached to the internet and yet even I find it befuddling. The Storify is haphazard and, thanks to people not necessarily posting things as they happen, in no particular order. The Tumblr seems to be little more than a stream of tweets and Instagrams, surrounded by the Blogmanay branding.

On a side note, does anyone think that "13 Be Lucky" is a good tagline? And am I the only one who finds the animated GIF both tacky and painfully reminiscent of Web 1.0? They may as well have used the BLINK tag.

After the fuss had subsided the bloggers went on a whistlestop tour of the countryside. It's actually at this point that they came into their own, coming across as genuinely having a good time while not quite being frozen. Alas, the compilation of the post-Homanay Blogmanay stream with the Edinburgh events does further damage to the online summaries. Is #Blogmanay a torchlit procession, a rainy day by a bothy, a dip in the Forth, a fireworks display, a gig?

As a tourism initiative it can only be counted as a success. With so many posts and images showcasing Scotland to followers around the world, the country will surely see the benefit. However, this aspect is not the one that is touted by the organisers. One would think that by having established bloggers reporting on an event there would be exciting, well-rounded coverage; in reality it has been little more than a sponsored holiday for those involved, and much to my surprise they have unanimously praised the treats they were given.

The official line is:

Together with partners EventScotland, VisitScotland, Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG), Festivals Edinburgh, Haggis Adventures and Skyscanner, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay are hosting 21 travel bloggers from around the world to experience Edinburgh and Scotland as one of the world’s premier New Year destinations.

To my mind there is a clear implication there that these bloggers would be reviewing their experiences, whereas they seem to have mostly just raved about it. I can't believe that 21 blogger can agree about everything! To give the bloggers their due, when reporting back on their exploits they've made the point of listing the organisations involved, so at least they're not pretending to be unbiased.

But the actual coverage of the Blogmanay exploits on these blogs is minimal, and mostly restricted to one summary post. I had expected this to be a cross-platform multimedia extravaganza with 21 different streams of discussion, not a lot of simple photographs with hashtag-heavy captions.

As a concept I was not opposed to Blogmany - although I did hate the title, catchy or not. Sadly, I have not been impressed by the practicalities. Perhaps in the future - and it's been successful enough that this sort of thing will be back before long - they will pull it together into a tighter and more professional process.

It's not a bad idea, I think it may just be too soon for it to work on anything other than a promotional level. In my mind somebody had a Great Idea and expected others to make it so without enough time or resources to fully realise its potential. Or perhaps this is the future, and the only people who will get paid are the "digital media experts" while the content creators are squeezed into ill-fitting roles as tag-happy Instagrammers.



My own little disclaimer: last year I did some work for Edinburgh's Hogmanay and did not this year, as a result of the changes in the structure of the coverage; this is why I was eager to see how things went. I am, however, joined by many who cannot be accused of any bias in being disappointed by the outcome.