Newspaper 2.0: Blog features on British newspaper sites

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 11 May 2007

Having surveyed the blogging efforts of eight of the major newspapers in the UK, I though it would be useful to make a comparison chart of the different features they offer on their blogs.

The first thing to note is, of course, that they do all have blogs, or at least various degrees of blog-like things that they call 'blogs' - even if in the case of The Independent it is very half-hearted indeed.

I've looked at the common navigational features on blogs, and at some of the widgets that are sometimes included on blogs.

In a comment on my review of The Mirror, Frankie Roberto pointed out some metrics that he thinks are much more important when trying to determine quite how 'blog-like' a particular newspaper offering is. He felt the important factors were:

  • Whether the author responds to comments at all, either in the comments or in follow-up posts.
  • Whether posts link out to other blogs or not (ie whether they actively take part in the 'blogosphere').
  • Whether the blog is updated regularly or not, and whether or not it contains a mix of thought-out articles and shorter off-the-cuff comments.

I tend to agree with him, and think those would make the basis of an excellent analysis of British newspaper blogs.

However, as metrics, they also seem a lot more work to guage, and would require a period of study. So, for this table, I've stuck to the more simplistic approach of being able to tick-off which features are included in a blogging template.

As I mentioned in my round up of social bookmarking widgets on newspaper sites yesterday, in the absence of a more recognisable icon for "Sometimes" / "Depends", I've opted for an orange question mark.

  Daily Express Daily Mail Daily Mirror The Guardian The Independent The Sun The Telegraph The Times
Blogging platform Unknown Typepad Interesource Unknown Typepad Unknown Interesource Typepad
Comments
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Trackbacks
No
Yes
Yes
No
No
No
Yes
Yes
Blog RSS feeds
Sometimes1
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Author specific RSS feeds
No
Yes
Yes
Sometimes2
No
No
Yes
No
RSS autodiscovery on blog homepage
No
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
RSS autodiscovery on individual posts
No
Yes
Yes
Sometimes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Prev / Next navigation on posts
No
Yes
No
Sometimes
Yes
No
No
Yes
Navigation by category
No
No
Yes
Sometimes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Navigation by calendar
Yes
Yes
No
No
No
Sometimes
Yes
Yes
Navigation by author
Sometimes3
No
Yes
Sometimes
No
No
No
Yes
Tags on posts
No
No
Yes
Sometimes
No
No
Yes
No
Tagcloud
No
No
Yes
No4
No
No
Yes
No
Social bookmarking links
Yes
Yes
Yes
Sometimes2
No
No
Yes
No
Blog roll
No
Yes5
Sometimes
No
No
No
Sometimes
Sometimes
Contemporaria
No
No
No
Sometimes6
No
No
No
No
1 one RSS feed provided for all Daily Express blogs
2 feature appears on Comment Is Free
3 presents a search results page restricted to articles by that author
4 unless you count the heat map that appears on Comment Is Free
5 only links to other Daily Mail blogs however
6 for example on the News blog

Two points should immediately leap out from this table.

Firstly, The Sun is by far and away the paper with blogs that feature virtually no recognisable blogging elements on their pages. The majority of The Sun's blog content appears in a template almost identical to a regular The Sun story, with plug-in promo boxes serving to act as the navigation.

Secondly, it was very difficult to assess the functionality of The Guardian's blogs. There were at least three, if not more, blogging templates in use across the Guardian Unlimited family of sites. On the whole each blog in itself was very fully featured, but not all features appeared on all blogs.

With the Contemporaria feature of their Newslog however, The Guardian had a unique feature. It provides a link to what was the top story on the Guardian site and the BBC's site at the time a blog entry was posted.

This is one of the few outward looking features of the blogs. Only three newspapers seemed to sometimes feature blog rolls on their blogs, and the Daily Mail only uses theirs to link to other Daily Mail sites.

Enabling a trackbacks feature did not seem popular amongst the newspapers - I should imagine that the moderation overheads and spam risk are a significant factor here for most papers.

For a breakdown of which social bookmarking widgets appear on newspaper blogs, you can see the table in yesterday's currybetdotnet article on social bookmarking across newspaper sites.

3 Comments

Hi Martin,

There are one or two things that you've missed out of your analysis of both the Telegraph and the Mirror. (Disclosure: I work for Interesource, the company that supplies them both with their blogs.)

First, you've got our name wrong - it's Interesource not Intersource (an easy mistake to make I know).

Second, both sets of blogs support trackbacks (and pingbacks) - see here for an example: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/shanerichmond/apr07/mytele.htm

Third, both support navigation by category, both by the top levvel categories (Politics, Technology, Sport etc) and by specific tag - see http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/sport or http://blogs.telegrapch.co.uk/default.htm/Blogging for navigation by tag. Tag navigation can also be scoped to the specific blog.

Fourth, both support a blog roll, including download in OPML format - see http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/shanerichmond - it's at the bottom of the right hand column or http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/Opml.ashx?id=84952 for OPML format

Where the blog only has one author, you get navigation by author, but I take your point that shared blogs don't offer this.

I think this makes them pretty comprehensively the most 'bloggy' blogs out there.

I should have pointed out that both the Mirror and the Telegraph support RSS feeds for comments, although this isn't in your chart - see http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/CommentFeed.ashx?ciid=212644 for an example.

And, of course, Telegraph is the place to go if, as a reader of papers, you want all these features in your *own* blog.

Thanks for your corrections James, I have amended the features table accordingly.

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