Dissertation Blog

"A different kind of Criticism": Music Journalism and the Weblog Phenomenon

Friday, September 24, 2004


In Popular Music and Society, Brian Longurst describes Fiske explaining that “fans are semiotically, enunciatively and textually productive,” [1]. The blogger who is a fan is demonstrably textually productive; he is semiotically productive in that he is making sense of his self by means of his status as fan; and he is enunciatively productive in that he is communicating his fandom with his readers, and with the wider blogging community.

This essay intends to demonstrate how the Weblog phenomenon has facilitated this production, both on the part of fans and on the part of journalists. The music journalist who is also a fan, will be the protagonist of this dissertation. As a fan with a Weblog he is communicating with other fans, whereas as a fan who is a journalist, he is attempting to explain his fandom to ‘the unconverted’.

The rise in popularity of Weblogs – defined simplistically as online diaries – has brought about a number of studies of the phenomenon. Several of these have attempted to discover where Weblogs fit into the traditional media landscape: how Weblogs aid journalists in the gathering of news; how Weblogs can allow members of the public to practice their own forms of instant journalism; how Weblogs can improve the transparency of a traditional media outlet. This essay intends to prove that Weblogs fit into another role within the media, one that has existed on the fringes of print journalism for a significant length of time, and which has fed into newspapers in much the same way that blogging does: the zine.

Existing research into journalistic Weblogs has concentrated on those dedicated to news and current affairs. As a result, the model for an analysis of non-news or cultural Weblogs must also come from elsewhere. In this essay, it will be from research on zine culture, in particular, Stephen Duncombe’s Notes from Underground. There will also be an examination of existing studies of the Weblog phenomenon in order to understand the subject more fully. I feel that an examination of the cultural Weblog would be an important contribution to the current discourse on Weblogs, Weblog-authorship (more usually known as ‘blogging’) and journalism.

This is a topic in which I have a particularly strong interest, as I ran a fanzine/scenezine – 98 Miles to Edith Weston – while taking my bachelor's degree. I have also kept a personal Weblog – Are the Stars Out Tonight [2] – since 2002. I am passionate about both formats, and I feel that they have a great deal in common. I believe that by looking at the differences and similarities between them it will be possible to shed a different light on the Weblog.

Duncombe’s text, which was published in 1997 argues that “Zines on the Internet are the likely successor to paper” [3]. This essay aims to be a continuation of Duncombe’s work, looking at the evolution of the zine into the blog, and how that affects both forms and the impact this may have on more traditional media sources. The idea that this evolution is wider than Duncombe may have imagined – including the opportunity for any reader to become a contributor at the push of a button – is one of the key elements of this research.

The words ‘blog’ and ‘zine’ are both generic terms referring to a wide range of different types of writing. In each case, the content is chosen by the editor, who is likely to be a form of amateur journalist, self-publishing their opinions to a niche audience. As will be shown, this niche may cover politics and news or non-news stories of interest to the Weblog-editor (or blogger).

In order to fully understand the similarities and the differences between the two formats, it would be useful to have an explanation of the key features of each. It is important to remember, however, that while these features are present in many cases, not all Weblogs and zines fit these criteria exactly.

A Weblog is a short-form diary, which appears online. Dated entries (also known as posts) will usually appear chronologically, with the most recent at the top. The content of these posts will depend on the interests of the blogger, as will the format – usually either long journal-style posts, or short posts based around a hyperlink (there will be an explanation of these terms in the literature review). Often, there will be a list of links to other Weblogs along the side of these posts, these will belong either to friends (both real-life and online) or other Weblogs the owner of the site enjoys reading. Many Weblog-editors provide the opportunity for their readers to comment on their posts in the form of a comments box. These comments will then appear for other readers to look at and comment on. Other features may include a link to a profile of the blogger, a photojournal or moblog (a photojournal updated using a camera-phone), or a dedicated linklog, where the blogger posts links of interest that require little or no comment.

A zine is less easy to define, as zines come in an enormous number of formats. The key to what separates a zine from a magazine is in a certain deliberate amateurism. For example, 98 Miles to Edith Weston could easily have been produced using a desktop publishing computer programme, and I certainly have the skills to produce a good-looking publication. I chose, however, to hand letter the earliest issues, before a friend made a font out of my handwriting. Zines are rarely printed professionally, and are more likely to be photocopied and stapled by hand. Articles are usually by the zine
editor(s), their friends and acquaintances. Traditionally, zines were produced using cut and paste methods, but with the advent of cheaper personal computers, it is now easier to produce a good-looking zine using desktop publishing. The zine may include an editorial, articles which relate to the general subject matter of the zine, cartoons (“comix”), interviews and
reviews. Many zines now have a web presence, in the form of a website, with articles reproduced from the zine, others exist solely online as webzines. Often these sites incorporate Weblogs.

The content or the main topic of the blog or zine is entirely down to the interests of the blogger or editor. This project will focus on music, as it seems to be a particularly popular topic for both bloggers and zine editors. By concentrating on
a particular topic it will be easier to draw comparisons between similar Weblogs.

Where Weblogs and zines seem to mesh best is in terms of access – it’s extremely cheap to set up either, and anyone who is reasonably literate can self-publish with ease. In both cases there is a radical democratisation of the media. The significant difference is that Weblogs, of course, are easier to set up, and require no particular effort on the part of the editor in order to make them attractive. It is easier to publicise a Weblog than a zine, both through search engines and through dedicated blog directories such as the Eatonweb Portal [4], which currently has 19, 919 Weblogs from around the world in its index[5]. It is also free to set up a Weblog with a service such as Blogger, removing printing and photocopying costs, the principle expense of the zine. The result of this is that blogging is more easily accessible than editing a zine. A final benefit of keeping a Weblog rather than editing a zine is that the former can be updated from anywhere, whenever the blogger has the urge to post.

The fact that many of the first British journalists to embrace the Weblog format have come from the music press should come as no surprise. There is an existing, strong, fanzine culture in music criticism, and many music journalists began life as fanzine publishers [6].

There will, therefore, be case studies of two of the most successful music fanzine/blogs, written by music journalists: Plan B and Popjustice, both of which have been successful enough to also exist in a print
format. These Weblogs are edited by Peter Robinson and Everett True, both of whom have long-standing relationships with the music press. There will also be a third case study of a Weblog called No Rock and Roll Fun, written by a music enthusiast known as Simon Hayes Budgen. Comparisons will be made between the three, using both qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate differences and similarities. The report should explain why blogging was the best option for their zines both for editor and for reader.

The three Weblogs under discussion have very different and distinct styles: No Rock and Roll Fun is a links-based filter-style blog, while Everett True’s Plan B Weblog fits journal-style category, using very few links. Popjustice fits into the middle of these two styles – tending towards short posts containing links, but usually with more comment from the editor than NRRF.

There has been a great debate about whether Weblogs can be called journalism, which I will examine in the literature review, but I do not intend to address the question of whether the writing in a blog constitutes journalism in this essay. As two of my respondents work as journalists, and the third concentrates much of his blogging on commenting on the music press, it seems that what the three write can be called journalism, regardless of the wider issue of whether blogs are journalism. This may not be what they call it themselves, but it seems to me that anything that would not be out of place in a newspaper or magazine can be called journalism. I have intentionally chosen to avoid what might be called the ‘perblogs’ – personal sites dealing with the daily or weekly minutiae of the blogger’s life – I would argue that these are highly unlikely to be journalism.

[1]Longhurst 1995, 235
[3] Duncombe 1997, 197
[4] http://portal.eatonweb.com
[5] As of 6.9.04
[6]One example of this is the BBC DJ Steve Lamacq, who began by publishing his own fanzine A Pack of Lies, moved from there to the New Musical Express and finally moved to BBC Radio One (see his autobiography Going Deaf for a Living for more details).


The aim of this dissertation is to determine the role of the Weblog in contemporary media structures. It should fit in with existing research into the subject, but should also provide some further information through a comparison with the existing literature on zine culture. This comparison should be a fruitful one, as the two formats have a great deal in common. The differences between the two should also be enlightening, since although zines encourage participation from their readers, there is not, as there is in blogging, the opportunity to receive instant feedback. The issue of speed of communication – that the blogger can publish immediately, whereas the zine-editor has to wait until he has enough material – will also be addressed. I will provide case studies of three influential music-based Weblogs, in order to better comprehend bloggers and their medium. The reader should feel comfortable with the concept of blogging, and the issues involved in the criticism of the topic.

The purpose of this project is to provide a new point of view to the discourse of both zines and Weblogs. Weblogs may be seen as subverting the print media – there will be an analysis of this later – this is interesting from the point of journalistic criticism, as even while the bloggers are commenting on the music, they are also (whether intentionally or not) commenting on the press. In the cases of the journalist/bloggers their actions in blogging tend to make media structures more transparent to their readers. An analysis of this will be useful to contemporary media discourse as the blogger who is also a journalist provides a different perspective on the press to the average member of the public.

This dissertation also intends to offer an analysis of specifically British Weblogging practice, since most existing criticism deals with Webloggers from the USA. This is important, because although a significant number of bloggers are American, non-US citizens should be represented within the academic discussion of blogging. If the Weblog is to be an important source for information retrieval, then research should not solely be focused on one country, particularly since blogging is a worldwide phenomenon. Of course, this is a problem that will affect this research project; it was, however, unavoidable, as it would have been much harder to interview international bloggers face-to-face.

I have chosen to look at non-news Weblogs in order to redress the balance of current commentary: most focuses on news and current affairs, despite the fact that this is not entirely representative of the Blogosphere. By looking specifically at music Weblogs, I hope to draw conclusions that relate to other non-news sites. This dissertation should, therefore, help place the Weblog in the traditional media landscape, as well as demonstrating that while frivolous subjects may initially seem irrelevant, they also have a role to play in media discourse.



Most of the sources quoted in this review are recent, and almost all come from laptop (ie online) research rather than desktop research. There are three main reasons for this:

The Weblog has been described as a “media native to the Web”[7] and it has existed in various forms since the birth of the Web itself - according to Dave Winer, “The first Weblog was the first website, http://info.cern.ch, the site built by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN. From this page TBL pointed to all the new sites as they came online.”[8]. It is only
recently, however, that media theorists and academics have picked up on the import of the form to contemporary media consumption.

This selection of sources has additionally been influenced by the speed with which the Web changes - by the time a text is published in the traditional sense - on paper - it could well already be out of date. It may refer to a defunct website, or contain no reference (or worse a disparaging one) to a site which, in the time between completion of the manuscript and publication, has become an invaluable resource.

Finally there is the question of whether printed media can do justice to online media. The Weblog thrives on hyperlinks, often very specific hyperlinks - to a certain post or even a particular comment. Printed media often ignores this specificity when re-printing Weblog content - Salam Pax’s The Baghdad Blog uses footnotes where hyperlinks occur, but gives only the address of the front page of the linked site, while Never Threaten to Eat Your Co-Workers, Best of Blogs ignores links completely. This is unsatisfactory because the reader cannot immediately discover the exact reference the Blogger is making and cannot examine the matter under discussion. This is one reason that this report also exists in an online form[9].

Bloggers often use hyperlinks to make subtle points - the link often adds meaning to the text that anchors it to the page, as does the alternative text that appears when the reader hovers her cursor over the link. To remove hyperlinks, therefore, is to remove one layer of meaning from the text. So a printed version will always be inferior to the same text with hyperlinks.

A Brief History of the Weblog

Rebecca Blood has been a blogger since 1999, she is the author of several books on blogging, and has become known as a significant recorder of the medium’s earliest development. Her essay of
September 2000 ‘Weblogs: a history and perspective’[10]
has therefore become a key text for those writing on Weblogs. The text is, admittedly, fairly old in the rapidly moving world of blogging, but it remains an important reference when studying the rise in popularity of blogs.

Blood explains that by the beginning of 1999 there were only 23 Weblogs in existence (the term was coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger). A community “sprang up”[11] around these Weblogs with each blogger linking to all the others, and what Blood describes as “bandwagon jumping” began. It soon “became difficult to read every Weblog every day, or even to keep track of all the new ones that were appearing.”[12] Bloggers began to link only to a selection of other Weblogs, identifying themselves with the community to which they wanted to belong.

She states that before the advent of easy to use blogging software, provided by companies such as Pitas and Blogger in the summer of 1999, blogs were the domain of the technically minded. In order to have a blog before this, the would-be blogger was obliged to learn the language of the Internet, HTML. In practice
this meant that bloggers were either self-taught coders or worked professionally in new media and blogged in their spare time. As Blood puts it “These were web enthusiasts”.

Blogging had existed for several years before this software came onto the market, but 1999 was the year that blogging first became accessible to all. Setting up a Weblog and posting entries to it was now no more difficult than setting up an e-mail account and sending e-mail. And because there was also free hosting for these blogs (via Blog*spot in the case of Blogger) and pre-existing but easily customizable templates, virtually no technical knowledge was required. All the prospective
blogger needs is a computer, an Internet connection and an opinion. This resulted in a fundamental shift in the nature, or rather the breadth of the blogging community; leading to an “explosion”[13]in the blogging population. It opened access up to those who did not have any particular technical skills. Soon other blogging services launched, including LiveJournal and others that did not have the same longevity.

To explain the somewhat nerdish hierarchy of Blogging: Moveable Type launched in 2001, providing more comprehensive blogging software for the blogger who was more technically aware. If a Blogger/Blog*Spot Weblog is perceived as ‘entry-level’ blogging (by bloggers certainly, although not necessarily by readers), then a Moveable Type blog tends to represent a more authoritative voice. This may be because Moveable Type is not a hosted service, requiring the blogger to install the software on their own service, and therefore requires more dedication to set up compared with the ease of starting a Blogger or LiveJournal account. Thus simply by starting their own blog, the Moveable Type blogger has already shown more dedication to blogging than the self-publisher using Blogger. Interestingly, Moveable Type launched TypePad, a paid-for hosted blog service in mid-2003.

The Semiotics of the Weblog

Blogging has spawned a host of neologisms. Here I will attempt to decipher and decode the meanings behind these the evolution of these words.

As mentioned in my review of Rebecca Blood’s essay ‘Weblogs: a history and perspective’, the term Weblog was coined by blogger Jorn Barger in 1997 to describe his site Robot Wisdom [14]. Obviously this combines the idea of an Internet basis (as with web-site), with ‘log’ - as in ship’s log or a computer’s log (i.e. record of actions/sites visited), as well as containing the concept of logging on, a phrase closely linked to visiting websites. The word was contracted into blog in early 1999 [15] which evolved into both the noun blogger and the verb to blog - used to mean both posting to a blog and being a blogger: ‘I’m going to blog this,’ or ‘I blog, my address is…’

Blogosphere is a term used by bloggers to describe the community within which they exist. The phrase was invented in 2001 by the blogger William Quick [16]. His intention was to find a word to describe “the intellectual cyberspace we bloggers occupy”. To do so, he combined ‘blog’ with the Ancient Greek word ‘logos’, which can be used variously to mean word, rationality, logic and reason. The term ‘sphere’ has been equated by Weblog commentator John Hiler with the concept of a biosphere: “a Media Ecosystem that lives and breathes just like any other biological system”[17] . The biological metaphor is one that will be explored later in this report. There is also a clear reference to Habermas’ Public Sphere in the phrase, whether intentional or otherwise.

Similarly Blogistan or Blogville are also used by bloggers (including Jay Rosen, who uses Blogistan because he finds Blogosphere “ugly sounding”[18] ). Derived from terms referring to nation-states or small towns, these phrases highlight the emergence of a strong identification and articulation of a sense of community.

In a more recent essay [19], Rebecca Blood points to the importance of the post as the “basic unit” of the blog as opposed to “the article or the page. Bloggers write as much or as little as they choose on a topic, and although entries are presented together on the page, each post is given a permalink, so that individual entries can be referenced separately.” ‘Post’ contains echoes of putting up notices on an Internet message board, a format that invites discussion. Neither article nor page contain that meaning, both suggest something finished, which does not invite feedback from the reader.

Feedback is provided in the form of comments and TrackBack. Most of the main blogging tools - Blogger, Moveable Type and LiveJournal included - offer the opportunity for bloggers to have post pages where comments appear on the same page as the post to which they refer rather than in a pop-up box. Moveable Type and several third-party Weblog utility providers, including Haloscan [20], also offer TrackBack, which allows readers who wish to make more lengthy responses on their own Weblogs to leave a link to their own post on the page that has inspired it. Thus readers of the original post can then look at the reactions of others.

Blogging and Editors

According to JD Lasica, “Weblogging will drive a powerful new form of amateur journalism as millions of Net users - young people especially - take on the role of columnist, reporter, analyst and publisher while fashioning their own personal broadcasting networks.” [21] Such an expansion of the journalistic franchise is clearly an exciting prospect, but there are necessarily caveats to this brave new world of blog-journalism.

Many commentators have expressed their views that without editing, a Weblog can never be journalism. Among them is Joan Connell, former executive producer for opinion and communities at MSNBC [22]. Bill Thompson writes on the BBC’s website that “without editors to correct syntax, tidy up the story structure or check facts, it is generally impossible to rely on anything one finds in a blog without verifying it somewhere else - often the much-maligned mainstream media”[23] . Of course this should be taken with a pinch of salt, since the institution for which Thompson is writing is very much part of “the much-maligned mainstream media”.

Journalist-Bloggers, however, have various reactions to this. Jay Rosen, professor of Journalism at New York University, writes on his site that “In journalism prior to the Weblog, the journalist had an editor and the editor represented the reader. In journalism after the Weblog the journalist has (writerly) readers, and the readers represent an editor.” [24] Indeed readers often act as fact-checkers. Technology journalist and blogger Dan Gillmor discusses this in his essay ‘Moving Toward Participatory Journalism’ [25]:

“My readers know more than I do, sometimes individually on specific topics, but always collectively. This is similar for all journalists, no matter what their beat is. And having readers’ feedback and participation presents a great opportunity and not a threat, because when we ask our readers for help and knowledge they are willing to share it - and through that sharing, we all benefit.”

The flip side of this particular coin is the question of editing Weblogs that are part of a traditional news outlet’s website. Writing about his MSNBC blog Altercation, Eric Alterman wonders “maybe... Altercation ain’t a blog. I have an editor. This is in part because I want one and in part, I imagine because the good folks at MSNBC.com do not entirely trust me without one.” [26]. He goes on to state, “Ideally, I think every blogger would benefit from having an editor.”[27]

This raises an important question: Is a Weblog with an editor still a Weblog? At least one journalist-blogger has stated that she would rather not have an editor on for her Weblog: “[T]here’s an enormous freedom in being able to present yourself precisely as you want to, however sloppily, irrationally or erratically” [28] . This, however, could not possibly be suitable for a Weblog associated with an organization whose reputation is staked on writing that is tidy, rational and regular, such as a newspaper.

Several bloggers who work in journalism have found their jobs in danger because of what they have written in a personal Weblog. One editor explained that he felt his “newspaper’s standards and public responsibilities [were] compromised” [29] when a long-term staff member started a Weblog dealing with issues he had previously covered for the newspaper. He asked, “[I]s a Weblog truly a Weblog if it is supervised editorially? If the answer is no and that anything but complete freedom is a perversion of the genre, then I think editors must ask themselves if they are comfortable having their news organization represented in that manner.”

Dan Gillmor points out that the ending of this particular tale seems to be “a clumsy compromise” [30], giving the staff member “a web-only column that resembled a blog.” Dave Winer, too, points out that “Weblogs are unique in that only a Weblog gives you a publication where your ideas can stand alone without interference. It gives the public writer a kind of relaxation not available in other forms. That might mean that in some sense the "quality" of the writing is different, but I would not say lower, assuming the purpose of writing is to inform, not to impress. I would choose a few spelling or grammatical errors over factual errors. Like the child's game of telephone, stories that are passed from department to department in a professional organization can morph into something that bears no resemblance to the facts, or to the original author's point of view.” [31]

A taxonomy of the Weblog

A Weblog is usually defined as any website consisting of dated entries with the most recent at the top. From there, the definition can get more complicated. Dave Winer has compiled a list of known features of Weblogs [32]. The most pertinent of these to the issues addressed by this dissertation are:
• “The unedited voice of a person” (note that he does not specify the unedited words of a person)
• “Archives and Permalinks” - to allow other bloggers to link to posts.
• “Comments” - to allow readers to respond on that Weblog.
• “TrackBack” - to allow bloggers to respond on their own Weblog.
• “Mailto” - to allow readers to respond via email.

Winer makes it clear, however, that a site does not have to have all (or indeed most) of the features he lists in order to be a Weblog. Beyond this, the content of each Weblog depends on the blog-author. Several commentators have attempted to classify Weblogs in order to make distinctions firstly between different kinds of blogger and secondly between different kinds of Weblog.

As stated earlier, a biological metaphor can be applied to the Weblog due to what one commentator [33] views as a symbiotic relationship between bloggers and journalists. Thus the term taxonomy, which is used to mean the classification of biological organisms seems to be appropriate for this topic.
Jay Rosen states as a response to a comment on his Weblog: “If we want to get started with mapping different motivations and situations, we might identify:

• closed system blogs, like inside a company
• open system, on the Web, private or personal content (written for family, friends, E-pals.)
• open system, on the Web, public content, via commercial provider (professional journalists who blog fit here)
• open system, on the Web, public content, via independent provider (bloggers would be this)
• open system, on the Web, public content, via educational provider (some bloggers fit here) [including Rosen himself, who blogs with an New York University URL]
• open system, on the Web, scholarly/technical content, via commercial provider.

and so on. Only blogs in categories 3, 4, 5 can be journalism weblogs.” [34]

Each of these broad definitions may then be further broken down into two phyla, Which represent the two distinct styles of Weblog, as defined by Rebecca Blood [35]. These are the “filter-style Weblog” and the “journal-style blog”.

The filter-style Weblog, consisting of links to other interesting sites, with only the briefest of comments from the author was the original format of the Weblog. Blood states, “Many current Weblogs follow this original style. Their editors present links both to little-known corners of the web and to current news articles they feel are worthy of note.... An editor with some expertise in a field might demonstrate the accuracy or inaccuracy of a highlighted article or certain facts therein; provide additional facts he feels are pertinent to the issue at hand;”

The journal-style Weblog has evolved, by Blood’s reckoning, because of the blogging utility Blogger. “Blogger itself places no restrictions on the form of content being posted. Its web interface, accessible from any browser, consists of an empty form box into which the blogger can type... anything”. She compares this with the community Weblog Metafilter: “Here the writer is presented with three form boxes: the first for the URL of the referenced site, the second for the title of the entry, and the third for whatever commentary the writer would like to add.”

Within these categories of Weblog, there are obviously further delineations between subject matter. These tend to fall into much the same categories as do Zines according to Duncombe’s Zine Taxonomy [36]: “Fanzines [science fiction, music, sports, television and film, etc]… Political Zines… Personal Zines, or perzines… Scene Zines… Network Zines… Fringe Culture Zines… Religious Zines… Vocational Zines… Health Zines… Sex Zines… Travel Zines… Comix… Literary Zines… Art Zines… The Rest.” While there is a clear distinction in the relative prodction of these genres, Duncombe’s categories remain entirely applicable to the categorizing of Weblogs. The majority of Weblogs would then be perblogs, defined by Duncombe as “Personal diaries open to the public; shared notes on the day-to-day life, thoughts and experiences of the writer.” [37].

Blogs and Zines

The most common assertion made by those commentating on Weblogs is that there is cross-pollination between blogging and journalism, but not all bloggers are “doing journalism” [38] (This seems to me to be a particularly unwieldy way to describe the act. I prefer JD Lasica’s “committing random acts of journalism” [39], as it suggests the unintentional journalism committed by bloggers as well as implying a transgression of some kind - perhaps stepping over the line from public to journalist, or worse still blurring the edges of such a line. I might however choose to use “performing journalism”, which gives both a sense of writing for an audience, and the accuracy required of journalism, as performing an operation.) Not even all blogs by journalists are journalism. This is obviously the case - Jane Perrone’s gardening Weblog is clearly not journalism, but her work on the Guardian’s Weblog is. What then can blogging bring to journalism?

Privileging the Personal
The answer seems to be that blogging brings the same benefits as zines, with the added advantage of easy access on the part of both editors and readers. Duncombe views perzines as political in themselves: “The rule of regarding the publication of news in mainstream media is “man bites dog” – that is, what is considered newsworthy is what is out of the ordinary – what Jen [Payne, a perzine writer] and many other writers of perzines honor the opposite: the everyday.” [40] He seems to believe that by writing about the mundane perzine writers are subverting traditional news media.

Chris Atton, writing in the Journal of Mundane Behavior draws a similar conclusion in his analysis of perzines and perblogs: “First, by becoming foregrounded [mundane occurrences described in a perzine or perblog] remind us of the power and significance such beliefs, choices and decisions have for ordinary people. Second, they encourage us to look at web-based communication not simply in terms of the (now overworked) ‘empowering’ and rhizomatic models of networked, democratic opportunity (that is, as an engine for social change), nor simply as additional opportunities for commerce and industry, but as instances of everyday sociality–and to look at research into such communication practices as ethnomethodological ” [41] Thus in highlighting the everyday, the writer lays emphasis upon the everyday process of communication, as much as he or she demonstrates his own sense of self-importance. Thus, a form of post-modern Deconstructivist, pseudo-anthropological analysis of the operation of the media is achieved, helping to highlight implicit or overlooked characteristics.

Duncombe stresses the importance of the community, or “network” in zine production: “If community is traditionally thought of as a homogenous group of individuals bound together by their commonality, a zine network proposes something different: a community of people linked via bonds of difference, each sharing their originality” [42]. To my mind, however, this is a distinctly rose-tinted view of zines – certainly my zine production was never characterized by involvement within a community.

In blogging too, community is a key term, but tends to privilege homogeneity, rather than reject it. Popular Weblog rings such as DykeWrite [43] and Blogging Brits [44] encourage bloggers to read and comment on the posts of other writers who have at least one aspect of their life in common. Within these groups, however there can be a very wide range of experience and blogging style. In this sense, blogging is made up of micro-networks, heterogeneous groups with a certain aspect in common.

Community, however, can also have the effect of ghettoization, which is to say that it can encourage insularity. A reader who only looks at certain types of Weblog will inevitably miss out on others. As Duncombe points out, self-ghettoization requires a weapon in order to keep out those ‘who don’t belong’. In the case of zines “the weapon used to repel the invaders and keep the faithful in line is the accusation of ‘selling out’”. This became particularly important in blogging terms during the Raging Cow debacle of March 2003, when Dr Pepper decided to advertise their new fizzy milk drink using bloggers [45]. Sending teenage blogger Nicole and a group of friends to Dallas in return for them publicizing the drink on their Weblogs (and not mentioning that they had been briefed to do so by Dr Pepper) was certainly an interesting viral marketing scheme, it failed, however when the bloggers caught on. A boycott was organized at Bloggerheads [46], a site dedicated to using blogs for political purposes. Soon the Bloggerheads site appeared higher in the results of a Google search for “Raging Cow” than Raging Cow did!

But this does not mean to say that bloggers are against marketing. Far from it. Many bloggers have links in their sidebars to Amazon wishlists, or their own PayPal account, so readers can contribute to their bank balances. With the advent of the new Blogger ad-free Navbar (Weblogs hosted by Blog*Spot previously contained ads at the top of the page), Blogger is offering users the chance to earn money from their Weblogs by posting customizable, targeted Google adverts [47] in their sidebars.

[7] Scott Rosenburg, Managing Editor, Salon. Quoted in Lasica 2003, 72. cf Blood 2003, 61 “The Weblog is arguably the first form native to the web.
[8] Winer, 1999 http://newhome.weblogs.com/historyOfWeblogs
[9] http://dissblog.blogspot.com
[10] Blood, 2000 http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html
[11] ibid
[14] See http://www.robotwisdom.com/weblogs/ for his Weblog Resources FAQ
[16]Quick, 2001 http://www.iw3p.com/DailyPundit/2001_12_30_dailypundit_archive.php#8315120
[17]Hiler, 2002 http://www.microcontentnews.com/articles/blogosphere.htm
[18] http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2004/03/08/weblog_demos.html#comment2568
[19]Blood 2003, 61
[20] http://www.haloscan.com
[21]Lasica, (2001) http://www.ojr.org/ojr/workplace/p1017958873.php
[22]Blood 2003, 62
[23]Thompson 2003 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2786761.stm
[24] Rosen 2004 http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2004/03/08/weblog_demos.html
[25] Gillmor 2003, 79
[26]Alterman 2003, 85
[27]ibid, 86
[28]Deborah Branscum quoted in Lasica 2003
[29] Toolan 2003, 93
[30] Gillmor 2004, 117
[31]Winer, 2003http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/whatMakesAWeblogAWeblog
[33] Hiler 2002 http://www.microcontentnews.com/articles/blogosphere.htm
[34]Rosen 2004 http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2004/03/08/weblog_demos.html#comment2567
[35]Blood 2000, http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html
[36]Duncombe 1997, 9
[37] ibid
[38]Blood 2003, 61
[39]Lasica 2003, 71
[40] Duncombe 1997, 22
[41] Atton 2001 http://www.mundanebehavior.org/issues/v2n1/atton.htm
[42] Duncombe 1997, 51
[43] http://www.dykewrite.com
[45] Walker 2003 http://slate.msn.com/id/2081419/
[46] http://www.bloggerheads.com/raging_cow/


This report aims to explain why blogging is an important addition to the media landscape, using existing research on zines as a base from which to examine this question. The approach taken will be a close consideration of three zine-blogs in an attempt to assess their impact on traditional print-media. Here I will discuss the methodology required to answer this
question. It will be divided into categories of research. I will examine the questions of how qualitative and quantitative research are appropriate for this project, and the most fitting ways to conduct this research. In addition there will be an analysis of the likely reliability of my research.


This research will be examining three Weblogs that cover the topic of contemporary music: Plan B, Popjustice and No Rock and Roll Fun.Although the sites they appear on may also contain feature-style articles, or even other bloggers, I will be focusing my research on the Weblogs, as I feel these are the most interesting elements.

Qualitative Research

The qualitative research for this project will involve interviews with the three blogger/editors. Ideally these would be face-to-face semi-structured interviews, but constraints of time and distance will obviously affect this, and it may become necessary to carry out interviews over the telephone or by email. In order to reduce the likelihood of this, I will be focussing my research on the UK media and Weblogging community. In addition I hope this will partly redress the current imbalance in existing research on UK Weblogs, as most of the previous academic studies that have taken place have done so in America. For the same reason, I will be looking at non-news blogging, which seems to make up the majority of the Blogosphere, but which has not previously been examined academically. I have decided to focus on music based Weblogs, as music journalists have been among the most enthusiastic and numerous in their adoption of the new medium, in this country. I believe this to be because of the existing culture in the music press, where many journalists have previously run fanzines.

The questions I intend to ask will deal with why they have chosen to use blogging in order to express their opinions on the web. This will particularly apply to the editors of Plan B and Popjustice, which both have blogs and feature-style elements on their sites. I will also ask whether the editors consider what they write on their Weblogs to be journalism, and whether they feel that their Weblogs are subversive in their portrayal of the media.

I had initially wanted to conduct online questionnaires for both bloggers and blog-readers, but decided that it would be difficult to obtain access to these people and therefore to find a random selection. Allowing respondents to self-select would certainly negate the research. I am, therefore, focusing on the recipients of feedback, rather than the people who have left

I am disappointed that I could not include any female bloggers in this dissertation. The male domination of the music press necessitated my focusing on males. According to the Perseus survey, slightly more than half of bloggers are female [48]In this sense, therefore, my research will not be representative of the Blogosphere as a whole. This is frustrating, but cannot be helped.

I had also intended to interview a larger number of journalists and bloggers, but constraints of time meant that this was impossible. This will affect the reliability of my study, in that it would be useful to have a larger number of respondents. I believe, however, that by focusing on a niche audience, music zine/blogs, that I will be able to have interviewed a large proportion of those undertaking it. And I hope that I will certainly have interviewed the most popular and successful of the music bloggers. I may, however, interview other music journalist/bloggers, in order to
gain more understanding as to why music journalists are particularly keen to become bloggers.

Quantative Research

Existing quantative research will be invaluable for this project: up-to-date statistics on weblogging are readily available online. For statistics on, for instance, the number of blogs in existence, I will probably use pre-collected data, which is readily available from blog count[49], and the Perseus blog survey[50], undertaken
in the last quarter of 2003.

It may be interesting to look at the perceived reliability of the Weblogs under examination. One of the best ways to do this is by looking at how many other Weblogs or sites have linked back to the original, since the Web is a linkocracy. This refers to the stratification of Weblogs based on the number of inbound links to each site: the more citations, the more reliable the site is perceived to be, particularly if the links come from well-respected sites themselves. Fortunately, there are existing websites that analyse data to discover this, such as Blogdex[51] or Daypop[52]. It is also possible to do this using Google’s[53] search engine


Quotes from both interviews and the Weblogs themselves will be used to explain the relationship between a blogger and his Weblog. Findings will be presented as case studies, examining each Weblog in turn and then comparing the three afterwards. It will be easier to fully analyse each Weblog like this, and therefore to ensure that the comparisons are more direct. In addition to the case studies, there will be a discussion of the place of these Weblogs within the traditional media. I will look at citations from major media sources to each Weblog. In the cases of Everett True and Peter Robinson, who both write in the traditional media, it would be useful to see if anything from their Weblog has appeared elsewhere – whether they are likely to recycle blog material for their professional writing.

I expect the analysis will demonstrate that these Weblogs will fit the category of ‘fanzine’ as described by Stephen Duncombe, “publications devoted to discussing the intricacies and nuances of a cultural genre”[54], but will also show that the Weblogs under discussion affect the reader’s perception of the music press, and the media in general, rendering it more transparent, and comprehensible. The case studies will include background material on the Weblogs, including previous experience of fanzine writing on the part of the blogger. I will focus on the following key areas: the role of the Weblog for its audience; the content of the Weblog; its readership; and any editorial decisions made either by the blogger or by those around them relating to their Weblog.


I hypothesise that the reason these bloggers began to keep a Weblog was that they felt they needed an outlet for their writing that they were not getting elsewhere. Bloggers who are involved with the media (i.e. who work as journalists) will give their audience a different view of the press than traditional print media.They will improve the transparency of the press, and probably subvert the media through this.It seems likely, given the comparability of Weblogs and zines that the writers will have previously either written for or produced zines.The Weblogs with the strongest community around them will be the ones that provide the most opportunity for feedback (with comments and messageboards). While the tone of the music press is generally informal, I suggest that the tone of a music Weblog will be even more so. They are more likely to contain references to friends, and will probably be less directly critical of the music they cover. Weblogs will probably not be especially journalistic in terms of legality and ensuring that stories are true before reporting them.

Reliability and Validity

I am satisfied that my methods will produce reliable results. The use of a semi-structured, face-to-face, interviewing technique should allow me to guide my interviewees enough while ensuring that they feel they have space to answer the questions in the way that they wish to. It may, however, be harder to make sure that they are all in relatively similar environments, which may affect their answers. If I am unable to meet any of my interviewees in person, I will have to resort to other methods, email and telephone, which will obviously affect their responses (and the extent to which I am able to guide them).

Of course, my respondents will not be representative of all bloggers, or even all non-news bloggers, but in examining their experience, I hope that I should find out some of what makes blogging so popular among music fans, as opposed to – for instance – sports fans, who are surprisingly underrepresented in the Blogosphere.

As long as the respondents are willing to take the time to talk to me, I feel that this study will be useful, and should contribute something unique to current academic discussion of the Weblog phenomenon, as well as documenting the evolution of fanzines since Duncombe’s text, which, whilst invaluable, requires some supplement dealing with developments deriving from the internet.

[48] http://www.perseus.com/blogsurvey/thebloggingiceberg.html
[49] http://www.dijest.com/bc
[50] http://www.perseus.com/blogsurvey/
[52] http://www.daypop.com/top/
[53] http://www.google.com
[54] Duncombe 1997, 9


5.1 Popjustice[55]

5.1.1 History
Peter Robinson, editor of Popjustice has been working within the mainstream music press since university, when a fanzine he produced came to the attention of Time Out. On leaving university he went straight onto staff at the now sadly defunct Melody Maker, which he left shortly before it folded in 2000. Robinson started Popjustice the same year, but the Weblog (‘The Daily Pop Briefing’) did not come into existence until 2002. Robinson was publishing a weekly news round-up, and “[he] just needed a really easy way of publishing every week, rather than having to go into the web program – Dreamweaver – and doing the page”[56]Since he was working freelance by this point, he was looking for an interface that would allow him to post from any computer: “I started it just so I could update it every week really easily, but then I realised I could do it every day, and it just snowballed from there…The main part of it now is the daily Weblog.”

Robinson has also produced two paper versions of Popjustice, called Popjustice Not Com: “They’re both fanzine things… Basically trying to do what Smash Hits! were doing, that Smash Hits!aren’t doing any more – trying to be funny and irreverent, still loving pop music.” The first sold 6, 000 copies, the second – a programme for The Popjustice £20 Music Prize, a pop version of the Mercury Music Prize – sold 500: “just because it was quite low-key”.

Although Robinson regularly writes pop features in magazines such as the Observer Music Monthly and the New Musical Express, he has chosen to not publicise his name on the website:
“To start with people didn’t know it was me doing it, it was kind of an open secret, but I didn’t make a big thing about it… But once it got to the stage that everybody did know it was me, it wasn’t compromised, but I was having to be a lot more careful about what I was writing, making sure that it was completely true and that I knew exactly what each story was about”.

His intention, however, in remaining anonymous, is more to avoid what he terms “personality journalism”. He uses the ‘royal’ we to describe himself online “I get the impression that some people think it’s sort of ostentatious, making it seem bigger than it is, but it’s just because I don’t want it to be seen to be about me. That’s why my name’s not on it.”

5.1.2 Role
Popjustice fills a very specific niche, by treating commercial pop artists such as Britney Spears with a respect that is rarely afforded to them in any other medium. Popjustice is particularly interesting because it has such a strong mission statement:

“What if you didn't have to leave pop behind when you hit the age of 15? What if, at that age, you suddenly realised that while the worst pop music was made for children, the best pop music was simply wasted on them? What if, in the absence of any decent pop magazines, someone was to try to establish some sort of line between good pop music and bad pop music, even when some artists insisted on flirting with both?”[57]

“Nobody writes about pop music properly really,” states Robinson, explaining that he believes Popjustice has replaced traditional pop media sources such as Smash Hits!: “Popjustice is the filter for good pop against bad pop. And it’s something that Smash Hits! used to do really well, all the way up into the late Eighties, and then through the Nineties there was no distinction between good pop and bad pop.”

5.1.3 Content
There is, on average, at least one post to the Weblog per day, which is distinct from the feature-style content (columns, interviews etc) elsewhere on the Popjustice.com site. On a Monday, there will be a ‘Singles Sweep’ – brief reviews of that week’s key singles (as Robinson points out “Pop music’s about singles”), other posts will usually deal with pop news, descriptions of new bands and short-form features such as ‘Remembrance Wednesday’, where Robinson discusses great lost
pop singles.

5.1.4 Readership
Popjustice is aimed at an older pop-consuming readership. Robinson, however, does not tailor his writing to any particular reader: “For one reason because there are lots of different people looking at it, and for another reason because I’m never sure who’s looking at it. You can’t tailor it to anyone, and nor should you want to.”

Robinson encourages reader input by providing links to comments and messageboards at the bottom of each post. “I think it’s really important to try and have a community around [Popjustice] as well… That’s one of the things that distinguish it, that there is a community. It’s great because some of the people on the messageboard have set up their own blogs.” In drawing a distinction between Popjustice and other pop themed messageboards, Robinson notes that his reader-contributors have a different take on the music: “It’s really easy to tell the people who’ve seen the main page, and who get what the site’s about, and people who’ve just gone there to say why Sam and Mark are really fit and buff.” The people who “get what the site’s about” tend to take a more irreverent attitude towards the music, whilst still unashamedly enjoying it.

By encouraging this community to form, Popjustice is providing an online haven for grown-up pop music fans, “The
messageboard is somewhere where you’re not going to get laughed at for saying that you miss Steps”. He distinguishes it from not only sites such as Popbitch[58]– “It’s not like Popbitch where it really is just a load of media people who are quite cynical. Most of the people on Popjustice really believe in what they’re doing.”

5.1.4 Editorial Decisions
Peter Robinson takes care to make sure that Popjustice is produced as professionally as possible: “There’s no libel on it… and I don’t put MP3 files up to download, because that’s illegal… and the images I put up aren’t copyrighted images”. He also has to ensure – since his livelihood deals with much the same topic – that there is not too much cross-over between his posts and articles which he has sold, or intends to sell: “People use it for ideas for their own features a lot. I have to be careful about it [in case] it’s something I want to write about in the long run.” The majority of articles are self-generated, rather than being directly based on stories elsewhere, which fits in with Robinson’s statement that “[Popjustice] the only one doing it [reporting on pop in a serious way]You wouldn’t get that news anywhere else.”

5.2 Everett True at Plan B[60]

5.2.1 History
Plan B, an alternative music magazine, evolved out of another similar magazine called
Careless Talk Costs Lives. Both came from the editorship of Everett True, a music journalist so renowned that he is actually known as The Legend! True is probably best known for being the first British journalist to write about Grunge in the early Nineteen-Nineties. He was particularly close to the seminal group Nirvana, about whom he is currently writing a book.

The website [61], which pre-existed the magazine for several months, features Weblogs written by most of the editorial staff, including True. It is on his Weblog that I intend to focus, as well as attempting to explain why Weblogs are so “integral”[62] to the magazine in both its paper and online forms.

True states that there were two main reasons for using Weblogs on the Plan B website. Firstly to engage the readership: “We didn’t have a magazine at the time that we started the website, so it seemed like a good way to involve the readership and get them psyched up for the magazine, via the blogs,” and secondly to bring some transparency to the process of producing the magazine: “What I’ve always attempted to do was simultaneously lay bare the workings of being a music journalist… I guess that is one of the reasons I wanted the blogs: to lay bare the workings.”

True also appreciates the immediacy of blogging, comparing it to performing on stage[63]: “I never liked rehearsing, because I always felt it was fundamentally dishonest to rehearse, because you’d write all these really heartfelt passionate songs and then you’d dilute them by practising them, honing the emotion and that always seemed really weird. And the reason I liked writing for a fanzine was because for the first time I was like ‘oh, I can express myself immediately, I don’t have to dilute it, I could just write it, leave it print it.’ And that for me was the best thing ever, that was a much better way of communicating than pretending to be honest by playing all these songs that I’d practised five or ten times on stage. And so Weblogs to me are very much an extension of that. Except they’re even better, they’re even more instant.”

5.2.2 Role
Both Plan B the magazine/website and its attendant Weblogs are aimed at a niche audience: the alternative music fan who is disillusioned with the mainstream music press.>Careless Talk Costs Lives, Plan B’s precursor, was started “because we [True and photographer Steve Gullick] felt that we didn’t have an outlet to express ourselves in any other way”.

True’s Weblog, however, does not seem have a particularly strong agenda, being predominantly a journal-style Weblog, in which the author writes about his life. According to True, however, this is in fact his agenda: “One of the things I’ve always aimed to do with my writing is make people jealous of me – I freely admit that. So if I don’t feel that I’m doing that within my writing, then I won’t write because I don’t want to disillusion people.”

5.2.3 Content
The frequency of posts varies depending on whether True feels his life is interesting enough to warrant a Weblog post. Each one is a fairly lengthy (around 300 words) description of what he has been doing and what he feels about it. There are rarely links. All posts begin with a “current listening” tag, which is not always music-related, for instance the 20th of September’s entry reads: “Current listening: the hum of my ancient Apple Mac,”[64]

5.2.4 Readership
All Plan B Weblogs feature a comment link at the end of each post, allowing readers to give the editor feedback. This commenting feature is also present at the end of every review on the website. In fact, although the Weblogs are more accessed by readers more comments are left on the reviews. Interestingly, the forum is the most accessed part of the website.

True and his editorial team do not particularly encourage this interaction between reader and writer, however. Talking about Careless Talk Costs Lives, he says, “We certainly didn’t encourage comment about it because it had nothing to do with anybody else.”He concedes, nonetheless, that “Plan B is done on a more democratic basis… inasmuch as we’re inviting comment amongst ourselves, it’s a very natural extension to invite comment from your readers.”

5.2.5 Editorial Decisions
True has difficulties with the self-censorship he feels is required on his Weblog: “I really don’t like the idea of being dishonest in anything I write, if a thought pops up in my head I want to be able to write it down. I’m not able to do that for several reasons nowadays,” one of the reasons being that he is in a position of responsibility, as editor-in-chief of a magazine. In fact, True’s Weblog has been censored in the past by Plan B’s publisher: “Chris [Houghton] who knows a lot more about web stuff than me, has taken off a couple of comments that I’ve made, because he knows how to.” He states.

5.3. No Rock and Roll Fun[65]

5.3.1 History

Simon Hayes Budgen, the only editor of the three to not have a history of working in the mainstream music press prior to blogging, runs No Rock and Roll Fun He began the site in 2001[66], as an evolution of a music site he had been running called Liverpool Hoopla (itself an evolution from another site). Hayes Budgen has journalistic training, and since starting
No Rock and Roll Fun, he has written articles for the New Musical Express. He also runs a less regularly updated
politics Weblog: Something of the Night[67]

No Rock and Roll Fun is a music news Weblog, linking to interesting news stories about the music industry. Unlike Plan B or Popjustice, it does not focus its coverage on a particular niche of music,dealing with extremely popular artists such as Madonna in exactly the same way as more obscure groups such as The Lemonheads.

Budgen generally maintains a low profile, utilising the ‘royal’ we in much the same way as Peter Robinson at Popjustice. His name (“simon h b”) appears at the end of every post. No Rock and Roll Fun is hosted on a free Blog*Spot site and is affiliated with Budgen’s website Both Sides Now[68]

5.3.2 Role
No Rock and Roll Fun is a prime example of a filter-style Weblog: offering the most interesting music-related stories with some brief witty commentary. By collating these links, Budgen provides readers with a digested version of music information on the Internet. Unlike the majority of music-based Weblogs, No Rock and Roll Fundoes not feature reviews, focusing solely on news.

5.3.3 Content
No Rock and Roll Fun is essentially a link-based Weblog, with fairly brief editorial comments on each link. There are often as many as fifteen short posts a day. Posts tend to cover the more quirky stories, although it is also strong on stories about music sharing technology and the RIAA.

One of the most interesting features of the site is the weekly review of the music press. This offers readers a digested version of what appears in that week’s NME and any other music-related publications, such asthe Observer Music Monthly. According to Budgen: “I like to think it gives them some sort of feedback on what they're doing so at least it makes them feel loved,”and it has also led to some employment.

5.3.4 Readership
Although Budgen offers a comments link at the bottom of each post, his readership does not seem to comment particularly often. This may, however, be due to the sheer number of posts he makes every day. He also provides the chance for readers to email posts to friends – a Blogger-powered service.

5.3.5 Editorial decisions
Budgen stays on-topic the majority of the time, stating that “I really should try and plead that there’s some sort of editorial process, but to a certain extent, I work through the news sources and Weblog if I think something is either interesting in its own right, or else has an amusing aspect to it… Things that outrage me do tend to get priority.” Having had journalism training, he aims “to approach libel and court reporting and so on in a semi-professional manner.” Sources include news-digest websites such as Ananova as well as more traditional media sources such as the BBC. Budgen calls it “rip and read,” explaining that he does not perceive it as journalism.

[55] http:/www.popjustice.com
[56] Peter Robinson, author interview
[57] Robinson 2004 http://www.popjustice.co.uk/2004/09/trying-to-make-this-place-worth-living.htm
[58] The well-known online gossip messageboard, http://www.popbitch.com
[59]Peter Robinson, author interview
[61] http://www.planbmag.com
[62] Everett True, author interview
[63] He is also a singer/songwriter and performs under the soubriquet The Legend!
[64] http://www.planbmag.com/blogs/everett/archives/00000053.php
[65] http://xrrf.blogspot.com
[66] Simon Hayes Budgen in email correspondence with Tara Spinks
[67] http://ofthenight.blogspot.com


The editors of the three Weblogs discussed in section 5, No Rock and Roll Fun Popjustice and Everett True’s Plan B Weblog, all came from a fanzine/webzine background. Where Peter Robinson and Everett True began their journalistic careers with fanzines, Simon Hayes Budgen began his with writing for a website for Liverpool Music Festival. This section intends to analyse how their Weblogs differ from and converge with the fanzine model described by Duncombe in Notes fromUnderground.


Although the three Weblogs discussed in section 5 deal with roughly the same topic, music, they do so in different ways. These three styles epitomise the styles native to the Blogsphere, as described by Rebecca Blood: The filter-style Weblog, such as No Rock and Roll Fun; the journal-style Weblog, such as Everett True’s Weblog on the Plan B website; and the in-between style of Popjustice’s Daily Pop Briefing.

Beyond this, it is clear that there is a distinction to be drawn in the tone of the Weblogs. Where Everett True’s is apparently
aimed at friends (he uses only first names, even when clearly writing about celebrities) and discusses his personal life, Simon Hayes Budgen and Peter Robinson aim for a more distanced attitude towards their subject matter. This may seem surprising, given that True is by some way the most established journalist of the three. It is apparent, however that this form
of ‘personality journalism’ is precisely what True is known for, as Peter Robinson puts it: “Everett True gets away with it because he’s Everett True. Anyone less than that going ‘I think this, and I think that and here’s what I did today’ and at the end of the feature ‘oh and I listened to a record as well’, that’s not interesting.”[68]

By contrast, therefore, Budgen and Robinson are models of journalistic integrity, employing their journalistic skills to ensure that their Weblogs are free from libel and contempt of court. It may well be this that has caused Everett True’s publisher to remove certain posts from his Weblog. This suggests then that the blogger must choose either self-censorship or external editing. Neither of these is particularly enticing for a format that appears to offer complete liberty in term of self-expression.


Again, the three Weblogs have very different attitudes to sources: Budgen relies upon outside media sources for his “rip and read”[69] version of music news, rediffusing existing stories to his readership. Robinson, meanwhile deliberately posts stories, often self-generated, that have not previously appeared elsewhere – and suffers for it when other journalists reuse his posts in the mainstream press. Everett True’s Weblog, since it does not deal specifically with news stories (although it will allude to them – for instance Johnny Ramone’s death[70]), is based purely on True’s own experiences of music, and of running Plan B.

It is interesting to note then that the two Weblogs written by professional music journalists tend to avoid direct reference to traditional media sources whereas Budgen (despite having journalistic training himself) offers a site that depends on online media for the majority of its content. This suggests two things:

- A different attitude towards the media by those who are most closely involved with it.

- That Robinson and True, because of their involvement with the press are more used to generating stories themselves, rather than relying on other media.

This tends to raise the question of whether what appears on these Weblogs can be called journalism. Of the three, only Robinson is certain that his can be called that[71], which he justifies by suggesting that music journalism for him is about analysis, this is clearly a point of pride, as he states: “I don’t put anything on Popjustice that I wouldn’t be happy with having in print with my name on it.” True denies that what appears on his Weblog is journalism, drawing a distinction between that and criticism: “What we do [at Plan B]’s an art form, and the blogs are part of that art
form, which is not journalism it’s an art form and the blogs are part of that. It’s a different kind of criticism. I do see it as
criticism to a large degree, just another approach to criticism.”[72]
The main distinction between journalism and ‘criticism’ seems to be to do with research. Budgen states that his
Weblog “[would] be journalism if it had more time to be pro-active.”

Marginalised voices

All three Weblog-editors first started their sites because they felt there was no space for them elsewhere.In the case of Everett True, he and photographer Steve Gullick started Careless Talk Costs Lives “because we felt that we didn’t have an outlet to express ourselves in any other way.” Peter Robinson explains that the reason he started Popjustice was due to feeling his ideas were going to waste: “It was quite frustrating because there were things I wanted to do and say and ideas that I had, and they were like ‘we can’t think of any way to make money out of this, we haven’t got time to do it’.” SimilarlyNo Rock and Roll Fun evolved out of another site called Liverpool Hoopla, which “grew out of a site for a Liverpool Music Festival, which decided that it didn't really need a sarky news page and so there was a split”.

These Weblogs provide their editors with a creative outlet that not only allows them freedom to experiment, but also acts as a showcase for their work. Both Robinson and Budgen have had their professional life affected by their Weblogs: “ There’s been times when I’ve done stuff and people have said ‘can you make it a bit more like Popjustice?’ Like if I’ve been a bit too serious in an interview, and they say ‘well can you do it as if you’re writing for Popjustice[73]. Budgen, meanwhile came to the attention of the New Musical Express (perhaps due to his regular ‘What the Pop Papers Say’ feature) and has written several reviews for it, which he views as “kind of amusing, as when I was younger [I] spent many hours trying to interest them in my writing to no avail.”[74]

Unlike the fanzine producers of Duncombe’s text, these bloggers have no distrust of the mainstream media, even while feeling divorced from it.
In fact they’re more than happy to use the NME or other newspapers in order to further their cause: “If I was a Radiohead fan, and I wanted to get a review published saying how great Radiohead were, what’s the point? Because every fucking magazine says how great Radiohead are, or the Strokes or the Libertines. It’s like, well, it’s not as if my point isn’t coming across, someone else might be writing it, but at least readers are getting the point that I feel. Whereas, if I pitch an article to the Guardian or the Observer saying let me write about how great Alcazar are, and they say no, it’s not going to appear anywhere else.”[75]This may be, at least in part, to do with the subject matter of Robinson’s Weblog – it’s hard to accuse someone who writes about commercial pop music of selling out – but perhaps it is more to do with the old adage ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’.

The blogs can also make the life of the journalist/blogger easier. Everett True reprinted sections from his Weblog as his editorial in Issue 0 of Plan B. While Robinson will not re-use content from Popjustice, he does state, “Sometimes I’ll do a post, and it’s a really long opinion piece, and I’ll think – cos Popjustice doesn’t make any money – why don’t I just send this to someone who’s going to publish this. Sometimes it’s like that, so there’s 200 quid that I would otherwise have spunked away on putting it on the Weblog.” His metaphor of masturbation a particularly vivid representation of why many people blog – self love.


Two of the three Weblogs have a definite sense of community to them. At Everett True’s Weblog, most comments seem to be from the Plan B editorial staff. Popjustice's messageboards and comments boxes act as a haven for pop fans who can spell. No Rock and Roll Fun, however, does not have any discernable sense of community. What it does have, however, is an enormous number of links (119) to other music Weblogs on its sidebar, which position it neatly within the Blogosphere, as is the case with any other Weblog.  The sidebar links act as a portal for the reader and the blogger but also to find out where the blogger sees themselves, and what they enjoy reading. By comparison, Popjustice’s links box contains only seven Weblogs and Everett
True links only to other Plan B Weblogs. This feeling of community should help the blogger to tailor their writing to their perceived audience, but in practice it does not, perhaps because, as Everett True puts it: “the Internet is a solitary kind of pleasure, so when you’re putting your Weblog up it’s only you, and so it is just like a diary, because millions of other people can see it. But it doesn’t really matter when you put it up there. If you’re reasonably naïve about it, you might not even be aware that other people can see it.”[76]


Everett True makes it clear that his intention in running his Weblog (and indeed in all his writing) is to render the process of producing music journalism more transparent. By posting to his Weblog about his day, he is attempting to demystify his profession. This is subversive because it forces the reader to consider the previously invisible workings of the press. Similarly, Peter Robinson’s responses to the Mercury Music Prize and the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party offer his readers (whose views are not really represented by those bastions of the establishment) the chance to give their feedback.

[68] Peter Robinson, author interview
[69] Simon Hayes Budgen, email conversation with Tara Spinks
[70] http://www.planbmag.com/blogs/everett/archives/00000051.php
[71] Peter Robinson, author interview
[72] Everett True, author interview
[73] Peter Robinson, author interview
[74]Simon Hayes Budgen, email conversation with Tara Spinks
[75] Peter Robinson, author interview
[76] Everett True, author interview


This essay set out to examine the question what position music-based Weblogs hold in terms of the traditional mediascape. Through interviews with three bloggers who maintain music Weblogs, it explored some key features of the format and examined the similarities and differences between the Weblog and the zine. The Weblog is an exciting subject because it does feel new and fresh, but there is so much to say about it that it would be impossible to cover everything in one essay.

I hypothesised that these bloggers would have begun to blog because they felt that their creativity was being stifled by their employers. This turned out to be predominantly true – it seems that bloggers begin to blog because they feel that their point of view is not represented elsewhere. This is clearly the case with Peter Robinson and Everett True, both of whom cater to niche audiences – the one for commercial pop music and the other for resolutely non-commercial pop music. No Rock and Roll Fun, however, since it is in effect a news digest does not fit this category. Although Budgen’s dry sense of humour adds a more personal tone to the otherwise somewhat dry filter-style Weblog.

In terms of tone, all three Weblogs are informal. They do not tend to tailor their writing for an audience – or even in the cases of Everett True and Peter Robinson – for the Web. This allows the reader to feel more confident commenting, as a friendly tone makes the reader feel as though communicating with a friend rather than to a distanced commentator, as might be found in the print media. The immediacy of the commenting also allows readers to respond instantly rather than taking the time to write a letter, or even an email!

If the Weblogs are producing criticism, it is not merely criticism of music, but a criticism of the music press, since if they felt their interests were covered by the music press, there would be no need to keep a Weblog! As Peter Robinson puts it, “6000 people are looking at the site a day, so people obviously like the idea of it.”[78]. He is currently looking into producing a regular paper version of Popjustice, which he feels will fill an important gap in the market.

Similarly, Careless Talk Costs Lives, Everett True’s precursor to Plan B began at 12 and counted down, the idea being that it was counting down to the end of the music press. It was wrong, but the idea was the same: Careless Talk and its ilk are the new music press. It’s hardly surprising that when True was looking for writers it was the Weblogs he turned to.

This subversion of the music press is even present in No Rock and Roll Fun, who draws attention to readers’ perception of the music press by reviewing the reviews in the NME every week!

This, then, is the role of the Weblog in contemporary media – to draw readers’ attention to the structures and roles within the press and to gently subvert them. The Weblog, like the fanzine, is not necessarily the ‘Revolution’, but it seems that it ought to inspire one!


This dissertation suffered from time constraints. Having longer would have meant being able to interview more bloggers and to therefore make broader conclusions. Nonetheless, I feel that it can make a valuable addition to the current discourse on blogging, if only because it highlights the idea that the seemingly unimportant can play a vital role in the development of an ecosystem.

Suggestions for further study

Weblogs make a fascinating subject, and this project suffered from its author wanting to write about everything. There was,
however, definitely room for a study of non-news Weblogs, and Weblogs based in the UK. To go from here, it would be interesting to examine in further depth how blogging by journalists could potentially affect the media economy: if bloggers are giving news and opinion away for free, should we all follow Everett True’s example and choose the new online media over the traditional print press? It seems unlikely, but with The Sun cutting back on their online presence in an attempt to boost falling sales, could the bloggers have a similar effect?

I skimmed over ideas such as the question of community and linkocracy within the Blogosphere: a statistical analysis of hyperlinking (not to mention TrackBack and commenting) in the blogging community would quantitatively characterise the nature of Weblog society.  This would be useful for major print news sources looking to ‘win back’ the bloggers from online media by entering it themselves.

This essay has somewhat answered the question of why bloggers choose to put ideas up online – self-promotion, promotion of a passion, a feeling of frustration within their current employment parameters – but a student with the right resources could conduct a survey of bloggers. This could be interesting in terms of journalism because it could explain why readers are looking to interact with their journalism, rather than passively letting it wash over them, as most did before.

As more and more journalists (and MPs, comedians, high class escorts…) begin to blog, the implications for privacy become an issue. While it is generally considered outré to remove a Weblog post at a later date, there may well be topics that ought not be in the public eye that are. Journalism may find Weblogs helpful, by providing easy quotes or even ideas for stories (as with Peter Robinson’s Popjustice). There will have to come a time, however, when a Creative Commons Licence isn’t enough and a blogger’s rights to intellectual copyright are seriously compromised. A legal mind might find it useful to make suggestions on how bloggers can avoid this.

Finally, to continue this project, it would certainly be profitable to interview not just music journalists but also musicians, such as Dickon Edwards[79] of (among other bands) Fosca who has been keeping an online diary since before the term Weblog was coined, and others working in the music industry. Is it useful for executives from BMG to read Popjustice – (how) does it affect attitudes to their groups. Following the marketing fiasco of Raging Cow, viral marketers have generally steered clear of Weblogs, but using a Weblog to promote a pop band would be an excellent idea. What of the person who would write it, though – would they be performing journalism or marketing, or just blogging?

[78] Peter Robinson, author interview
[79] http://www.livejournal.com/users/dickon_edwards/



Alterman, E (2003) ‘Determining the Value of Blogs’ In Nieman Reports, Fall 2003 pp. 85-6

Blood, R (2003) ‘Weblogs and Journalism: Do they Connect?’ In Nieman Reports, Fall 2003 pp. 61-3

Duncombe, S (1997) Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture. London: Verso

Gillmor, D (2004) We The Media, available to download from http://wethemedia.oreilly.com/

            (2003) ‘Moving Towards Participatory Journalism’ In Nieman Reports, Fall 2003 pp 79-81

Lasica, JD (2003) ‘Blogs and Journalism need each other’ In Nieman Reports, Fall 2003 pp.72-6

Longhurst, B (1995) Popular Music and Society. Cambridge: Polity Press

Toolan, B (2003) ‘An Editor Acts to Limit a Staffer’s Weblog’ In Nieman Reports, Fall 2003 92-3


Blood, R (2002) The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining your Blog. Cambridge: Perseus Press

Graham, A and Burton, B(eds) (2004) Never Threaten to Eat your Co-Workers: Best of Blogs. Berkley: A Press

Lamacq, S (2000) Going Deaf for a Living. London: BBC Consumer Books

Pax, S (2003) The Baghdad Weblog. London: Atlantic Books

Slevin, J (2000) The Internet and Society. Cambridge: Polity Press

Stauffer, T (2002) Blog On: The Essential Guide to Building Dynamic Weblogs. New York: McGraw-Hill/Osborne


Atton, C (2001) ‘The Mundane and its reproduction in alternative media’ http://www.mundanebehavior.org/issues/v2n1/atton.htm

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Hiler, J (2003), ‘Blogosphere: The Emerging Media Ecosystem’ http://www.microcontentnews.com/articles/blogosphere.htm

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Rosen, J (2004) ‘The Weblog: an extremely democratic form in journalism’http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2004/03/08/weblog_demos.html

Thompson, B (2003) ‘Is Google too Powerful?’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2786761.stm

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The Nieman Reports Magazine is available to
download here: http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/contents.html

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Towards a taxonomy of blogs

Jay Rosen proposes:

"If we just want to get started with mapping different motivations and situations, we might identify:

* 1. closed system blogs, like inside a company
* 2. open system, on the Web, private or personal content (written for family, friends, E-pals.)
* 3. open system, on the Web, public content, via commercial provider (professional journalists who blog fit here)
* 4. open system, on the Web, public content, via independent provider (bloggers would be this)
* 5. open system, on the web, public content, via educational provider (some bloggers fit here)
* 6. open system, on the Web, scholarly/technical content, via commercial provider

and so on. Only blogs in categories 3,4,5 can be journalism weblogs."

(interestingly he does this in a *comment*)

to continue the biological metaphor (suggested by taxonomy) it should be noted that within each phylum, there are different classes of blog - journal-style or filter style, as defined by rebecca blood

Monday, August 02, 2004

PressThink: The Weblog: An Extremely Democratic Form in Journalism

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Blogger Knowledge - the amazing website machine.

Blogger Knowledge

this article offers a more than somewhat simplistic guide to blogging for the uninitiated.