Improving Blogactiv, the EU blog platform

Blogactiv is a blogging platform set up by EurActiv, Brussels’ foremost online news provider. On its homepage, Blogactiv states that: “complementing EurActiv’s independent and neutral coverage of EU Affairs, Blogactiv will become the premier source of content on the future of Europe”. I genuinely hope so. The lovely chaps behind Blogactiv deserve it, but more pertinently, having one platform that showcases the best that the European blogosphere has to offer is a very enticing proposition indeed. Done well, it will help readers search through the clutter, improve bloggers’ outreach, and facilitate dialogue across multiple blogs. However, there are a couple of things that I think they should develop.

1. They should focus on being an aggregator – i.e. allow people to write their blog on any platform, and at the flick of a switch, post the same content on Blogactiv as well – rather than be a platform where people create their blogs from scratch. This will help attract existing bloggers, those who prefer other platforms; or those who want their own URL, or want to be able to choose their own plugins (applications that allow users to add functionalities to their blogs – anything from a calendar, picture album, to a connection with Facebook or Google Maps). Take a look at Nosemonkey’s must read EU blogs Universe, and it’s clear that plenty of good blogs are being written on European themes and that these are not on Blogactiv. If it was really easy to connect to Blogactiv, and the bloggers in question could perceive added value in connecting, I’m sure most would. Eventually, the goal could even be for Blogactiv to be so popular that bloggers could connect by invitation only (or in the spirit of the web, if selected by fellow bloggers).

2. Blogactiv should have more traffic by now, given its favourable circumstances (namely, being linked to Euractiv, which has hundreds of thousands of visitors). In a recent entry, Nosemonkey mentioned that posting content on Blogactiv has not brought him much traffic. I had a similar experience: I set up a mirror of a client’s blog on Blogactiv, and only got about 10% of the traffic. Indeed, a quick look at (see image below) shows that traffic is pretty blogactivstatic at a few thousand, which spread over a number of blogs is not very much. How could the figures be improved? First and foremost, by having more high-quality content, and here, again, the aggregator approach could be key. Also, the EurActiv connection should be leveraged far more: good blog posts should link to relevant news stories on EurActiv and vice-versa (and to Blogactiv’s credit, they said at a recent lunch they hosted that this is in the pipeline); and I’d not insist so much on keeping EurActiv and Blogactiv separate – if I were EurActiv, I’d be loud and proud, and mention Blogactiv in all outgoing material (from newsletters to business cards).


7 thoughts on “Improving Blogactiv, the EU blog platform”

  1. I totally agree.

    And yes, I would agree to cross-post on Blogactiv if it was possible to keep my own blog.

    However, I would also add that I am not a big fan of the way Blogactiv presents the blogs. It is not very attractive and not very attracting, and when I go to the main page I don’t feel much invited to look for interesting content. I am not totally sure why this is as it is, but the main reason might be that Blogactiv does not make any difference between quite different bloggers, something I find important in the blogosphere where I am most attracted by individual style and quality of certain personalities, not by the platform hosting these persons.

    This might be a reason to link Euractiv and Blogactiv, with the Euractiv platform making use of interesting or high-quality posts from Blogactiv, thereby fostering good articles and interaction between classical journalism and blogging. If this would be the case, Blogactiv could become much more interesting.

  2. Maybe you should start a facebook group: bloggers who want blogactiv to connect their own blog through an rss feed. I agree it probably won’t get the pulling power of “People Who Always Have To Spell Their Names For Other People” but it might be worth a try.

  3. There is actually a project in the pipeline that addresses exactely your first point. We are working on a bloggingportal with an extensive database of all EU related blogs. Moreover, the portal will aggregate the posts and there will be a community driven daily “editor’s choice”. We want to launch it in January, if you want to help and test it drop me an email!

  4. Happy New Year Steffen!

    Thanks for the thoughtful post and comments. It is nice to hear that we aren’t the only people keen to see BlogActiv survive and thrive.

    I am not certain that I can address all of your comments and suggestions, but I can certainly try and answer a few…

    For now, we are not planning to make the RSS system easier to post mirror blogs and posts onto the site. It is something that we have discussed internally, but we are not sure that the site is big enough yet to get away with too much content that is also widely available elsewhere. I am sure that in time this will change.

    As I am sure you know, there are many news sites that gather all of their content from incoming RSS feeds. These sites do not produce their own content, they simply reuse that of others. At the moment, the strategy appears to be working, but I am not personally convinced that it will continue to work in the future.

    Sooner or later I think that there will be too many sites using identical content that Google will be forced to remove the imitators from their index. Whilst I am not sure that the EU affairs arena will ever be as competitive, we are not trying to build a ‘me too’ site.

    This does not mean that we are going to refuse people from reposting their work on BlogActiv if it is relevant to our audience. In fact, one of your clients, Helen Dunnett, uses this strategy very effectively. We just won’t be automating the process anytime soon. This just means that posts will need to be made by hand.

    As for bringing BlogActiv and EurActiv closer together, the plan is actually to have EurActiv provide more visibility to bloggers, quoting them or linking to them if and where appropriate. Bearing in mind the traffic levels of, this could be a major visibility boost for high quality posts.

    The benefit of having the kind of influential, informed and intelligent bloggers that we are very pleased to have is that they are often just as well informed and able to communicate as a journalist!

    Regarding our traffic levels, I am sorry to say that does not seem to be too accurate in this instance. I would love to see our traffic rise as well, but it is already at about 7 times the number quoted in the graph above. Not massive yet, but not bad for a site that has only just passed 1 year in existence!

    Thanks again for coming along to our meeting just before Christmas, it was a pleasure to meet you and our other bloggers.

    Best wishes,

    Stuart Langridge
    Director of BlogActiv

  5. Sorry, just found this post a bit late.

    Steffen, this is exactly the feedback I gave to EurActiv more than a year ago, when Blogactiv was launched. I was completely surprised at that time to see that it was not building on aggregation.

    Stuart, I think it is important to understand that aggregation means linking to external content, not re-publishing the content of different sites. This makes a great difference. And building your growth on traffic from Google is not the way either to go I think. But content is important, I agree with that.

    We will see how (which I am involved in) will be doing. It certainly also still needs a lot of improvements (suggestions welcome) but it is an open platform, not locking in people. Ironically the more separate content platforms exist the more need for an aggregation portal.

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