Melanie Phillips blogs

Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips has begun a blog-style diary at her website. It should be an interesting read – Phillips is one of the few journalists for whom the much misapplied label ‘neo-conservative’ seems to fit.

Along with Stephen Pollard (with whom she shares much politically) Phillips is now the second UK national newspaper columnist to create a blog-format site.

Is this the start of a trend?

Well, I’m not convinced that it is. First of all the British blogosphere is not yet taken seriously as a forum for political debate and newspaper columnists take themselves very, very seriously.

I doubt many would want to associate with something seen as trivial and geekish like blogging. Just look at how uncomfortable they seem in those online debates on the Guardian website (although given some of the nutters drawn to those events it is hardly surprising).

Secondly there is no money to be made from blogging. Appearances on television shows, speaking spots and books all pay. If you are a professional writer why provide something for nothing?

What the blogosphere, dominated by US sites and US readers, does offer however is the chance to get your name known in the States and internationally.

He may have gained only notoriety but Robert Fisk is now a known name among the many thousands of Americans who read weblogs.

Blog coverage has meant Johann Hari’s articles have raised as much, if not more, discussion in the US than in the UK.

If you are looking to boost your international profile a blog is not a bad approach to take. But how many British columnists are really interested in ‘breaking into the States’? Not many I suspect.

Neither is there much sign that British bloggers will move into ‘big media’ in the way some US bloggers have. As well as being signed up as writers by paying media, several American bloggers appear on tv shows as pundits.

Over here, apart from Reactionary Pete Briffa who has had the odd article in The Thunderer section of The Times, there is little indication that UK media see blogs as a potential source of new voices – and to be frank that is hardly surprising.

However I would suggest that a blog is a great way for a wannabe newspaper columnist to get some experience and some exposure. If I were 20-years-old and looking for a career as an opinion writer I would start a blog without any doubt.

Of course there is no doubt that the British political blog scene would benefit from the arrival of more professional voices from the media and, of course, if a blogger was ever signed up by a paper it would have a massive impact on our little scene.

But having said that surely we don’t want to take ourselves quite as seriously as some of the American bloggers who this weekend held a conference at Harvard ‘Celebrating the art and science of weblogs’?