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Blogs – the new wisdom of crowds?

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Miss Clare Buckley.

A respected journalist recently described music blogs as having a “nutritional value lower than a bag of crisps.” Yet despite a hostile reception from established media, music blogs now reach a large audience, and are essential reading for musicians, broadcasters and arts administrators as well as CD buyers, music downloaders, and concert goers..

This presentation asks why music blogs are so successful, what their impact is, and looks at the conflict between traditional journalism and the new bloggers. A case study of a leading arts and music blog is used to give quantitative data on readership and geographic coverage, and show qualitative impacts including reactions from readers, the media and contemporary composers.

The results of the analysis show high levels of readership among an influential readership, and confirm that music blogs now influence decisions including CD purchases, file downloads, radio listening patterns and concert going, as well as being set as university course assignments. The reasons for this are explored, including James Surowiecki’s theory of the wisdom of crowds, and new thinking in the areas of robotics and group intelligence. Tips are also given on how to create a successful blog.

It is concluded that the trends identified will continue, and that the influence of music, and other, blogs will increase in the future. The presentation considers possible future negative impacts from political and legal intervention, as well as positive impacts including media convergence and webcasting, which the presenter is actively involved in. And in true new media fashion, the presentation will be uploaded onto the author’s blog at the end of the evening to allow the debate in Cambridge to extend worldwide.

Bob Shingleton writes one of the most widely read arts and music blogs. On An Overgrown Path ( is read daily by decision makers in the arts, media and academic institutions around the world, as well as by many consumers. His blog is just one example of how the ‘cottage industry’ of blogging is punching well above its weight in today’s new media scene.

Bob was at university in the turbulent years between 1968 and 1971. He joined the BBC after graduating, and went on to work for EMI and other media companies. He was an early advocate of the internet, and worked closely with Amazon and other online retailers on the development of their business models.

Most recently Bob has worked in the public sector advising on communications and new media with a particular emphasis on educational, equality and justice related applications. He lives in Norfolk and is a presenter on Future Radio which broadcasts locally on FM and streams worldwide on the internet.

This talk is part of the Ivory Tower Society, Pembroke College series.

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