Blogminster aggregates UK MPs’ blogs with additional departmental, parliamentary and government news to provide an overview of what is happening in Westminster. The blog was “launched and defined” by Danny Dagan, who also built and launched MYSun for the newspaper The Sun.
Cision: What were the main drivers that inspired you to set up Blogminster?
Danny: Blogminster started off as a proof of concept. I was interested in how technology can bring more transparency to the workings of government and make the thoughts and ideas of our elected representatives accessible in one place.
I was also surprised at how many government information sources and MP sites were technically inadequate and required extensive filtering to make their feeds usable. So, aside from aggregation Blogminster was a massive data clean-up operation, to ensure we could actually serve it. Within a relatively short time large media organisations started syndicating our content and I realised the proof of concept had some legs.
C: Blogminster acts as an aggregator for blogging UK MPs. Why did you choose this concept?
D: The content that MPs write in their blogs they have (usually) taken time over and it therefore reflects their considered views. Add to that their instant commentary on Twitter (with the fascinating potential for unfortunate mis-tweets) and the two work well together as a kind of live debate. To complete the picture, we added press releases from most government departments and MP self-issued press releases (which would otherwise languish on their personal websites and get very little exposure).
What’s really interesting is that over time we have accumulated a searchable database, with tens of thousands of MP blogs and statements. As a result, you can now search Blogminster for what MP views were about topics of interest, for example Iraq, the coalition or the NHS, and use this information in addition to Hansard. It follows that the longer the service exists, the more it has a role as a resource for research, in contrast with the immediate news feed.
C: Blogminster has a small but dedicated and highly engaged group of followers. Was this intentional? Will this approach to interactivity change in the future?
D: Blogminster has primary and secondary groups of followers. In the first group you find the media and politicians. The second group, which conversely gives us the most exposure, is through the audiences of the first group. Most of our content isn’t delivered through Blogminster.com, but instead appears in syndication and seems to assume a life of its own once it does.
It’s brilliant (though I can’t pretend planned) that our first line audiences are opinion formers and the media. This makes us qualitatively different from a niche site and turns us into a source. In hindsight I think this is a natural place for Blogminster to be, though I do see a trend for more mainstream users to follow us at times of significant political events such as elections.
C: You designed and launched some large scale B2C community services in the UK, for example for The Sun newspaper and for Wanadoo. Are there any key learnings you could share with us?
D: You have to always start with the users and their needs, even if ultimately you’re trying to hit revenue targets or the boss’s KPIs. This may sound obvious, but so many companies forget that website visitors aren’t fools and are usually task-oriented and low on patience. Get it wrong and they’ll be off your site in a heartbeat.
If you build a social shop that tries to sell too hard and is poor on usability, no amount of promotion will make it work. Online services should be useful (i.e. provide something the users need or want), usable (i.e. easy to use and navigate) and if they include a community element, must reflect brand integrity and take account of the environment they operate in (other blogs, Twitter, review sites etc.).
If you understand your users and build a strategy that gets them to engage and transact without frustration – then they will reward you with the riches the marketing director was desperately trying to achieve with that intrusive banner that never worked.
Twitter handle: @blogminster
LinkedIn: Danny Dagan