Saturday, June 17, 2006

Is there a dearth of Irish bloggers?

Scoble and Israel’s book – Naked Conversations: how blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers – was an interesting read. Written last year, and published this year, the book is still quite a fairly contemporary look at the world of blogging, and in particular how it can be harnessed for good and bad by businesses.
  • Encouraging your staff to talk about their company and their work in public.
  • Encouraging your customers and competitors to read about your company’s thinking and products, and to allow them to comment back to you and each other.
Chapter 8 looks at blogs and national culture. It ends with a question about national blogging trends.
Blogging has taken off in England with the general public, but in Ireland it has not. The English are generally regarded as reserved. On the other hand, through literature and taverns, the Irish are generally regarded as a great story-telling people. So why don’t the Irish blog?

We asked Tom Raftery
… Raftery noted that the Irish are also noted for being “quite guarded when it comes to personal and emotional issues. On one hand, we are still quite parochial. On the other, some would say that because of our oral storytelling tradition we don’t need a blog to tell the world what we are thinking – just some friends, acquaintances, co-workers, passers by, or complete strangers, a pint of Guinness, or a dram of whiskey, and we have no problem communicating.”

More seriously, he explained that that most likely reason for Ireland’s dearth of bloggers is not cultural; it is that Ireland lags behind other countries in broadband adoption in the home, with about 3.4 subscribers for every 100 households. “Now, if the price of broadband were cheap enough that bars would provide free WiFi …” he speculated. But we think it will be awhile before tavern-based WiFi services displace darts as a pastime. In fact we hope so.

Tom’s figures are backed up by a Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment report at the beginning of June 2006 that confirmed that 33.6% of NI households have broadband access. (33.6% = 59% of homes with internet access, of which 57% use broadband.)

So one third of NI households now have broadband. The DETI spokesperson suggested that “take-up is further encouraged by connection costing no more that £27 per month.”

Now read what the DETI said about our neighbours:

This success is in sharp contrast to the much slower take-up rates in the Republic of Ireland. Ireland is currently lagging in the bottom quarter of the OECD's league tale of 30 countries. Ireland's penetration rate of 6.7 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants compares with an OECD average of 13.6 and an EU average of 11.8.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show only 45.1 percent of Irish households had internet connections by the end of 2005, up from 38.2 percent in 2004.
So while Irish broadband usage has increased, it's still nowhere near northern levels. The digital divide cuts across our island.

Oh, and I don't think public WiFi will make much difference. By the time a pub can afford to install broadband and offer a secure service to customers, then the price will have fallen and the general broadband penetration across households will already be significantly higher.

But as a fairly recent entrant to the publishing end of the blogosphere, I'm encouraged by the community of Irish bloggers - north, south, east and west. Doesn't feel like a dearth.


Colm said...

Things could get messy with laptops in pubs. Not too sure it would work or if people would have the inclination to blog over a pint.

Enjoying your posts Alan. Keep it up.
Colm from In Fact, Ah.

Alan in Belfast said...

Keyboards would get messy and the postings would get progressively more slurred as the time went on!

Why not add yourself to the Frappr map ... go on, you know you really want to ... plump for the middle of a town near Colm-ville.

Can't believe that everyone reading the blog lives in Belfast :(

Howard said...

I guess its getting a balance between those who want to positivly comment about their workplace and those who worry they might end up appearing in front of you at Downpatrick after being sued!

Also, its getting a subject matter that people are interested in. Personally, I prefer reading your blog to the daily papers!

Keep up the good work.

Alan in Belfast said...

Very true. Bloggers and commenters have got to decide how much of their lives they'll put out there - I deliberately don't talk about work or family in any great detail.

Finding a voice - !a subject matter that people are interested in! - and one that the blogger is interested in writing about is also difficult.

Alan in Belfast wobbles around all over the show. But I'm glad you're enjoying reading it. Keep up the good work.

Colm said...

I tried to add myself to your map three times but to no avail. I think tis broke.

Alan in Belfast said...

Frappr Crappr. I'll check it out when I get back next week - can't get to it from here.

shel israel said...

In the states, broadband took off when software developers started congregating in coffee houses that offered free broadband. It then, migrated to the homes at a monthloy price which most consider to be not steep and not cheap. Second, the number of blogs in the Republic of Ireland was about 100 when we investigated for Naked Conversations in Jne 2005. During my visit earlier this month, I was told the number had passed 1200. Progress is being made. It has far to go and without near-ubiquitous broadband access, it faces a steep blockade. It seems to me there's an opportunity here for an entrepreneur to sieze the opportunity.

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