Everyone can be Bildblogged

After almost five years of correcting and criticizing the Bild-Zeitung, and in the process becoming one of Germany’s most read blogs, Bildblog now announces a new policy: From now on the Bildbloggers will take on all German media.

Ideally there should be more media watchblogs of this kind, but I can see why they’re lacking. It takes a lot of time, effort and persistence to carry on such a demanding project for years. You can find some examples of what they’ve been doing in my previous posts about Bildblog.

Frustrated Goliath

The saga of Bild-Zeitung vs. Bildblog has a new chapter. The huge newspaper wants the German press council (Presserat) to stop accepting complaints from the small, but famous watchblog. The workload those complaints (12 to date) place on the organization is just too large, and besides, the Bildbloggers just do this to generate fuzz which generates ad revenue for themselves. The Bildbloggers answer, while we just shake our heads in disbelief. What a mountain of arrogance a big newspaper can amass over the years.

See also:

Bildbloggers as unpaid editors

How to define non-news

A pre-bloggers blog PR

More legal trouble for German bloggers

The German legal system has some real, eh, compatibility problems with how free speech is practiced on the web. “Mahnungen” is one problem. Judges unhappy with how discussion on the web de facto works, is another. The blogger and journalist Stefan Niggemeier has been taken to court by the company Callactive (which produces a kind of call-in TV programme for MTV). In a court in Hamburg he has now lost and been given a fine of 6.000 euro. The reason: he didn’t pre-moderate comments on his blog. Specifically, a commenter made an illegal statement (in the middle of the night) about Callactive. Niggemeier removed it a few hours later. But that wasn’t good enough for the court. In effect, this means that the court means that all bloggers must pre-moderate the comments. Niggemeier concludes (my translation):

My view is unchanged: Were the Hamburger Landgericht’s understanding of the law (…) to win through, it would mean the end of open discussion on forums, blogs and online media. Because then the risks connected with running a forum or a blog that deals with controversial issues or dubious business practices would be much too large. I will appeal this ruling.

And thanks for that. It seems clear that someone needs to take these cases to the highest level — the German constitutional court or the European Court of Human Rights. Mercedes Bunz offers her help, for what it’s worth, this blog does the same. But where are the press organizations? When I interviewed the leaders of the Norwegian editors’ and journalists’ associations for a report about blogging and journalism last year, I asked specifically if they would support a (hypothetical) blogger who was being pressed to reveal his sources, and they confirmed that they would. Niggemeier’s case is different, but the principle the same: The German press should take Niggemeier’s case and a representative “Mahnung”-case and make them their own.

(via Netzeitung Blogblick.)

Poor German bloggers (and citizens, media etc)

This Spiegel Online story is so crazy that it belongs on April 1, but no, it’s really serious. The German agency responsible for making citizens pay the compulsory public broadcasting license fee has sent a warning or Abmahnung (the legal term) to the website akademie.de. The agency with the snappy name Gebühreneinzugszentrale der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten or GEZ among friends, demands that akademie.de immediately stops using a host of very common descriptions of the GEZ’s work and activities of its employees. For example, to make life easier Germans like to call the licence fee “GEZ-Gebühr”, but the GEZ now explicitly tries to force akademie.de to use the official “gesetzliche Rundfunkgebühren”. Spiegel has the whole list of expressions that the GEZ wants to censor.

Still not convinced that this isn’t a joke? As it happens, these Abmahnungen are a big and growing problem for German bloggers and those hosting and running websites. Apparently it’s quite common to send Abmahnungen even to individuals with tiny blogs, demanding that they stop using some expression or other, and — crucially — the poor blogger must pay the other party’s lawyer! The costs may start at a few hundred euros, but can be far higher depending on the assumed “value” of the conflict. No wonder bloggers start being careful about what they write. And of course the internet and search engines has made it so much easier for lawyers and companies to find their prey.

You would expect free speech advocates and press organizations to be all over this issue, but I’m not sure they are. I’ll try and check it out and return to this topic later.

Meanwhile, akademie.de has deleted all pages with the “controversial” GEZ expressions. I think the word censorship should be reserved for serious cases, but here it really is justified to use it.

Things are moving

Lots of interesting news to reflect on this week, here’s a quick round-up:

  • Blog column: Netzeitung has relaunched a blog column under the name Blogblick, modelled on the legendary Altpapier media news column. A simple, but effective way to engage with bloggers, I’m surprised that the format isn’t more popular in the media. The page could also do with a bit more styling, and above all, Netzeitung now _must_ start allowing readers to comment!
  • Citizen media report: J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism has released a new report called Citizen Media: Fad or the Future of News?. I’m very much looking forward to read it and hope to review it here, but maybe there’s no either-or here – citizen media won’t be a fad, but isn’t necessarily the future of news either.
  • Princeton joins Google: The book search project marches on with Princeton on board. But will it work?. (via Erik).
  • Golden pajamas: I thought we had this behind us, but no, there’s cash to be made from blogging, and surprise, you can have a 19 hour workday if you want!
  • For talkative control freaks: It had to come, and Eirik Solheim says you should try coComment: “coComment keeps track of all the online conversations you’re following in one convenient place, and informs you whenever something is added to a conversation.” Do not miss anything!
  • The classic: Not news at all, just classic reportage, classic photography – it’s so great to stumble upon old acquaintances on the web, yes, you can find “real content” there. National Geographic in-depth stories and photoessays are online and free.
  • Retro-blogging – clearly a trend!: How many people are needed to start a trend? Just as I write this, a very similarly styled list pops up over at Mediefunderinger!

He lives by the river

Johnny Haeusler is the man behind Spreeblick, one of Germany’s most read blogs. In a Netzeitung interview, he defines how to write a successful blog: “To passionately and radically subjective spread your opinions in a small group”. As readership grows (Spreeblick has between 6000 and 12000 daily visitors, with spikes much higher), so does pressure on the “radical” in subjective, he admits.

In addition to good, personal, to the point writing and linking, audio and video is important to Spreeblick’s appeal, according to Haeusler.

Haeusler criticizes newspapers who now “force” their journalists to blog – writers who mostly don’t want to or don’t know the genre: “Why don’t they hire bloggers with experience?”

The Guardian launched its exciting Comment is free group blog today. From the welcome statement:

Why are we launching it now? Because it’s obvious to us that our major competition for opinion and debate is moving online, and unless we move with it, we’re failing our journalists and future generations of readers. We need to expand and deepen the debate which takes place every day in our newspapers and for which we have an unrivalled reputation.

The site looks and feels stiff at first sight – a typical effect of transforming an old newspaper format, the opinion piece, to the web. And editor Henry makes a classic mistake by inviting reader participation, and then forgetting to answer the (pertinent) questions the readers have.

CoffeeForTwo.jpg photo by Eric Tenin

Always a delight to come across new blogs like this: ParisDailyPhoto, which just celebrated its first anniversary. From Eric’s link list you can see that there are plenty more around the world, also in a to me very important city (via Loic). Photo republished by permission of Eric Tenin.

[editorial note: short link posts without headline from now on]