Spotted this article from my old BBC colleague Steve Bowbrick in The Word on the rise and fall and rise again of blogging. Steve makes a clear, well-written and compelling case for the maturing over time of the blog platform into a counterweight to the vapidity and conformity of much social media interaction on the one hand, and "the dissimulation, spin and sensationalism" of the mainstream media on the other. Recent events certainly reinforce the latter set of sentiments.
What particularly caught my eye, though, was a reference to the acquisition of TechCrunch by AOL. When blogs that have built their reputation on independence are acquired by big corporates, how does this affect their relationship with their readers? The same question applies more sharply still to the Huffington Post, also recently acquired, along with their proprietor, by AOL, and which has opened its UK branch in the week when the British press is going through its severest crisis of public confidence for a generation.
We at Unthinkable have been fascinated for a while by the role that accountability plays in digital media - whether that's digital media as a vehicle for accountability or indeed the accountability of digital media to its public. To say things are moving fast in response to the unfolding revelations of the News of the World's phone hacking scandal is an understatement. Announcements in the past hour point not just to a public inquiry but to the formation of a new watchdog for the press.
What seems to be very often missed in the current debate is that, as with the financial and parliamentary expenses scandals that came before it, this press scandal has itself been exposed by the activities of a vigorous press. So arguments for tougher regulation need to be tempered by that understanding. The Guardian has been at the centre of exposing the full extent of the NOTW's phone hacking activities, and the full inadequacy of the response by the police and politicians, and its editor Alan Rusbridger rightly points out the difficulty of identifying the boundaries of what can be thought of as "press" in the age of the blog. Whatever happens to the framework for press regulation (and indeed media ownership), it's going to have to contend not only with newspapers like The Guardian pursuing a "digital first" strategy, but also with pure-play digital outfits like HuffPo and their own corporate backers - and with an ecosystem around them that arguably should never be anything other than anarchic.
As ever in digital media, it will likely be the nouse of users themselves and the indomitable transparency of information that will ultimately be the strongest guarantors of accountability.