Thursday, June 21, 2018

No such thing as a free blog award

Best 10 UK Classical Music Bloggers
CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top UK Classical Music Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best UK Classical Music blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.
So reads the latest blog award announcement currently doing the rounds. As blog awards are now as common as classical teenage prodigies it is worth digging down below those high-fives. This particular award comes from Feedspot, a San Francisco-based social network for RSS readers. Feedspot is one of a number of RSS tools that moved to fill the vacuum after Google Reader was discontinued in 2013. Feedspot undoubtedly delivers a valuable service to its RSS user base. But as 87 million Facebook users discovered recently, there is no such thing as a free social network. The business model of all social networks depends on monetising data harvested from its users. Feedspot achieved notoriety for spamming user's contact lists; a practice that founder Anuj Argawal states was discontinued in 2016. However concerns continue, with one unsubstantiated 2018 allegation of "they actually lifted all my content from my blog to there’s for people to ‘read’, and I can’t get them to take down!" It is also noteworthy that the Wikipedia Feedspot page has been deleted because it was judged as a "Non-notable website which fails to meet Wikipedia's notability guidelines. There are 3 secondary sources used in the article, but one of them is a press release written by someone connected to the company".

As can be seen in the graphic above, the badge added to an award-winning site includes an embedded HTML link to Feedspot. By handing out thousands of these awards, Feedspot achieves a spectacularly high Google page ranking. When a visitor clicks on the link to an award-winning blog on Feedspot, they can only proceed using either Google+, Facebook, or by entering an email address, thereby allowing Feedspot to harvest valuable data.

On An Overgrown Path was not a Feedspot winner. Chasing audience numbers and social media metrics has never been important to me; so I am honoured and flattered not to be listed alongside the click baiting tat of Norman Lebrecht's Slipped Disc. But it is worth asking why On An Overgrown Path (OAOP) was not selected by Feedspot. Particularly when in 13 years music blogging I have never come across two of Feedspot's top 10 UK classical blogs, and when a more independent but still fallible ranking puts OAOP among the top twenty global classical blogs. It is stated that 'Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review' play an active role in the award process. Could it be that OAOP's uniquely hawkish stance on social media influenced the editorial ranking process? (My absence from social media alone could not explain OAOP's absence - one award-winner has no Facebook or Twitter presence.)

Social media networks make obscene profits by monetising behaviour change. This manipulation is the antithesis of the independent and ethical journalism advocated by some of the award-winning blogs. Doubtless many will dismiss this post as sour grapes. If the definition of sour grapes is pointing out that the classical music industry is going to hell in a handbasket propelled by a disingenuous naivety about new media, then I plead guilty as charged.

My social media accounts are deleted. But new Overgrown Path posts are available via RSS/email by entering your email address in the right-hand sidebar. Any copyrighted material is included for critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

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