Live blogging: why such a disaster?

I’ve just written this for our Ask the Echo blog.

We tried an experiment this week. Three lunchtime live webchats focusing on Bournemouth Borough Council’s proposed budget cuts.

We spent a lot of time thinking about the best time and structure for these blogs – the council had asked us to help get people involved in the budget consultation, and we were happy to do so. It’s your money, after all, it’s only right that you have a say in how it’s spent.

So we decided on three blogs focusing on specific subject areas. A councillor and council officer would come in each day to answer questions and respond to comments.

We posted a story about each blog, with a form for submitting questions if you weren’t able to be there live. We also made sure each story had details about exactly what cuts were being considered.

And we chose lunchtime because our previous experiences with evening blogs had not been very successful.

The response, however was underwhelming. Even Cllr Stephen MacLoughlin putting in an appearance on Thursday wasn’t enough to provoke a response.

Today’s blog, about cutting funding for ASBOs, stopping closing drug dens because it costs too much and switching off the town’s CCTV cameras, was cancelled because not a single question was posted.

Reader numbers for the blogs never made it out of the “few dozen”. So we’d like to know why.

Is it the format? The time? Are you not interested in the budget options? Do you think it’s not your job to decide? Whatever the feedback, we’d like to hear it. Be constructive, please… we really want to know how we can make these discussions work for you. There’s a form <a href=http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/yoursay/ask_the_echo/> here </a>…

Essentially this week’s discussions have been a very damp squib. The most response we got came from the issue of bowling greens (it costs the taz payers £200 per year per bowler to keep the greens maintained.)

My theory that is people comment, on stories or blogs, only when they feel personally outraged by the subject in question.
Ask for their opinion before a decision is made, and they don’t have one (unless they feel something underhand is happening, of course). But tell them that decision has been made and they’ll be outraged that it wasn’t the choice they wanted.
Or maybe it’s simple apathy about politics and councils in general. Maybe people feel their opnions aren’t needed. Maybe they thought the options in question were so ridiculous they weren’t ever going to get the nod.

Hopefully we’ll have more respsonse to the why than we did to the original blogs… will let you know!


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