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'G20Voice' Flexes New Media Muscle

A special project by bloggers received unprecedented access for new media at the recent G-20 economic summit in London. G20Voice, a consortium of some of the world's most successful bloggers, received permission from the British government to sit alongside the mainstream media, with equal access to the heads of state and government. The bloggers say their work gives millions of people -who normally do not have access to the powerful - a stake in the outcome of events such as the summit.

A special project focusing on bloggers has shined a spotlight on the growing influence of new media.

G20Voice, comprising 50 of the world's most influential bloggers, was given access to participants at the G-20 summit in London.

The project was launched by a consortium of non-governmental organizations that petitioned Britain to allow bloggers to serve as an alternative voice to the mainstream media.

The British government approved and "G20Voice" brought together bloggers from 22 countries, representing a global audience of more than 14 million readers and online participants.

They set out to bring the people's voice to the highest circles of leadership, says project manager, Shane MacCracken.

"Up till now the mainstream media has had a monopoly on spreading information out from official government summits," he said. "The blogosphere has grown up enough now so that that monopoly is being broken."

The bloggers represent a range of interests and media platforms.

Sam Graham-Felsen, a blogger for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, says he expects blogs to play an even greater role in the future.

"They often have audiences that are just as large, if not larger than traditional media outlets, and they can speak in ways that reach their audiences in kind of an authentic sort of first-person direct way that you may not see from other kinds of outlets," he explained.

Rowan Davies writes for mumsnet, a site devoted to parenting. She says her followers wanted the G-20 leaders to address prenatal health, the education of girls and economic opportunities for women in developing nations. She saw the G-20 summit as an opportunity to make a difference.

"Just the idea that we can be in the same room as Barack Obama at some point is just fantastically exciting," she noted. "But it's also an opportunity to engage users who might not otherwise feel that they have a real stake in the summit."

Environmentalists were also represented in the group. Todd Lucier maintains a popular blog on climate change. He says blogging gave his followers a unique voice inside the summit.

"Even if they're nowhere near here, they could be walking in a mall in the middle of another country and checking the phones for updates and engaging in real time," he explained. "That's never happened before and bloggers are helping bring that kind of way of sharing information to the world."

Lucier says blogging has caught the attention of world leaders because of its ability to empower the reader.

As print and broadcast media struggle financially, it is perhaps not surprising that the new media was welcomed at the London summit.