Sunday, April 02, 2006

Blogs, Campaigns & the Traditional Media

The Bruce and Colin Show on WTIC-AM 1080 will be having an internet-only (the radio will be playing the Sox game) discussion of the impact blogs are having on the political process in Connecticut, and our relationship with more traditional media. It'll be live on WTIC's streaming audio feed from 3-4 on Monday.

It sounds like a fascinating discussion. I, alas, am going to miss it. I work till 4pm, and I'll be in transit to a meeting after that.

I encourage all of you, commenters, readers and other bloggers alike, to call in with your thoughts.

I do have a few thoughts about this, myself; mainly that blogs are starting to not only support, raise money for and comment on the political process, but to drive it as well. Where would the Lamont campaign be without blogs? If nothing else, they'd have less money, less exposure and fewer volunteers. Blogs, including this one, were some of the first to pick up on the Lamont story back in the beginning of January, long before articles about him appeared in the Hartford Courant.

Anatomy of a Breaking News Story

In fact, the way that story broke was that someone met Lamont and posted about it on Daily Kos on January 6th. From there it was picked up by My Left Nutmeg and eventually me. A flurry of research ensued (bloggers have great internet research skills--and I say that as a librarian) to determine if he was for real.

A story appeared in the Courant on 1/10, and Lamont was interviewed by Bruce and Colin on WTIC the same day. The story definitely appeared online first, and spread to other media a few days later. I don't know how the Courant got the story, but I would bet it could be traced back somehow to that original Daily Kos posting.

Later that week, Lamont granted interviews to Branford Boy at My Left Nutmeg and, later, an interview and Q&A session here. Lamont not only responded quickly to the blogs, but made a point out of appearing on at least two of them in mid-January.

Usually, stories appear in traditional media first, and then spread online. In the case of the Lamont story, the reverse seems to have happened. Blogs and traditional media feed off of one another, and both help to drive, define and create the political process.

There's a lot more to say about this. Be sure to listen or call in to Bruce and Colin tomorrow between 3-4pm to take part in their discussion.

39 comments:

bluecoat said...

Here on the front page of the Sunday NYT is some stuff about the Internet and blogs on the political scene too.

turfgrrl said...

I'm going to come off sounding like a luddite, but I think blogs, and the internet in general have very little effect on political campaigns, and especially here in CT. First, the Internet, and by extension blogs, are really just an echo chamber. While it's true that MSM can and do pick up stories off blogs, they were doing that before with their "inside" political contacts before. What is new is that the spin now is not controlled by the few but rather the noisy. The traffic at blogs and web sites also shows that the very vocal, one could say polarizing, sites are the ones that attract the most traffic and in an ironic progression, become part of the few that drive the story.

I would say that the Internet and blogs make it easier to find issue oriented groups of people. That makes targeting them from a campaign standpoint much more cost effective. So if you wanted to raise money awareness about saving a pet rock, you have that capability in a much more economically reasonable way.

Bottom line though, is that your average voter, and note that I said voter, does not know what a blog is, and does not read local news online. Worse, the candidates themselves aren't online, don't engage with their own volunteers through the internet let alone voters and constituents.

We are still very much in early adopter phase, and I'm confident that will change. There are however some seismic changes that will have to take place for that to dent the inertia of these non internet voters. One will be freely accessible WIFI (or similar) always on wherever you are Internet access. Second will be a device that connects and delivers that real-time content in a format that makes sense. (Vcasts on your cell phone isn't it.)

Lastly, look at the demographic make up of the political reporters, columnists and bloggers. You won't find many women writing about politics, and since half, or slightly more than half of the voting public is female, right away you can see why there is a disconnect with what is talked about online versus what is actionable offline.

bluecoat said...

turffgrrl said in a reference to maekting speak: We are still very much in early adopter phase and I agree. I would add, however, that thought leaders that preceed the early adopters do pay attention to the blogs looking for inventions thay can use down the line.

And on the demographics, the most intellignet perspective I have heard (admittedly outside this blog) on the race for guv and US Senate was from a woman who was not what you would call politically connected.

turfgrrl said...

bluecoat,

mmm ... marketing speak ... heh. Yeah, "thought leaders" do mine ideas in an omnivorous kinda way. And I am sure there are idea farmers reading pixels as we type, but where I was pointing is the fulcrum between the real world and the virtual one. What resonates online does not often resonate offline. Otherwise we'd be seeing the WSJ profiling the latest myspace profile of candidate X.

bluecoat said...

turfgrrl: Omnivorous is a really big word; I just may use it myself. And agreed What resonates online does not often resonate offline but if it does the mnivores will use it in the other medium.

bluecoat said...

I didn't check my work omnivores;

And here form today's CT Post is a perspective on healthcare in new England without commentary on the content by yours truly at least for now. it should be a campaign issue but who knows where the political winds blow.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Lamont's big in the "blogosphere", guess that officially makes him Dean. Good for Joe.

turfgrrl said...

bluecoat,

MSM, as that other media, is on the wane too. Unless we are talking about the influence of American Idol and then all bets are off. Myspace is a good indicator of the effectiveness of MSM adopting an Internet "story" and it not resonating with many people . It's all the buzz in print, radio and television, but ask your average nutmegger and they would say, "huh?". We could also look at something more wide spread, like spam and viruses and see that there are way too many people completely unaware that they can and should be doing something about that direct connection to the Internet, instead of downloading all the malicious crap that they do. But I've digressed a bit.

What would be an interesting side-note would be the effects of satellite radio on talk radio and if that will have a greater impact on political events or not.

ctkeith said...

Blogs Smogs,

The groundwork for a primary against Lieberman started way before this or any of the other blogs mentioned even existed.

Anonymous said...

Here are the State Senators that have yet to announce their intentions to seek re-election. Why the delay especially for so many Republicans? Are they the ones who are waitng for a call from the Governor?

Democrats

9 Ciotto, Biagio
13 Gaffey, Thomas P.
23 Gomes, Edwin A
27 McDonald, Andrew J


Republicans

18 Cook, Catherine W.
21 Gunther, George L.
24 Cappiello, David J.
26 Freedman, Judith G.
28 McKinney, John
30 Roraback, Andrew W.
36 Nickerson, William H.

Anonymous said...

BEFORE YOU ALL PAT YOURSELVES ON THE BACK TOO MUCH AND GET A BACKSPRAIN...........BLOGS ARE JUSTONE OF MANY WAYS TO COMMUNICATE A MESSAGE .....LETS NOT OVERDO THE SELF PRAISE.

Anonymous said...

WE ( PROGRESSIVES) HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT KNOCKING OFF LIEBERMAN FOR YEARS....IT WAS RAMPANT IN THE DEAN CAMPAIGN...

ACTUALLY MAX MEDINA, WEICKER,TOM DAMORE AND OTHERS EGGED ON LAMONT WELL BEFORE THE 1/6/06 1ST BLOG STORY IN KOS.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:53-

A few of these senators may not be seeking re-election. So far, I have heard that is the case for Cook and Gunther. The others will be re-elected easily should they decide to run, so they don't need to raise money this early. Rather than establishing a committee and not showing anything this filing period, they are simply waiting. If they haven't decided on running yet, they'll have to do it soon.

Anonymous said...

you heard Gunther isn't running again? there's been no official announcement.

Aldon Hynes said...

While I disagree considerably with turfgrrl’s assessment that ‘blogs, and the internet in general have very little effect on political campaigns, and especially here in CT’, I want to applaud her on her post. It is well thought out and the sort of stuff I wish we saw more of here.

With that, let me make various comments. First and foremost, I don’t view blogs and the internet is substantially different for other modes of communication. Turfgrrl is right to note that while the MSM is picking up more stories online, they’ve always picked up stories from “inside” contacts. Perhaps this gets to a little bit of how the Internet and blogs are helping turn politics inside out.

Anyone can set up a blog. Anyone can do research online. Anyone can build an effective online social network. Anyone can more easily become an influential insider. This is enabling new people to get into the political process in a manner which I believe is generally improving the political process.

This ties into idea of how it is now easier to find groups of people that are passionate about the same issues. This is empowering and I believe is beneficial to people working on issues.

Of course this does raise the ‘echo chamber’ effect, and many blogs simply become echo chambers. Having an echo chamber is beneficial to the extent that it strengthens people to reach outside of their echo chambers. Robert Putnam has a good discussion about this in his book, Bowling Alone. In the book, he talks about social capital, and specifically two different types of social capital, bridging social capital and bonding social capital. The echo chamber effect is a good example of the bonding social capital. People bond with one another online, and from that often end up meeting face to face. They are strengthened in their resolve on many issues.

Bridging social capital is when people from a group reach out to another group. I often talk about the importance of bridging social capital, especially in political blogging. It is part of the reason my primary blog is not specifically a political blog. We need to talk about our politics in the context of our complete lives, and in doing so, we can bridge to other people.

From this, we get to the question of how much of an effect do blogs really have on people outside of the blogosphere. It has been suggested that many people don’t read blogs. First, I would suggest that is not exactly accurate. I don’t have the studies available, but I recall some studies about people who claim not to read blogs, but when you track their internet use, you find they do searches on Google, which takes them to blogs. They are reading blogs without knowing it.

Likewise, as stories start, or are kept alive in blogs and cross over to the MSM, people are getting stories from the Internet without realizing it. However, the other part is what takes place when online people get offline. Today, I went to a birthday party for a friend of my daughter. At the party I spoke with various people who are not online at all. I talked about things I’d been reading in the blogs. They will be talking with their offline friends about this as well.

With that, I would encourage people to look at the Roper report on Influentials Online. They talk about Influentials being the 10% of the population that shape the attitude and behaviors of the other 90%. They talk about how Influentials are now getting most of their information online.

To go back to my initial comments, the Internet isn’t a substantially different mode of communication. Back in the 50’s, Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld wrote a seminal work entitled “Personal Influence: The Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communications”. It looked at the way people spread information from mass communications during the 1944 Preidential election. It fits nicely with the Roper report, and it is worth noting that Elmo Roper wrote the introduction to Katz’s book.

So, my view? The Internet and blogs are the new tools of favor among influentials. They are having a big effect. The modes of communication are changing, although not substantially. Influential people are taking advantage of this change, and this is good for democracy.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we could ask Dan Rather as to the impact of blogs, or the Dubai World Ports co.

Basically it is yet another way the traditional media and partisan establishment "gatekeepers" can be bypassed. But while it provides an better conduit for the message, it can;t improve a bad message or overcome a strong message delivered through traditional conduits

Anonymous said...

What is the breakdown of state rep's who haven't announced they are running... anyone know?

Anonymous said...

Blogs are a great way for a reporter or commentator to find an easy story!

Word has it that DeStefano's unwavering support of Lieberman is already costing him delegates.

Malloy, on the other hand, has shown much more "openness" to Lamont-- 1)claiming that Lamont donated $1,000 to the campaign, and 2)in response to the Lieberman question, always stating strongly that he is against the Bush/Lieberman war!

I hope both of these Dem leaders will come to understand that the passionate Left has little concern for the power relations of insider Party politics. We want Democrats who act like Democrats, and embrace such things as primaries and debate.

Finally, making a statement about the nutso Iraq war means much more to me than which qualified Mayor runs as the underdog against Rell.

Anonymous said...

I generally agree with turfgrrl, which isn't difficult, and I pretty much agree with her here. I think it is very difficult to discuss blogs and the internet in much depth or decisively conclude much because we don't have enough experience at this early stage and correspondingly don't have a lexicon appropriate to it. We're still inventing this.

Also, where else might I have the opportunity to routinely read turfgrrl's thoughtful remarks on these subjects? The self-selecting and self-generating character of participating online in real time produces a Chaotic environment. So there is the "butterfly effect" at work here, I think: one cannot estimate the impact of a single voice on the large, dynamic, and complex system of single voices.

Chris MC said...

Sorry about that anonymous post.
Here is another example of the way a single posting can be influential on another single voice, albeit in a crossover sort of way (MSM column, well-known author and public figure) in this example.

Phillips is a terrific resource and a man of integrity, IMO. Looking forward to reading his latest book (mentioned at the end of the linked column).

Anonymous said...

How long will it be before Lieberman gets fed up with all the left wing whacko's in the Democratic party and runs as a Republican? He destroys Lamont in the election and still gets to be his own man. Republicans would then have a U.S. Senator on their team!!!!!

ThemDems said...

Some pretty stong words by the former Soviet Leader. He said this in a speech yesterday in RI.

Gorbachev didn't address U.S. policy in Iraq, but says Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a "creature of the West."

This really has to make you wonder if Saddam was as bad as he was cracked up to be OR is he just the fall guy for oil driven, power hungry American (Republican) politicians!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, George Bush is the enemy not the people who blew up the world trade center or tyrants like Sadam Hussein. In fact, maybe we should have a legal holiday for Sadam? Does that make you libs happy?

Anonymous said...

turffgrrl:
Did you say that you have pictures on MySpace? Link?

turfgrrl said...

Aldon,

You said: Anyone can set up a blog. Anyone can do research online. Anyone can build an effective online social network. Anyone can more easily become an influential insider. This is enabling new people to get into the political process in a manner which I believe is generally improving the political process.

I can't believe that you think that setting up a blog is akin to getting involved in the political process. That is like saying sitting on a bar stool and bloviating about politics is being part of the political process. Certainly if blogging, or sitting on a bar stool, gets someone to join a party, town committee, campaign or issue group, that's a good thing. But I think you would be hard pressed to show a cause effect relationship there.

The dynamics of getting involved politically haven't changed all that much in hundreds of years. People get pissed off about something, meet like minded people, maybe drink a beer or two, and try and convince even more people to join in same. Don't get me wrong, the Internet is a great resource, and can make some things easier, but the kernel of how people become politically active does not accelerate by picking one activity over another.

And, despite your assertion, not all google roads lead to blogs. I in fact, use google all day, and nary a blog will show up in my searches. There are probably people who read blogs without knowing the term, or where they are when reading, but the general web stats tell the real story. More people go to MSM sites than anywhere else. And where do bloggers go when they grow a sizable audience, why MSM ... so in sports analogy the blogsphere is very much a minor league farm system. But, this assessment is for right now.

I think that as information becomes more accessible to on-demand distribution, then things will change. It's analogous to how songs, once sold as singles (45s) moved to albums (LPs then CDs) and back to singles (MP3s) because the distribution changed. The consumer behavior (i like it and can dance to it I'll give it a 10) never changed, but the distribution media did.

Anonymous said...

GC...How about a forum on how the Union bosses were weakened and lost the Sikorsky battle?

Silver Fox said...

Hey GC: How bout you get on the stick and put up a new posting. this one sux.

Chris MC said...

If you didn't see Meet the Press yesterday, you really should. .

Chris MC said...

.

Chris MC said...

Sorry, blogger is doing something funky it seems. Here is the url:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032608/

turfgrrl said...

Chris Mc,

Thanks. I have some projects that will be launching in the near future, but right now I'm not writing online. I'm also not on myspace.com.

Chris MC said...

the myspace question wasn't mine, fwiw

Aldon Hynes said...

Turfgrrl, While I thought your initial post was fairly good, I must say I’m disappointed in your second post. You start off by proposing a strawman that anyone should see bears very little resemblance to what I am saying.

I do not believe that ‘setting up a blog is akin to getting involved in the political process’. Most blogs are not political, and many political blogs are not influential.

That does nothing to negate the observations of Roper and many other studies that demonstrate that when online influentials use the Internet and blogs they have a great effect.

You then go on to argue some of my point about how the dynamics haven’t changed, only the tools.

Then, to your point about Google, while your anecdotal evidence about your personal use of Google has not led you to blogs, logs from several blogs that I work with show a substantial amount of the traffic coming from Google searches.

Your minor league analogy is interesting and actually points to one of the important trends in blog analysis these days, that of the long tail. I various distributions, including Internet traffic, the aggregate of the middle tier of the distribution often exceeds the aggregate of the upper tier. It is the second and third tier political blogs that are often having a lot of effect.

In terms of how things are changing, I would encourage you to check out some of reports by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. They provide a lot of detail about how the Internet is changing the distribution of information and having an impact on the political process. Their reports fit nicely together with Elihu Katz’s book and the work of the Roper report.

bluecoat said...

Aldon; as I read what turffgrrl has posted and compare it to my original link yesterday to the NYT article, I sse the same conclusions. I think it is fair to say that all blogs may be accessed by Al Gore's Internet but not all Internet sites that are accessed are blogs. Ergo we ergo.

turfgrrl said...

Chris MC,

My bad ... should have indicated a multi-repsonser attribute.

turfgrrl said...

Aldon,

Please, save your "strawman" defense for the debate police. You made some assertions, I expanded on why they are misleading. You seem fixated on the importance of blogs in the political process. I tend to believe in the importance of the political process over the medium one engages in.

Anonymous said...

The exact importance of blogs in the political process is directly related to how much money Aldon is getting paid (much like any consultant/whore).

Is anyone actually shocked that Aldon would defend the medium for which he (amazingly) gets paid? I had learned to take whatever he said with a grain of salt, but that much salt gets expensive. I would love to just ignore his posts, but it's so tough to look away from a train wreck.

Aldon Hynes said...

Turfgrrl, you seem to continue to misconstrue my words. I do believe that blogs are an important medium that is having an effect on the political process, but as much as I like Marshall McLuhan, I don't believe the medium is the message. Perhaps we are saying the same thing from different sides of the coin.

Anon(2:48) My pay as a political blogger is approximately 6% of what I got as a Wall Street executive. I'm not in it for the money.

I've been very interested in the social dynamics of online communication for quite a while, even before I got involved in online politics.

Again, for those interested in serious discussion, I recommend the Pew study, the Roper study, work by the members of the Association of Internet Researchers (I presented a paper there in 2003), and for that matter some of the work from the British Journal of Group Analysis where I was published in 2001. If you want to really dig, go back to some earlier reports in the Annenberg School of Communications where I was involved in studies of online communities.

bluecoat said...

As the NYT article pointed out, few senior citizens blog and they are a major voting block on election day.