Blogs have become the primary platform for activists of all political stripes to find information and to organize. But while blogs are the most widely known resource they aren't the only tool available. The Internet is an ever expanding universe, and new technology seems to appear daily.
The following are my thoughts on a few Internet/tech resources and speculation on how they might be utilized in future elections.
What I like about podcasts is the portability. You can take information off of the Internet and listen to it away from your computer. The syndication also makes distribution of content easy. The problem with podcasts is that they are still to geeky. Most people haven't even heard the term, and many who have still don't know what a podcast is. Additionally the format makes it difficult for them be spread quickly. We're unlikely to hear the phrase 'viral podcast'.
The format of podcasts also makes for a more one sided discussion. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. I think podcasts are best suited for distribution of things like campaign speeches and commentary.
Was 2006 the YouTube election? Maybe. YouTube turned campaign ads into viral video, and helped launch political vlogging as a phenomenon. What makes YouTube so powerful is how many ways there are to distribute content. It also makes embedding videos on other sites, and sending them via email incredibly easy. With so many ways to distribute and view videos I expect You Tube's influence to continue growing. I think Youtube is the one online tool that could eclipse blogs.
Mark Warner got a lot of press for holding an event in Second Life, and I know that some forward thinking activists are starting to experiment with politics in the Metaverse. But like podcasting I'm not sure how much mainstream appeal SL will have. If you're unfamiliar with online gaming SL can be difficult to navigate. Candidates can hold virtual events, but is it worth the effort? One point in SL's favor is that several companies and educational institutions are now investing in Second Life which could broaden awareness of the world and it's appeal to more users.
Social Networking Sites
Social network sites have to be mentioned, but I'm probably not the best person to speculate about their future. Other than that they should be included in the list I know very little about how MySpace, Facebook and similar sites operate.
Cell phones are now internet ready multi-media devices. Newer phones can receive videos, mp3 files, photos, and of course text, all without a computer. There are a multitude of ways in which campaigns can distribute content, even when supporters are away from their computers. The portability factor combined with technology make for a powerful combination.
Just text messaging alone is ripe with potential. Campaigns could send up to the minute updates and information. Organizations could quickly mobilize people for events or protests. A bulk text message list could become as desirable as a bulk email list.
This isn't a complete list, just what comes to mind whenever I ponder the future. What have I missed? What do you see having the most impact next year, in 2008 and beyond? And what are your favorite ways to communicate about politics online?