The State and Future of Political Blogging Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, March 29, 2006
David Klein, author of "Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture" shared some thoughts on the impact of blogging in a webchat hosted by the State Department:
“Nothing I have witnessed is as potentially transformative of media and politics as the emergence of blogging — or rather, the emergence of the ‘voice of the people through blogging,’” says journalist David Kline, who recently participated in a State Department-hosted webchat.
“My own theory is that political bloggers will make it more possible for previously unheard voices to be heard and attract an audience—and for streams of political opinion outside the traditional two-party [Republican and Democrat] rhetoric to gain a following” said Kline. Anyone with an Internet connection can maintain a blog, and the voices of ordinary people with something valuable to say are now being heard and having an impact, he added.
Maybe I'm simply biased in this regard, but I pretty much agree with his assessment. Blogging has been called a fad, and, to a certain extent, it is. The existence of 30 million blogs (and rising) makes the point. But on the other side of it, blogging (in some form) is here to stay because it has done precisely what Kline claims. It has provided a venue for the unheard voices in the political process and they have found an audience. The size of the audience equals influence. And that has not been lost on politicians and journalists.
While blogs existed prior to 2004, their impact was really realized first in that election. Politicians and journalists first became aware of their power in that presidential race. The left's "netroots" was a fundraisers dream. The right had lively discussions of the candidates and the issues. Since then, politicians have attempted to find a way to exploit blogs while journalists have seemingly established a love/hate relationship with them, not knowing whether they're really friend or foe.
2006 will find politicians attempting to expand the exploitation of blogs. The the exemption from FEC regulation during elections was as much for the politicians and bloggers. But the recent race for the Majority Leader's position in the House is a perfect example of the trend. All three candidates, with varying degrees of success, engaged selected political bloggers in an attempt to get their message out and solicit the support of the blogs and thus their readership. Look for the same sort of attempts to be made in both House and Senate races in the upcoming Congressional elections. Look also for more and more members of Congress to begin blogging (whether or not it is they who actually do it or some staffer under their name).
Blogs will also be used to raise campaign funds, which, given the way politics works, will provide some level of blogger access to the politicians.
Depending on the success of 2006, the level of exploitation of blogs will rise exponentially during 2008 as candidates for the presidency cast about for any and all methods of gaining advantage and getting their message out. Obviously fundraising will be a key part of that. But I'm of the opinion that by 2008, smart campaigns will have found a method of successfully plugging into the most popular blogs out there. Whether it is through officially incorporating the blogs in their campaign or unofficially feeding the blogs "insider" info, to help them boost their readership, campaigns will attempt to use blogs much more than they do now. Exploiting blogs will become a part of every official campaign strategy.
Look also for "guest articles" from political candidates as well (not to mention interviews) on selected blogs. That trend has already been seen on The Huffington Post.
“I’d say that the influence of political blogs is still largely at the margins of power. Big money, big political party machines, still dominate. But as I noted before, they no longer have a total monopoly of power and influence. Political bloggers have upset the apple cart from time to time,” said Kline.
The breaking of the monopoly, noted by Kline, has politicians both interested and wary. They're still trying to understand how to properly exploit bloggers without getting themselves in hot water. Again, the House Majority Leader's race is a perfect example of 2 candidates using their contact with bloggers well and another (Blunt) misusing it and paying for that in political capital. It seems fairly clear to most who've assessed that race that bloggers did indeed have some influence on the outcome. While the 30,000 hits we receive a day (sever stats)here at QandO may not seem like much, it really depends who is among those 30,000 readers, doesn't it? And a quick run through of the "who's on" function on SiteMeter reveals any number of house.gov and senate.gov addresses during a day.
The other function of blogs that has forever changed the equation is noted by Kline as well:
In addition to serving as vehicles for opinions and stirring rhetoric, “blogs are amazing ‘collective organizers’ … [that] can rally grassroots political activists, raise funds, mobilize people for common action” he said. Kline noted that U.S.-based blogs such as the liberal-leaning DailyKos and conservative-leaning Powerline have demonstrated tremendous skill at mobilizing like-minded people.
"Blog swarm". The speed in which information can now be found, collected, used and spread is well inside the reaction cycle of the MSM. When the morning paper hits your driveway, it's old news. While that's been true since the advent of 24/7 news channels, it is even more true with the rise of blogs. Not only is the paper old news, but it may be wrong news, and the correct news may, at the time, only be found among blogs. That is a powerful collective asset and one which will increasingly see more and more people turn to blogs for all the facts of a story, not just those the MSM has, in the past, chosen to release. The MSM's Katrina debacle is an example of that. As it turned out, FEMA wasn't the only agency found lacking.
This is not to say that there aren't a lot of problems among blogs and with blogs. The level of discourse is, many times, very disappointing. While blogs aren't the MSM, some decorum would certainly be welcome in my opinion. But blog success is driven by readership and as long as readers reward those blogs who choose angry, profane and insulting rhetoric over reasoned argument, they'll continue to exist (and prosper).
Last, but not least, blogging is here to stay. For the vast majority of bloggers among the top 100 political blogs, this is a labor of love and has been from the beginning. Very little if any money has found its way to most bloggers. Yet many are still here, years after starting their blogs. Obviously some will burn out. Other will simply quit as demands outside blogging require more and more of their time. But others will rise to take up the slack and put their thoughts on-line.
Politicans and journalists are, I think, finally realizing that. For them, then, it becomes a matter of adapting or dying.
It’s kind of silly that it took ’web logs’ to do this. This technology is ancient. I was doing it in 1995 for a publisher, and there were others doing real time publishing years before. It took a ’fad’ to elevate it, and I won’t complain.
A while back I made a comment about John Cole and his ’detachment’ from the GOP. Part of the thought is that he painted the entire GOP as ass-clowns which is a very, pre-blog mentality. Now, we have detailed, up to date information on every politician and political wannabe out there. We don’t have to rely on a party affiliation to help us decide if they are worth voting for.
One would hope that with this information, people will start making their voting decisions more on what the politician does rather than if there’s an R or a D by their name. However, this isn’t going to happen this generation. People like mkultra wouldn’t vote for a Republican regardless of what their position is on anything. It will take time to get that mentality out of the populace.
Then again, I’d estimate only .001% of Americans actually give a damn about politics. Kind of like the urban legend of boiling a frog, as long as the politician makes bad decisions but they’re small enough to not be noticed, over time the populace will be happily boiling along.
I see blogging and the net as reducing the influence of money on politics. Most of the cost of campaigning has been in distribution of a candidate’s message via mass media. If one can run a successful race with less big media buys, then the advantage of big big bucks declines, assuming one has a nut for staffers and travel.
The Swift Boat guys had influence way above their bank accounts. The Kos Kids were also hitting above their weight class although little matters if your program is a loser to begin with.
Someday, endorsements by 50 of the top 100 political bloggers will mean more at the ballot box than endorsements by all of the largest newspapers in the country or of TV ads twenty times a week.