The Idea Dude


Thursday, September 28, 2006

The state of US political blogs

As an exercise, we created new TheGoodBlogs categories to showcase US political blogs. You can find the page with both widgets here. Our observations were pretty least to us. Being Canadian, I can claim some impartiality to the whole process. Furthermore, to ensure we weren't being biased, we went straight to each official party website i.e. Democrats and Republicans.

Firstly, the Democrats... We were impressed they put the blog menu item first on the menu bar. They also included a list of blogs belonging to state parties (i.e. many states have their own blogs). Finally, they had list of political blogs that supported their party. There were over 50 blog links in total. That is what you see in the Democrat TGB widget. It was interesting that many state blogs were run on Blogger as a quick and easy way to get the blogs up. We were disappointed that some of these state blogs did not attempt to get unique URLs as part of their party brand but relied on as their home URLs.

Next, we looked at the Republicans... In contrast, the blog menu item was at the end of the menu bar. There were many links to RSS feeds to their own archives on a large number of issues. Missing was a list of State party blogs (we didn't take the time to search Google to see if state party blogs existed...we didn't because we didn't think we should have to in the first place). Finally, they had a blogroll of about 20 blogs. So the total of 20 blogs and the official party blog was what we included in the Republican widget. We noted that several of the links were either outdated (blogs not updated for 30 days) or discontinued, these we excluded. TheGoodBlogs criteria is that you must have blogged within 30 days to be included. This is symptomatic of many blogrolls in general (i.e. obsolete blogs) but something you would think corporate / political websites should do a better job maintaining since it reflects directly on the organization.

The action seems to be in the unofficial blogs of supporters and lobbyists where BlogAds is making a killing (they are incredibly dominant in political blog advertising and certainly changed our perspective on advertising in politics, yes there is money to made). In retrospect, it does make sense, many of these blogs have daily readership that puts even the most popular tech blogs to shame, i.e. they run into a couple hundred thousand views per day. There are also huge sums of money that are devoted to lobbying and advertising where promoting brand is as important as customer acquisition. i.e. success is not necessarily quantified by someone clicking and buying something. One thing you can count on is that political blogs are never dull, peppered with scandal, accusations, counter-accusations and satirical dissections of every political speech and interview.

Our perception is that while the supporter blogs can be very sophisticated, the official party/state blogs still lack sophistication. It is probably not incorrect to say it is a nascent media channel for them. It feels like blogging is a reluctant activity, a poor last place behind traditional avenues such as public speaking, television, radio and printed media. They should take engage the next generation of voters, they need to meet them on their turf and meet on their terms, in spaces like blogs, MySpace and other digital social spaces.

Note: we're working on some political satire sites too like MadKane who is a TGB member. Send us some of your favorites for inclusion.


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