Friday, August 12, 2005

Turn Your Radio On

Waldo Jaquith and I have been invited to appear on "Charlottesville Live," a local call-in talk show on WINA-AM radio, to discuss blogging and the upcoming Virginia bloggers' conference sponsored by the Sorensen Institute.

Waldo has a leg up on me, since he's been blogging longer than I've known what the Web is. But it should still be a good conversation.

The program is scheduled to take place on Wednesday morning, August 17, from 9:05 to 10:00 a.m. (just before Neal Boortz) on WINA, which is found at 1070 on the AM dial.

One topic that may come up that morning is the recent report from the New Politics Institute, a Democratic think-tank, that says that liberals lag behind conservatives in the political blogosphere. As Donald Lambro explained in Friday's Washington Times:

Liberal activist Web loggers have made major advances on the Internet, but they remain far behind their conservative adversaries among the top 250 political blogs, according to a study by a Democratic think tank.

In a detailed report on the political power being wielded by bloggers, who have become a potent force in national and state campaigns, the study found that while liberals have "a decided advantage" over conservatives among the top 40 blogs (24-16), "conservatives hold a whopping 133 to 77 advantage" among the next 210 blogs.

The study said this was "a serious problem that progressives must confront," if they are going to overcome the conservatives' advantage at the local level.

The report, "Emergence of the Progressive Blogosphere: A New Force in American Politics," was written by Chris Bowers and Matthew Stoller and released on August 10. It says, in part:
Since March of 2005, the total number of blogs has grown from 7.8 million to 14.2 million. At this rate, the online universe is doubling in size every five months.

* * *

There is an emerging social structure of the Internet which includes key differences in how conservatives and progressives use the web to communicate. For years, conservatives dominated the political Internet, with such websites as FreeRepublic.com, the Drudge Report and Newsmax. Moveon.org was one of a few notable, progressive exceptions to conservatives’ online dominance. Their Internet supremacy was anchored in, and improved on, an already existing conservative infrastructure. On the whole, it reflected the top-down, coherent messaging structure that characterizes the conservative movement.

Since 2002, the Dean campaign and other landmark events have caused a new world of online activism to thrive: the blogosphere. The blogosphere, and in particular the progressive blogosphere, have emerged as powerful political forces. Unlike their conservative counterparts, progressive Internet activists have not relied on an existing set of institutional relationships. They have instead forged a new constituency group, a new set of leaders, and a new forest of social relationships. The strengths and weaknesses of each blogosphere are reflected in their origins. Understanding these blogospheres and how to interface with them effectively is critical to succeeding in 21st century politics.

* * *

Bloggers do not reside at the political fringes, and defy easy characterization as “progressive” or “conservative.” They run the full gamut of ideologies, but are united by their shared commitment to active engagement in local, state and national politics. That is why the blogosphere holds such potential for those campaigns and individuals who are prepared to engage with it appropriately.

The authors, who are both experienced bloggers, note:
What is concerning about the current distribution of traffic is that the smaller conservative blogs are much more numerous than the smaller progressive blogs. A MyDD analysis showed that while progressives have an edge in overall traffic, there are more conservative blogs in the top 250 political blogs.

Among the top forty blogs, progressives maintain a decided advantage – twenty-four to sixteen. However, among the next 210 blogs, conservatives hold a whopping 133 to 77 advantage.

This is significant since the smaller a blog is, the more locally focused it tends to be. An edge among small, local, political blogs also means an edge in small, local, political races. While progressives may have a marked advantage in overall blogosphere discourse, it could also be argued that conservatives are taking a decisive lead in the sort of targeted blogging that will provide them with real, tangible benefits in the 2005-2006 elections and beyond.

Their emphasis on smaller, locally-based blogs is well-founded. The sorts of blogs found among the Old Dominion Blog Alliance, for instance, provide news, information, and analysis that is not always found in the daily newspapers and local TV or radio broadcasts that have traditionally brought political news into the home. These blogs are able to report on small community meetings, legislative hearings, and administrative matters that are beyond the reach of mainstream media if only because mainstream newspapers lack the personnel to cover events such as these.

The closest analogy to these local bloggers from years gone by would be the high school sports geek who would serve as a stringer for local weeklies or radio stations, bringing in football scores moments after the final gun. Full-time reporters cannot be physically present at a dozen high-school football games being played simultaneously on a Friday night. Nowadays that stringer might be equipped with a digital video camera and can download game highlights to the web within minutes, beating out the local TV stations for the story.

We are going to see more of this localization play out this year, especially in the handful of contested House of Delegates races across the state, where bloggers' presence at candidates' forums can exponentially increase the potential audience for what is said in front of two dozen Chamber of Commerce members or even fewer neighborhood activists.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it still the case that sometimes WINA can be heard online?

Chad said...

Hey, I worked for WINA while I was in college. Sports department.

I thought I wanted to go into radio until that year, though I had a lot of fun.

I bet they didn't know that they once had a future blogger on their staff (albeit unpaid; I was an intern).