Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Political Value Of Blog Ads

The Political Value Of Blog Ads

Over the past two weeks, National Journal's Technology Daily published a special series on the intersection of politics and technology. Some of those stories will be of interest to bloggers, so I will be republishing them here over the next few days. The latest story is below.

Blog Ads Help Challengers Generate Bucks And Buzz
by Brittany R. Ballenstedt

Political advertising dates to the nation's founding, with the first efforts involving everything from public processions to fliers. Radio came along in 1920 and the television boom in 1952, giving candidates new venues to reach far more people with their messages.

In the Internet era, campaigns have another relatively new advertising tool -- advertisements on Web logs -- and many congressional hopefuls are investing in them this year.

"Blogs don't give as much reach as television, but they give more accountability," said Henry Copeland, who founded Blogads, the innovator in the field. He said political activism on the Internet has grown substantially in recent years.

Copeland said Internet advertising, and specifically blog ads, are incredibly effective, especially for challengers who typically lack the funding of incumbents. "You have a lot of D.C. insiders reading this stuff," he said. "It's a very cheap way to drop a hand grenade in the swimming pool."

Whether those insiders lend much credibility to blogs is another issue. A National Journal "insiders poll" indicated a split between the parties.

The survey found that almost 70 percent of Democrats believe Internet political activists will have a significant impact on the mid-term election. Republican insiders voted almost exactly the opposite, with 70 percent claiming that "netroots" activism will have little to no impact.

Michael Turk, the e-campaign manager for the 2004 re-election campaign of President Bush, chalked that up to GOP activists who have been running campaigns the "old-school way" since the 1970s and 1980s. "The GOP is full of people who learned on old media -- mail, phones, radio and TV -- and don't know anything else," Turk said in a blog post. "What's funny is I imagine the same quotes were probably uttered by consultants when cable TV came along."

A 2006 survey by BlogAds revealed that the average blog reader has an annual income between $60,000 and $90,000, and that 70 percent of blog readers have contributed to a cause or candidate within the last six months.

"Online community and blogs are the town halls of this century," said Trevor Miller, a spokesman for the Progressive Patriots Fund, which is affiliated with Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis. The fund has run various blog ads to draw donations and an audience for its cause. The foundation has generated enough donations to help five congressional candidates this fall.

"The online community in general has grown a hundredfold since the beginning of the year," Miller said. "It continues to be an outlet for people to have their voices heard."

Laura Leyva, a candidate for the state House in Florida, tried blog ads in an attempt to prove her campaign manager wrong about their effectiveness. Her ads sought to raise $5,000 and succeeded. "Using [blog ads] is certainly better than going to fundraisers," Leyva said.

Some candidates have goals other than money in mind. Jonathan Ossoff, the deputy communications director for Hank Johnson, a Democratic House candidate in Georgia, said Johnson used them to generate excitement for Tuesday's run-off primary election against Rep. Cynthia McKinney that he handily won.

"They've been effective in reaching out to people who make the news and reaching the national media at an affordable price," Ossoff said. "They were not as effective in bringing in donations, but that really wasn't the goal."

In Montana, Jon Tester used blog ads early to try to help gain an edge against his Republican opponent, Sen. Conrad Burns. Tester is now a darling of many top Democratic bloggers, and his challenge to Burns is considered one of the most viable for Democrats this year. That has helped him gain popularity and funding, and now his ads are on television and radio.

But Matt McKenna, communications director for the campaign, said more blogs ads are possible. "We've used blog ads in the past, and we will again," McKenna said.

Copeland said blog ads have a bright future in politics and could become a top medium for campaigns. "You're going to see more ads in blogs that are state-focused," he said. "At this point, we've seen, in one form or another, ads for potential presidential candidates. ... You may even find that blog ads for this election are the first ad spends for '08."

Posted by Danny | 10:07 AM

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