Republican Candidates Almost Invisible on the Web
Via Kevin Drum, I see that Micah Sifry has done some comparative analysis and found that the Republicans mentioned as leading contenders for the 2008 presidential race are “almost invisible on the web.”
To give you just one example, if you add up all the friends all the Republican candidates have on their MySpace pages, and compare it to all the friends the Ds have, the totals will amaze you: 4,007 to 51,471. If I take fringe candidates Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo out of that equation, the Republican total drops below 2,000.
Same with total incoming blog links, which for the Republican are woeful in part due to the fact that most of them don’t have serious websites yet. Counting links to their primary unofficial sites along with official sites (and in some cases, like Newt Gingrich, George Pataki, Chuck Hagel and Mike Huckabee, none of whom are officially in the race, I’m counting links to their government sites or, in Newt’s case, to his personal site, and in Hagel’s case, to a draft site), we get a total of 3,069 incoming blog links. That compares to 8,488 to the eight sites of the Democratic candidates who are officially in the race. If I included some of the Democratic non-candidates who might still get into the race, like Al Gore, I’m sure the totals would be even more imbalanced.
Same is true for photos posted on Flickr. There are a total of 789 photos of members of the Republican field, even with those non-candidates counted. (In fairness, I started hunting for photos of Tommy Thompson, Jim Gilmore or Ron Paul the politicians, and when I discovered that there are plenty of regular folks with those names who have photos on Flickr, I gave up about three screens into my search.) By comparison, there are 3,977 of the official Democratic field.
Now, frankly, I’m not too concerned with the lack of GOP presence on MySpace. While young lipstick lesbians posting pictures of themselves (no guyz pleaz!) in the altogether using garish 1994-style Web graphics complete with instant-on music blaring at you has its place, I suspect it will not be a decisive factor in the next presidential race.
Ditto FaceBook. Really, who wants to see a lot of pictures of Tommy Thomson or Mike Huckabee?
The blog issue is more interesting, since that has indeed shown itself a powerful venue for issue advocacy and fundraising. I’m not sure that Technorati links are much of an indicator, however, since of the multiple millions of sites tracked, perhaps 500 of them are meaningful players.
There’s not much doubt that the Republicans are about two years behind the Democrats on the Web. Partly, as Drum suggests, “Democrats are hungrier than Republicans because they’ve been out of office since 2000.” Further, as Chris Bowers and others have persuasively argued, the Democratic “netroots” are much more communitarian than their Republican counterparts.
I’m rather amused, as will be might right-of-center brethren, at the notion that the Republican candidates do not “appear to have much outreach to blogs going.” Many of the candidates have hired blog outreach coordinators and are already spamming us with deluges of poorly-thought-out blanket emails. They are, however, lagging behind their Congressional brethren. The “Ways and Means Press” deserves honorable mention for 63 messages on the year, which is only 26 days old. (They are 0 for 63 in my actually reading said emails, I should note.)
The blog outreach business is a burgeoning field. It’s a double edged sword for bloggers, especially prominent ones, however. Well done, it provides useful information and access to important officials. Done poorly (as it usually is) it generates a lot of spam. Moreover, as I discovered in an exchange with Henry Copeland earlier, it’s probably costing us substantial money as “outreach” and the attempt to get free placement is likely displacing advertising campaigns, thus literally taking money out of our pockets.
Regardless, by the time the 2008 race really gets underway, I suspect the GOP will have largely caught up with the Democrats in the Web game. Smart operatives quickly learn to copy the best practices that are employed by their opposition, so the advantage lag tends to be small.