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Netroots’ Missing Links

Jun
27
2006

Within a week, if it hasn’t been written yet, the Mickey Kaus-termed “Kosola” scandal will invariably lead to proclamations of the death of the Netroots movement. But what Markos Zuniga of DailyKos and MyDD‘s Jerome Armstrong stand accused of is anything but “netroots”—it was a thinly veiled attempt at pay-to-play net-tops activism which has finally been exposed.
In case you missed it, the kingpins of the left-wing of the blogosphere are under scrutiny for taking money to consult for political candidates, starting with Howard Dean, then using their blogs as megaphones for those campaigns. While not illegal, it certainly underscores the wild-wild-West mentality of ethics in the blogosphere.
After breaking the story behind the firewall of “Times Select” the Gray Lady finally wrote the story up—in their opinion section yesterday. Of course, when WalMart was “exposed” by the same paper for hiring a P.R. agency to reach out to like-minded bloggers, it was front-page news… But that’s another column.
More than ever, as my business partner noted in April, political candidates are taking notice of the blogosphere. Hillary Clinton, in fact, just hired blogger Peter Daou away from Salon to help her court the medium as she builds her aspirations for a 2008 Presidential bid.
Yet by-and-large political campaigns—and even Kos himself—are missing the boat on how political campaigns can leverage the blogosphere.
The failure of the Kosola-style net-tops approach is well-documented. After the June 6 elections, it even led me to ask if the medium was dead. But the missing links in most efforts for netroots activism are, in fact, the missing links.
Take a look, for example, at Governor Schwarzenegger’s blog. Were they to ask, I would tell them the truth—it’s AWFUL. The posts are too long, it’s not updated often enough, it has no synergy with the press operations and they don’t have pictures. But what’s really missing are the links.
Both Howard Dean’s Presidential campaign and Bob Hertzberg’s campaign for Mayor of Los Angeles understood something that campaign bloggers seem to have overlooked—the relationship with the blogosphere is a two-way street.
Dean and Hertzberg would link to blogs, news articles, and their own press releases like it was going out of style. In the case of Hertzberg, for example, I can say firsthand that I was more likely to write about local Los Angeles politics (and admittedly look more favorably towards Hertzberg’s point-of-view) because I believed they’d link to me. And in the blogosphere link = traffic = happy.
If the problem with “netroots” is that small self-selected groups of like-minded people are only “speaking” among themselves the solution for political campaigns (or businesses or even bloggers) would seem to be simple. Link.
Link to those you agree with—and show that there is a diverse array of people who share your point of view. Link with those with whom you disagree—and engage them in a civilized discussion. Link to those who link to others and leverage the power of the internet.
It’s not a world-wide-web, after all, unless we’re interconnected.
Editor’s Note: For more on this topic see Chris Nolan’s Love For Sale.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 12:58 PM | Permalink

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