by Diann Daniel

The New Star of Politics: The Internet

Aug 02, 20072 mins
IT Leadership

Yet more proof of the increasing power of the Web.

 “The Internet is the principal way we are communicating with voters right now,” Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential hopeful John Edwards, said in an interview, according to an article in the New York Times.

Edwards (and co.) has looked at the traditional media channels, which are saturated with the news of Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and responded by capitalizing on something new.

Not to say nobody has done it at all (for example, Howard Dean), but using the Internet as a primary means of communications is an emerging frontier in politics. During the past month, Joe Trippi, a senior campaign adviser in the Edwards camp, has hired associates from his previous job as a media consultant for a Web-driven campaign against Wal-Mart, and has used the Edwards’ website to gather signatures for a petition demanding the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

Relying on the Internet, as anyone who works in online media knows, means an obsession with traffic. Trippi,  has taped to his wall a 90-day calendar, which tracks the spikes and dips in traffic to the campaign’s website, reports the article.

This is the thing: tracking traffic makes it clear what people did, but it’s not always clear why. Will the group be able to figure out what publicity, what speeches, what debates, what actions create loyalty in a differrent way than those using traditional media could/can? Or in the end, will relying on traffic lead the group astray, the way chasing audience approval in movie test screenings can result in let’s just say, a less than brilliant movie. Only time will tell.

Testament to the power of the Web is not contained in whether Edwards wins, I don’t think, in the same way the power of Web 2.0 is not contained in whether a particular vendor or product succeeds or fails. Rather, it’s the gathering force of using new means to communicate and/or how communication changes because of those means.

And just in case it’s not clear, this post isn’t meant to be a comment on Democrats, Republicans or any particular candidate. I’m looking more at the sociological and cultural phenomenon of this, rather than politics per se.

I think a lot of us are.