Richard North, 12/09/2004  

Andrew Sullivan in The Sunday Times Review writes a penetrating piece on the influence of Blogs on the US election.

Of the US political scene, he writes, "the two sides remain entrenched, their rhetorical sallies increasing in ferocity, their claims and counterclaims ricocheting through the political landscape. Democrats and Republicans? Nope: that's so 2000".

This time the war is between the new and the old media, between established pillars of journalism and a bunch of new, ornery and sometimes reckless upstarts that are already begun to shape the American presidential race in ways that would have been difficult to accomplish two years ago, let alone four.

And one of those "upstarts" is the weblog or Blog — where online pundits provide a real-time commentary on events. With them, and and new advertising/political groups called "527s", named after the legislative subsection that helped create them – these forces have helped dilute and even, in a few cases, supplant the network news, mainstream newspapers and political parties as the critical arbiters of the course of this election.

In the last election cycle, Blogs were a tiny part of the media universe. But now the blogosphere has exploded — the traffic higher, the influence far greater, the leverage over news coverage more powerful. In 2000, Andrew Sullivan, who ran his own Blog, was thrilled to have 4,000 readers. This year his review of one night during the Republican convention won 100,000 readers in 24 hours. Now, he writes:

Producers for cable news shows now consult the Blogs for tips about upcoming stories, often pilfering the upstart websites for gaffes or scandals. Throughout the day, news managers consult the blogosphere for updates, while the mainstream media tread water.
This is the new reality. Too many politicians – many of whom are computer illiterate and rely on their assistants to tell them what is happening on the web – and other political pundits, still think it is happening on the radio and TV, and in the newspapers. It isn’t – not any longer. You will find the freshest, most up-to-date and informed comment on the Blogs.

For sure, Blogs have been slow to take off in the UK, but they are really shaping the political scene in the US and, as we have seen so many times before, what starts in the US often arrives here some years later. Our own experience of this Blog shows that even now they can be a force. As the referendum campaign hots up, therefore, we expect ours and other Blogs to shape the debate in what will be the first internet referendum in British history.

And if you’re not into Blogs, you’re not even in the game.

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