19 December 2007

No bloggers without money need apply

Normally I'd just add this to my del.icio.us links and be done with it, but this is just stupid and merits a "special comment" of my own:

BlogHer's Election 2008 coverage was created in response to the terrific enthusiasm this community demonstrated while developing our non-partisan 2008 Voter Manifesto, twelve policy questions American women have about health care, Iraq, the economy and the environment.

Frankly, however, our political team is confused by the response of presidential candidates to BlogHer, and to some other organizations and blogs by women. For the past six months, BlogHer has invited seven leading presidential candidates -- Democratic and Republican, we're non-partisan -- to participate with BlogHer's influential, passionate community of now 7.6 million techno-savvy women, who write and read thousands of influential blogs. While our editors, Morra Aarons-Mele and Mary Katharine Ham have made in-roads with the campaigns and we do have another year until Election Day, at this point we've been told no, both in words and in actions, as have some other women's blogs and political groups.

Sadly, I don't think the team at BlogHer is "confused" at all, especially political veterans like Morra and Mary Katherine.

Yes, the campaigns are sending a clear message to women bloggers, but it's not "you don't really matter." It's "get back to us when you start turning your blogs into billboards or ATM's for us." I'm pretty sure that Morra and Mary Katherine already know that right now every minute of a candidate's time is currently reserved for basically four things:

  • raising money, either on the phone talking with rich people or showing up (late) at fundraisers;
  • appearing (late) at made-for-tv events in an early primary state;
  • meeting (late) with the local community groups you can't afford to blow off in NH, IA, and SC because the media fallout would be horrendous; and
  • appearing (on time) on television news programs.
These women actually think they get to ask questions of the candidates, regardless of the fact that most do not reside in an early primary/caucus state, and that the candidates should answer, and support for those candidates depends on how they answer. In other words, they apparently think that the democratic process should work for them, and not the other way around.

But the political campaigns do NOT view blogs as a conduit for talking with voters, despite their insistence to the contrary.

Republican campaigns look at blogs as a component of their centralized echo chamber - it really is still a lecture for many of them - while Democratic campaigns see the word "blog" and think the word "money." Frankly, there are a number of political bloggers on each side that are more than happy to play along with this, because they earn some semblance of influence when they do so.

The overwhelming majority of women bloggers (and men bloggers, for that matter) aren't interested in parroting the party line or becoming just another Act Blue portal. So the campaigns are choosing those bloggers who want to be helpful over those who want to ask questions.

Think about it - in the offline world, some campaigns expect event attendees to sign loyalty oaths and others plant questions. Campaigns expect and even prefer "real" questions from the media, and even then, most of those questions are predictable or even redundant.

Why would the campaigns want the online world to be any different? Questions from the unwashed masses on the Internet? Despite the progress of the YouTube Debates (actually, the CNN debates with a cute YouTube twist) and 10Questions (still met with a bit of resistance), campaigns aren't really interested with questions that don't neatly fit the talking points, and many dismiss the questioners as somehow not qualified to engage in THEIR discussion.

The candidates are going to learn eventually that most bloggers (and most people) want access to the candidates but don't want to feel like they're passing through a tollbooth. The blogosphere should be the greatest single assault on the "pay to play" system of American politics, but we're not there yet.

My fear is that bloggers will be turned off by the rebuff and not participate. My hope is they'll be turned off by the rebuff and get so angry they participate more. This election cycle will teach the beltway crowd a lot about the blogosphere. I'm hoping we'll learn how wrong the campaigns were. I'm hoping turnout breaks all kinds of records, and it's fueled by bloggers.

7 comments:

PunditMom said...

Sadly, even bloggers (like me) who give money (and we're not talking $20) don't get the attention -- except from people in the campaigns who are focused on the blogging aspect. After thinking about this a lot, it's still going to be the big money special interests that get the attention and get discussions from the candidates. As long as they have enough money for ads, they're not going to seek us out until we contribute in a major way.

Our mantra should become "bundling."

David said...

yep.

Cynthia Samuels said...

Well I guess you're both right. But I think there's also a strange attitude toward bloggers generally and women in particular. I guess the Yearly Kos-type bloggers are easy for the politicos to understand - they do what all political reporters do, just a bit differently. So the pols are catching up in that neighborhood.

Women are different though. When I worked for iVillage, in the early days, it was a real challenge to sell ads there even though it was a perfect place to target women. The organic community that grew up around the message boards just wasn't intelligible to media buyers.

I suspect the community of women formed around BlogHer in particular is tough for them to understand too. They don't get the power of it -- and don't understand what they're missing by their absence. Clearly Elizabeth Edwards gets it. I'm not sure who else.

mothergoosemouse said...

I don't think that bloggers will stop participating. Those of us who already write about politics for free (or thereabouts) aren't doing it with the idea that politicians will take notice. We know where the buck stops, and it's not with us. Really, I'd have to be delusional to think that any of the candidates gave a damn about what I write about them.

So our motivation isn't money or influence, but simply sharing what we think and connecting with those who think similarly or engaging in discussion with those who don't. As the online community continues to expand, so will the connections we make, regardless of whether or not the politicians participate in our discussions.

dawn224 said...

Nicely written - Thanks :)

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