espen's thesis

Happy Birthday, BlogCampaigning!

I don't know how it slipped by me, but August 3rd was the second anniversary of BlogCampaigning. In those two years, a lot has happened: Espen published his thesis on the use of Blogs in American Political campaigns, Jens "Schredd" Schroeder joined us, all three primary authors moved back to their home countries, we had a bunch of great guest authors and we're still having a great time with it all.

Thanks to everyone that has been reading over the years!


Subject: Greetings from New Zealand

From: Jens SchroederSubject: Greetings from New Zealand To: Espen, Parker

Hi guys,greetings from New Zealand. I'm having an awesome time here – despite freezing my a** off. Coming from Germany I should actually be able to withstand minus five degrees but I guess living in tropical conditions for the last two years kind of affected my ability to adapt to cold weather. Also: when I moved to Australia I never thought that I was going to be confronted with anything resembling ice or snow, accordingly I only possess light clothing and three token sweaters. My answer to that problem lay in the “onion principle” aka layering – when I went jet-boating in Queenstown I was wearing two t-shirts, two sweaters and two jackets. I found a bit hard to breathe, but I'd choose health over dignity any time.

Today I arrived in Christchurch again after a wonderful trip through the breathtaking scenery of the South Island: Snow covered mountains, rainforests, fjords, glaciers, all of almost incomprehensible beauty. Check the photos on Facebook: Pt1 & Pt2!

Since I didn't want to carry it around all the time and was moving a lot I didn't want to take my laptop with me. So after a long day of sightseeing instead of seeking entertainment and news from the internets I, rather extensively, watched TV. Something which I haven't done for ages. The result: I feel about 20% more stupid than before. I feel like a victim of CNN's agenda setting, since I have to passively absorb their programs without being able to countercheck their reports or consult a variety of opinions with the help of the extensive resources the internet has to offer. In short: I just don't feel empowered.I retain some empowerment respectively the ability to avoid Nicole Ritchie related news through my iPod. I loaded some documentaries on there before I left, one of them being “God's Next Army”, which deals with the Patrick Henry College, the supposed Harvard for the Christian Right. Watching this made me think that one of the reasons American conservatives have issues utilizing blogs for the purposes is the influence of these people – the main problem being that the bible is taken literally by Evangelical powers as if enlightenment never happened: basically not much of a difference to Islamic dogmatism with strong undertones of theocratic fascism. Now, the underlying principle of blogs is (ideally!) the concept of exchange and negotiation in a public sphere, a spirit of debate that leads to better outcomes, Espen's thesis being a case in point. However, if you're on a divine mission and take a dogmatic stand that doesn't allow for any negotiation and use debates to impress your view on your opponents instead of reaching for a greater good, this principle gets disrupted (yeah, yeah, I know... sounds pretty idealistic and unworldly, but I think you get the point. And since not all Republicans are adherents of this kind of Christianity but good old conservatives there are probably other issues, such as demographics, that complicate the adaptation to new technology).

Well, it seems that American conservatives aren't the only ones having trouble utilizing new ways of reaching the electorate. Even though John Howard released a speech on global warming on Youtube, the Liberal's Myspace presence still seems to have some issues – the main reason being John Howard refusing to create his own profile page because he doesn't want to lend his identity to a commercial organisation (which is, quite frankly, pretty ironic since the privatization of public services his party supported he lend much of Australia's identity to commercial organisations). Writes The Age:

Mr Howard's office today added a video on climate change to YouTube, but at the time of writing it had not been added to the party's MySpace page."They [the Liberal party] are not using their profile as effectively as they should be," said MySpace spokesman Darain Faraz."If you go on their profile it still says they've got 8 friends, and we know that they've had a lot more requests than that. It would be great if they started using it in the same way that other political parties have."The office of the Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, has been busily adding friends to Mr Rudd's profile since Thursday. It listed 6058 friends as of this morning.The leader of the Greens, Bob Brown, has also embraced Impact, and his profile lists 182 friends.Labor politicians outnumber Liberals by more than two-to-one on Impact.The Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, are the only Liberal profiles being regularly updated with approved friends and comments.   

Espen, maybe you should come back to Australia and become a consultant for the Liberal's internet matters. Anyways, I gotta go, I already spend ages in this internet café. At least all this typing kept my fingers warm.

Talk to you soon! Jens

Blog Campaigning thesis: Extras

Before publishing my thesis on the blog, I emailed it to some of the people that I am quoting, giving them the opportunity to make comments about their appearance in the paper. One of the people that kindly responded to my email was Jon Henke of the QandO blog. In addition to pointing out that I spelled his name and blog incorrectly (both of which I am very, very sorry about…hope you will accept my apologies, Jon) Henke (who recently joined the highly qualified and experienced online team of presidential hopeful, Fred Thompson) kindly pointed me in the direction of a very interesting post on where he was interviewed by Matt Lewis about his role as Netroots Coordinator for the George Allen Senate campaign in 2006. Unfortunately I had just submitted my thesis to my University when I received the email from Henke.

It’s really a shame I didn’t see this post earlier. Had I known about it before, I would definitely have included it. Henke has a lot of interesting stuff to say in the interview: not only about his experiences doing ‘online damage control’ for Allan after his famous ‘macaca’ fuck-up, but also about the topic of online campaigning in general. In fact, I dare say that this is one of the most comprehensive analyses discussing the impact of blogs on the 2006 senate race that I have read so far (considering the fact that is just a short interview). It presents some very interesting reflections about why online campaign strategies are important to have in place from the start of the campaign and how blogs can provide crucial support to the candidates. But most importantly, it captures some of the aspects and perspectives that the academic research I have read so far failed to capture.

Now, I could go on complaining about the fact that I did not discover Henke’s piece during my research or, instead, I could start explaining why I published the thesis on the blog, why I love the idea of using a blog as a research tool, and why I am so enthusiastic about the fact that Henke provided me with the additional information that he did.

I’ll do the latter. And I’ll try to make it short!

Why publishing material in a blog?

Simply because a blog allows people to comment on the material we publish and therefore allows us to create a dynamic research process where readers can constantly criticise the material that is being produced or add new material not yet discussed. The criticism and new material can help us develop new perspectives that can help the research progress and take new directions. A dynamic process like this will most likely evolve faster and bring us to a more comprehensive and broader understanding of the topic being studied than will the slow stream of academic papers that are being produced. The field of social media is changing so rapidly that by the time an academic paper is published, it is likely several new technological inventions will have developed - developments that probably change the playing field that political communicators are operating within every now and them (YouTube, Facebook… – need I say more).

So, what I intend to do is to use the feedback I receive, like the link Henke provided me with, to constantly develop my paper and hopefully publish a new and better piece on the blog in a while (depends on the feedback we receive). I’ll start adding the links and comments that the thesis is receiving to this post.

So here’s the start of the new version:

Blog Campaigning: Extras

Link provided by Jon Henke:

George Allen's Blogger Talks: Jon Henke talks to Matt Lewis about his role as Netroots Coordinator for the George Allen Senate campaign in 2006, reflects about why online campaign strategies are important to have in place from the start of the campaign and how blogs can provide crucial support to the candidates, and discusses how we can measure the e-campaign success.

Lowell Feld about the Webb campaign's handling of the macaca incident:

Espen: […] With regard to the "macaca" incident, I don't fully agree with the assertion that the campaign sold the story to the Washington Post before it told the bloggers. At least, it wasn't that neat and clean in reality. If you go back and look at how the story first broke, on the Not Larry Sabato blog, you'll see that it leaked on August 13 (Sunday), a day before the story was published in the Washington Post. You'll also notice that there was a huge frenzy over at Not Larry Sabato. Would the Washington Post have jumped on the story if there had NOT been a blog-induced frenzy already in progress, plus a YouTube video? I don't know for sure, but my guess is that it would have been less likely and less effective…

...for more check out this link: Blog Campaigning Thesis - More Extras: Who Really broke the ‘macaca’ story

Blogs are social and cultural objects

Internet analyst Guy Cranswick argues that as the thesis mainly focuses on the US, it should explicitly say so as blogs and blogging are social and cultural objects. “It does not make sense to me to treat this topic in universal terms, it is exclusively socially specific and accordingly should be analysed thus”, Cranswick told me in a mail. I agree, and I could probably have dedicated an entire chapter to this issue – at least a long paragraph in the introduction chapter.

- Espen

Blog Campaigning thesis: prologue

I have now, finally, finished my thesis about the use and effects of blogs in political campaigns. The thesis is now available for download as a pdf here: Blog_Campaigning.pdf, and can also be read as a series of posts on this blog.

Each chapter and subchapter has been published in posts in reverse chronological order to make it easier to view them via a feed reader or on this site. All of the posts have been tagged as "espen's thesis" as well as other topic-appropriate tags. To view these posts you can either scroll down or view each post from this post from the links provided in the end of the entry.

I created this blog as a part of the research process for my thesis: to structure my thoughts, share my findings and create a discussion about the data as my research progressed.

I now invite you to take a look at the thesis and comment on it so that we together can develop a better understanding of the impact campaigning via blogs has on the political process. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me.

Thanks for reading Blog Campaigning. We will have more posts coming from Jens and Parker in the next week. I'll be taking a week off so that I can surf (waves, not the net), relax, and enjoy the rest of my time in Australia. That being said, I will respond to comments.

Cheers, Espen

Read the thesis on the blog: Scroll down or navigate by clicking the links - Each headline contains a link to the related post:


1. Introduction 1.1 The purpose and importance of the study 1.2 Outline of the Study

2. Data & Methodology 2.1 Methodology 2.2 The data gathering process 2.3 Limitations

3. The medium that is revolutionising political campaigning 3.1 What is a blog? 3.2 The blogosphere 3.3 Blogs in campaigns

4. Literature Review 4.1 Measuring effects: Does web-campaigning win votes? 4.2 The potential impact of blogs 4.3 The uses of blogs in political campaigns 4.4 The impact of blogs

5. Findings 5.1 Blogs’ impact on Election 2006 5.2 How does the web affect people’s voting decision? 5.3 How can we measure the impact of blogs?

6. Conclusion


Note: The thesis was submitted as a part of my degree; Master of Arts with Honours in Journalism and Mass Communication at Griffith University, Australia, June 1. 2007.

Update: I apologize for spelling Jon Henke’s name incorrectly in the PDF version of the thesis. I also apologize for spelling his blog incorrectly in this version. The blog Jon is writing for is the QandO blog. Here is the link to the blog:

Update: The feedback the thesis receives can be followed in this post: Blog Campaigning thesis: Extras

Blog Campaigning: Abstract


A growing number of political parties and candidates contesting in contemporary campaigns are including a blog in their overall campaign strategy. As the number of blogs has skyrocketed and the political grassroots movements have taken to the Internet, political parties and candidates have shown their interest in the new medium by slowly reaching out to the new segment of voters that make up the blogosphere. The question is: Can campaigning via blogs help politicians shape public opinion and impact voting behaviour?

This paper examines how political parties and candidates use the blog as an electioneering instrument in political campaigns and considers how the use of blogs can affect the outcome of an election. By evaluating existing literature on the topic and actively engaging with political blog communities, the author questions whether a blog can play an integral role in securing a party’s or candidate’s victory in an election, and reviews ways to measure the impact of blogs on an election outcome.

Data retrieved by the current study strongly suggests that a campaign, in some cases, can successfully exploit the presence of the web and community blogs, and in doing so, even impact the outcome of a specific election race. The study supports findings by existing scholars that there are aspects of blogging that can help politicians improve their campaign, influence the political agenda and affect the direction of a particular election race. However, so far few campaigns have embraced the full potential of blogs.

The paper argues that current literature has not yet managed to develop proper methods to measure and identify how electioneering via blogs impacts voter decisions directly. Further research therefore needs to thoroughly explore the aspects that make blogs a useful electioneering tool, test the medium’s ability to swing voters and systematically test how audiences value the information they retrieve from the medium compared to the information they retrieve from traditional mainstream media.

Blog Campaigning: Introduction


“We’re entering a different era of political communication, and no one is an expert at it yet. The velocity of change is extraordinary. Everyone is experimenting online, because we don’t know yet what will work” (Rosenberg in Mussenden 2007)

The landscape of political communication is changing rapidly. “Technology has changed the way people interact with one another” (Simmons 2005, p. 1) and “the creation of an electronic media has revolutionized the way information is gathered and transmitted” (Simmons 2005, p. 1). Since 2004, the world has experienced an enormous growth in online political activity. The emergence of social media and social networking sites has given room for a new political era. People can now engage in political activities via a computer as long as they have access to the Internet. This new form of political engagement has created a new and attractive market of voters for politicians to target. In an effort to optimize their reach to this new segment of voters, a growing number of politicians have started embracing some of the technologies that have emerged from the social media scene, including them in their overall political strategy. One of the latest and fastest growing technological developments to emerge from the social media scene that has been adapted by political parties and candidates in their overall communication strategy is the weblog – more often referred to as the blog. In the 2004 U.S. presidential election blogs were for the first time added by political candidates to their bag of campaign tricks (Lawson-Border & Kirk 2005, p. 1, Trammell 2005, p. 2). Few claimed then that the tool had a significant impact on the election. Three years later, facing the 2008 U.S. presidential election, “political bloggers say that their trade is becoming more influential than standard election techniques” (The University Daily Kansan News 14 February 2007). Even experts claim blogs play a larger part in the political campaigning process than traditional ways of informing the public. According to new-media expert Sean Mussenden (2007) of Media General News Service, this election’s (the 2008 U.S. presidential election) candidates are helping redefine online politics:

“Candidates are speaking directly to voters through text and video blogs displayed on their increasingly sophisticated Web pages. They also are lobbying influential political bloggers for endorsements -- and in some cases putting them on the payroll” (Mussenden 2007).

But just how effective has this new online communication instrument become as a campaign tool? Julie Barko Germany, deputy director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, claimed recently that: “The race to the White House in 2008 will be all about how candidates talk to people online” (in Havenstein 2007). Joe Trippi, who ran Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004 and was the most profiled of the online-oriented campaign managers during the campaign, told Agence France-Presse that:

“The Web will be playing a bigger role than ever in the 2008 campaign, so much so that for the first time, it will actually change the outcome of the election” (in Zablit 2007).

Trippi’s statement might be sensational, even simplistic. But it raises an interesting question: What impact does an online communication tool like a blog have on the democratic election process? In an effort to reach a better understanding of this issue, this paper will analyse the following research questions:

• How do political parties and candidates use blogs? • Does electioneering via blogs influence political campaigns? • How do we measure the impact blogs have on the outcome of an election?

To answer these questions the paper will examine how political parties and candidates have used blogs as a campaigning instrument in elections to date, locate situations where blogs might have helped a campaign produce an upset election outcome, and debate how we can measure a blog’s ability to affect voting decisions.

Blog Campaigning: 1.1 The purpose and importance of the study

1.1 The purpose and importance of the study

Due to the rapidly changing landscape of online communication and the fact that the phenomenon of blogging is relatively novel, there exists little academic research to date on political blogs and the politics of blogging (Bahnisch in Bruns & Jacobs 2006, p. 139, Lawson-Borders & Kirk 2005, p. 551). Bahnisch (in Bruns & Jacobs 2006, p. 146) argues that “further research is urgently needed, particularly in mapping the reach and influence of blogs, and also in a more rigorous and empirically informed analysis of conversations and power relations internal to the blogosphere and their relationship to their environing contexts”. The purpose of this study is therefore to increase our understanding of the potential influence and role blogs can play in future election campaigns especially when it comes to affecting voting behaviour.

By comparing studies of political parties’ and candidates’ use of blogs in election campaigns from 2004 to 2007, the paper aims to locate different aspects of blogging that have changed the direction of an election campaign and/or helped a campaign produce an upset election outcome. Since research on the topic to date is limited, this study will produce new data and information never before considered. Reflections and thoughts of leading bloggers on their role in the direction of a campaign will supplement the data that already exist on the topic and hopefully bring to light new dimensions not yet considered. The paper will argue that there is enough evidence to support a hypothesis claiming that blogs can have an impact on political campaigns; however, current literature has not yet managed to develop proper ways to measure and identify how electioneering via blogs affect voting decisions.

Blog Campaigning: 1.2 Outline of the Study

1.2 Outline of the Study

Before going into a discussion about the findings of the study and the conclusions that can be drawn from them, the paper will present a brief outline of the methodology used to approach the research problems. The paper will further introduce the reader to the world of blogs and the factors that make the blog a valuable electioneering instrument for political campaigns. A brief outline of earlier attempts to measure the impact of web campaigns on voting behaviour will place the potential impact of blogs in a theoretical perspective. A review of the existing academic literature will further examine how blogs have been used by political campaigns to date and discuss the impact they might have had on specific elections. Finally new data will be compared to the previous literature in an attempt to generate new ideas about how we can measure the impact of blogs on a campaign and the outcome of an election.

Blog Campaigning: Data & Methodology

Data & Methodology

“Determining the impact of the blog may prove to be difficult at best because it is not immediately obvious how one would show impact” (Simmons 2005, p. 1).

2.1 Methodology

During the course of the twentieth century, numerous attempts have been made to explain the effects of the mass media on the political process (Stockwell 2005, p. 114). The findings that have emerged from these studies are exceedingly inconclusive. So inconclusive, claims Larry M. Bartels (1993, p. 267), that the state of research in the “media effects” area is “one of the most notable embarrassments of modern social science”. Over time theorists have gone from claiming that the media have a strong, almost hypodermic effect (Lasswell 1927) that can shape opinions and beliefs (McQuail in Stockwell 2005, p. 114), to suggesting that the media have only a minimal effect on citizens because they can not deliver political messages with any predictable effect (Lazarsfeld in Stockwell 2005, p. 115). In more recent times theorists have again been claiming that the media have a “relatively strong” effect on public opinion because they have the power to set the agenda and affect what people talk about (McCombs and Shaw in Stockwell 2005, p. 15). However, these are just a few examples of the work that have been done over time. Today we are still debating what effects the media have on the political process. If anything, we have come to realize the complexity of the issue itself, and that there is no simple answer to the question. Perhaps Berelson says it best when he muses about his own findings over the years and claims that: “some kinds of communication on some kinds of issues, brought to the attention of some kinds of people under some kinds of conditions, have some kinds of effects” (in Diamond & Bates 1984, p. 347). It is therefore not with the intention of revolutionising the area of “media effects” studies that this paper goes on to look at one of the newest and more exciting technologies within the area. Rather the intention is to explore new perspectives that can help us understand the opportunities that lie within the complexities of the modern media sphere for political campaigns to produce desirable effects on the political process.

Few scholars have so far attempted to identify how effective political messages can be communicated via blogs. The reason might be that many do not yet understand how the universe of blogs works. The author of this study believes that in order to understand how politicians can utilise blogs as a means to optimise successful electioneering, it is not just necessary to understand the nature and strategies of political campaigning, but also the cultural and sociological aspects that define the medium as a new communication phenomenon. This study therefore bases its findings mainly on ethnographic research and can be seen as a methodological critique seeking to test findings of previous studies exploring the subject. Unconventional methods and data gathering techniques have consequently been employed by the researcher in an attempt to view the subject from a new perspective.

Blog Campaigning: 2.2 The data gathering process

2.2 The data gathering process During an eight month research period, stretching from August 2006 to April 2007, the author actively searched blogs and online publications in an effort to locate theoretical views and statements spoken by authoritative bloggers and experts on online communication reflecting on how blogs impact on political campaigns. The research period was especially interesting because of two major political campaigns commencing at the time: The 2006 U.S. midterm election was held in November 2006, and in December 2006, the research saw the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaign kick off as one of the earliest presidential campaigns ever to be launched.

To help locate data the study employed a simple word search on Google Alerts ; a search engine searching specific words or word combinations in online newspapers and blogs. The word combinations searched for were ‘political blogging’ and ‘blogging as a campaign tool’.

The author did not rely on conventional ethnographic research techniques such as informal interviews. Instead, to engage in conversations with bloggers, the author explicitly created a blog, BlogCampaigning (thank you for reading), that reflected on the subject of the research and encouraged bloggers to discuss its content. The aim was to involve the subjects of the study in a constant dialogue. All the data collected during the research process was therefore channelled through the blog in an attempt to produce response and to test the significance of the material. This form of retrieving data is often referred to as action research:

“[…] a process of research in which the application of findings and an evaluation of their impact on practice become part of a cycle of research. This process, further, has become associated with a trend towards involving those affected by the research in the design and implementation of the research - to encourage them to participate as collaborators in the research rather then being subjects of it (Denscombe 2003, p. 57).

Action research is seen as “a strategy for social research rather than a specific method” and “does not specify any constraints when it comes to the means for data collection that might be adopted by the researcher” (Denscombe 2003, p. 58). The advantage of using action research is that it allows for the researcher to involve himself in the study and learn more about different aspects of the phenomenon and the objects being studied. As a consequence, structured self-reflection becomes a key part of the research process (Denscombe 2003, p. 58).

The author marketed the blog by submitting comments on other blogs sharing topics similar to the research and by linking to these blogs and their posts in daily entries. Additionally, specific individuals holding an authoritative status within political blog communities were notified of the blog’s existence. This active marketing process gradually increased the blog’s readership and incoming links. From August 2006 when the blog was launched, to the end of April 2007 when the research was ended, the blog had received 5,704 hits (not unique), 112 comments and ranked 193,562 on Technorati’s blog ranking list with 27 incoming links from 23 different blogs.

A result of the author’s effort to enhance the blog’s visibility by engaging with political blog communities was that it made the research and writing process more reflexive. The active engagement with other bloggers allowed for the author to gain a better understanding of political blogs and their context within the democratic election process. A similar research technique has also been employed in a previous study of blogs. In 2004 Schiano et al. (2004, p. 1144) conducted an ethnographic study aiming to understand blogs as a forum of personal expression from a blogger’s point of view. The team used conversational interviews to understand bloggers’ thoughts and habits, and in an attempt to better familiarise themselves with blogging, the team created a class blog within which they discussed their own research (Schiano et al. 2004, p. 1144). The difference and strength of the research-blog employed by the current study was that it encouraged feedback from other bloggers and therefore allowed for the researcher to engage with the subjects of the study in their natural settings. This technique represents a unique and innovative attempt to gain insight into the world of politics experienced by bloggers.

Blog Campaigning: 2.3 Limitations

2.3 Limitations As the study is not quantitative but bases its conclusion on qualitative data, it does not claim any further generalisation value. The data discussed in the paper aims only to test existing findings on the subject and explore new ideas for how we can develop ways to measure how electioneering via blogs impacts voting behaviour. The sum of the opinions presented by authoritative bloggers and online communication experts is not the final answer to the research problems; rather these opinions illuminate the issue from a new perspective. What the study does present of value is a better understanding of the aspects that makes the blog a useful electioneering tool and the measuring methods we need to develop in order to identify how campaigning via blogs affects voting behaviour.

Blog Campaigning: 3. The medium that is revolutionising political campaigning

The medium that is revolutionising political campaigning

New technologies started to change the nature of political campaigns already in the 1960s, when computers for the first time were used to assist candidates with database management (Stockwell 2005, p. 231). “Computers now power most of the political technologies in use today” (Stockwell 2005, p. 62), assisting campaigns “automate fund-raising, control campaign finances, manage the phone system for opinion polling then analyse the results, produce direct mail, ensure most effective bookings for advertising, organise volunteers, carry out research on opponents and their policies and even provide assistance in telephone marketing to key voters” (Shannon in Stockwell 2005, p. 62). The creation of the Internet in the early 1990s brought a whole new paradigm to the technological advantages of the computer (Stockwell 2005, p. 231) allowing campaigns to interact with voters in a way never before experienced: “the first major technological advance since the telephone to allow real reciprocity in a two-way flow of information” (Stockwell 2005, p. 231).

Margolis (in Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 3) claims that the Internet was first used for campaign purposes in the 1992 U.S. presidential race, but it was not until the 1996 election that voters experienced concerted cyber-campaigning with Bob Dole and Bill Clinton both running high profile websites. The 1996 election therefore marked the start of a new era for cyber-campaigning. More and more campaigns started investing time and money on online technologies, and it did not take long before websites became a standard part of every political campaign’s communication strategy. However, as with every technological invention, it took time to understand how the website could optimise a campaign’s message management. Overall, the early web campaigns were accused of recycling offline content to an online environment, not taking advantage of the interactive capabilities that the web presented (Stone in Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 4).

“Sites typically comprised a photograph, some biographical information, a policy or position statement and contact details that sometimes incorporated an email address” (Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 4).

The first indication of the medium’s power to influence an election outcome came with the surprise victory of independent candidate Jesse Ventura in the 1998 Minnesota gubernatorial race (Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 4).

“Ventura’s use of the web and email was widely credited with enlarging his support base, particularly among younger voters and thereby delivering him the crucial extra votes needed to win office” (Fineman in Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 4).

John McCain’s success in raising money from online donations through his website in the Republican presidential primaries of 2000 gave him widespread coverage in mainstream media, and provided a further boost for Internet campaigning (Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 4). But for most commentators it was the emergence of Howard Dean in 2003 and his innovative use of social networking sites, in particular the blog, that really signalled the coming age of the Internet campaign (Hindman 2005, Wolf 2004, Williams and Weinburg 2004 in Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 5).

This chapter will further look at how blogs have merged into the landscape of political communication and identify some aspects necessary to comprehend to understand the medium’s role in the modern election campaign. The chapter will answer questions such as: What is a blog? How did blogs enter the political arena? Why can a blog serve as a useful communication instrument for political campaigns? And how can blogs influence politics?

Blog Campaigning: 3.1 What is a blog?

3.1 What is a blog? A blog, short for weblog, is: “a user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order” (Wikipedia 2007a, see also Stanyer 2006, p. 1, Blood in Williams et at. 2005, p. 2, Schiano et al. 2004, p. 1, Gill 2004, p. 1). Most blogs represent the personality of the author and are “intended for general public consumption” (Bytowninternet 2007). A blog is not necessarily text based. We also find examples of photo-blogs, video-blogs and audio-blogs. Common to them all is that they tend to provide commentaries or news on particular subjects (Wikipedia 2007a).

There are several reasons why the medium has become an interesting communication tool for politicians. First, blogs, contrary to mainstream media, “offer an unmanaged space for attitude expression that is not controlled by gatekeepers of various kinds” (Stanyer 2006, p. 405). Second, blogs are interactive. Most blogs allow visitors to respond to the author’s message (Stanyer 2006, p. 405). Blogs can therefore be used as vehicles for two-way communication where the author can create a dialogue with readers internally on the blog (Simmons 2005, pp. 2-3). Third, blogs connect with other blogs through so-called hyperlinks forming an overall universe of blogs, often referred to as the ‘blogosphere’ (Stanyer 2006, p. 406). Sroka (2007, p. 7) claims that linking is what renders blogs and the connection amongst them into what essentially is a very large conversation, turning the blogosphere into something more than a bunch of individuals ranting into cyberspace. This conversation occurs because most bloggers maintain a “blogroll” on their site – “a list of blogs that they frequently read or especially admire, with clickable links to the general URLs (web addresses) of those blogs” (Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 7) - and because bloggers deliberately link to each other through entries or so-called blog posts (this is a blog post) discussing whatever topics interest them (Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 7). Posts commenting on posts are a key form of information exchange in the blogosphere (Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 7).

The conversations and the public sphere created by this linking system present a new arena where politicians target messages, spread information, receive feedback and actively engage with potential supporters. Consequently, understanding the nature and structures within the blogosphere becomes a necessity for anyone intending to understand how blogs may impact politics or how politicians may influence blog audiences.

Blog Campaigning: 3.2 The blogosphere

3.2 The blogosphere Simmons (2005, p. 4) argues that the dynamics of the blogosphere can best be understood through “an estimation of the number of blogs as well as an analysis of the factors that influence a blog’s popularity and interactions between blogs”. This chapter will therefore present a brief history of the creation and expansion of blogs, and review the internal structures that define power relations within the blogosphere. Drezner and Farrell (2004, p. 5) are far from exaggerating when they claim that “the blogosphere has grown at an astronomical rate”. When Jorn Barger in 1997 coined the term ‘blog’ on his Robot Wisdom website only a handful of the kind were known to exist (Blood 2000). One and a half years later, in the beginning of 1999, only 23 blogs were known to be in existence (Blood 2000). A few months later the numbers started increasing rapidly.

“This rapid growth continued steadily until July 1999 when Pitas, the first free build-your-own-weblog tool launched, and suddenly there were hundreds. In August, Pyra released Blogger, and Groksoup launched, and with the ease that these web-based tools provided, the bandwagon-jumping turned into an explosion” (Blood 2000).

A heavy growth has continued ever since.

The medium’s popularity today can be reflected in Technorati’s latest state of blogging report. Technorati is according to Simmons (2005, p. 4) “the self-proclaimed ‘authority on what’s going on in the world of weblogs’”. The report, released in October 2006, states that the number of blogs had increased from less than 200,000 in March 2003 to over 57 million by October 2006 (Sifry 2006). Technorati’s founder and CEO David Sifry (in Johnson 2006) reported the same month that 175,000 blogs were created every single day - “about two every second of every day”. Three months later, by January 2, 2007, Technorati pegged the number of active blogs at around 63.2 million (Dalton 2007). The numbers had again grown to approximately 70 million by April 2007 (Sifry 2007) when the current study was about to be completed.

“Technorati is now tracking over 70 million weblogs, and we're seeing about 120,000 new weblogs being created worldwide each day. That's about 1.4 blogs created every second of every day” (Sifry 2007).

So what do these numbers tell us about the impact blogs have on politics and the possibility politicians have to influence bloggers?

Lawson-Border and Kirk (2005, p. 549) argue that the sheer number of blog sites is a measurement of the blogosphere’s importance. The current study on the other hand argues that this is not necessarily so. With the size of the blogosphere it is obvious that all blogs are not equally active nor are they equally valued as authorities. Weighing up the blogosphere’s importance in light of its scale might therefore portray a misleading image of its effective size. A survey conducted by the Perseus Development Company in 2003 found that 2.72 million blogs, 66.0 percent of all 4.12 million surveyed blogs, had not been updated in two months and were therefore considered “abandoned” (Henning 2003). Of these 2.72 million abandoned blogs, 1.09 million had been posted on only once and had not been touched since (Henning 2003). Similar, a study by Gartner Inc “calculated the total number of abandoned blogs at more than 200 million” (Dalton 2007) by the end of 2006. It might therefore be plausible to assume that the number of dying blogs will continue to grow in the future. Gartner Inc forecasted in their study that “the total number of active blogs would peak at 100 million in 2007 before dropping back and levelling off at around 30 million” (Dalton 2007). How then do we know which of the active blogs are perceived to have an influence on other blogs and the political environment outside the blogosphere?

An obvious approach to the question would be to examine how different directories and search engines rank blog authority – by authority meaning influence and popularity. Some sites measure authority by traffic, like, “which monitors the hit rate of all blogs that subscribe to it” (Stanyer 2006, p. 409). Other sites count the number of blogs that link back to a specific blog. There are two ways of doing this; one, used by sites like Technorati, is to count the number of any incoming links that a blog receives from other blogs (Gill 2004, Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 8); another is to count only links from blogs that are constant - links that do not appear in an entry, but are constantly viewable on a blogroll. Some would argue that constant links are more important than links found within daily entries “as they may lead to a quite significant increase in readership” (Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 8). However, there are several complications with all the measurement methods. Erin Simmons (2005, p. 5) points out some of these complications in her Senior Honour thesis:

“Measuring the daily traffic of a blog offers one measure of its popularity but alone may be too crude to understand the dynamics of the system. Additionally, measures of traffic do not distinguish users so one user may visit the same site ten times or ten users might visit the site once and the effect would appear the same. If we measure the number of unique inbound links to a particular blog, we may be able to ascertain the popularity of the blog relative to other blogs. More inbound links implies greater popularity in the blogosphere. But this measure is also imperfect as it implies that all links are equal when they are clearly not. For example, if I have a weblog and and my next-door neighbor both link to my weblog, it would be wrong to assume that both links are equally important. Links from more popular sites will bring more traffic to my blog” (Simmons 2005, p. 5).

Simmons (2005, p. 5) therefore argues that a blog’s authority can best be measured through a combination of the different methods.

However, despite the complications surrounding the different measuring methods, studies have found that in general the blogosphere can be seen as “an iceberg”, where a small group of blogs receive the vast amount of readership and incoming links (Drezner & Farrell 2004, Gill 2004, Herring et al. 2004). “The skewed distribution of weblog influence makes it easy for observers to extract information or analysis from blogs”, claim Drezner and Farrell (2004, p. 4), but it also makes it hard for newly established blogs to achieve authority on a topic or within a community where other blogs already have established a hierarchy: “Political parties, therefore, are competing to dominate in their narrow sphere of blog interest” argues Jackson (2006, p. 295). This might limit their political influence and potential outreach.

In summation, the paper has so far explored the key characteristics that make a blog an interesting tool for political parties and candidates to utilize for electioneering purposes, reviewed the structures of the medium that make up the universe of blogs that political parties and candidates now strived to reach, and identified power relations within the blogosphere. Before moving on to discuss how politicians actually use blogs and the effects they have on campaigns and elections, the paper will take a brief halt to look at how blogs attracted the attention of political campaign strategists, how bloggers have changed campaign communication, and what types of blogs we find in a political campaign today.

Blog Campaigning: 3.3 Blogs in campaigns

3.3 Blogs in campaigns Whilst political campaign blogs are only a few years of age, it is likely that politicians and campaign strategists started developing an interest in the medium in the beginning of the 21st century when a substantial online blog community rose to prominence in the United States (Bahnisch in Bruns & Jacobs 2006, p. 140). Political commentator blogs started gaining a widespread audience in 2001 and 2002 with Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish on the right, and Markos Moulitsas’ Daily Kos on the left (Bahnisch in Bruns & Jacobs 2006, p. 140). Assisted by the Iraq War and the U.S. presidential primaries and general election in 2004, the subsequent years saw the mainstreaming of the political blogosphere (Bahnisch in Bruns & Jacobs 2006, p. 141). The 2004 U.S. presidential election became the first election ever to see a campaign use a blog as an integral part of the campaign (Rice 2004, p. 1, Williams et al. 2005, p. 178).

Coggins (n.d.) argues that we can distinguish between three types of blogs found within political campaigns. These are: Official Candidate Blogs; “written and kept by politicians and their staff. These blogs are primarily used to report news, events and other information about a specific candidate's campaign trail” (Coggins n.d.); Candidate Supporter Blogs, “'unofficial' campaign blogs written and kept for particular candidates by individual or group supporters who are not officially part of that candidate's staff. Like Official Candidate Blogs, these blogs also contain news, events and other relevant information” (Coggins n.d.); and Political Commentary and News Blogs, which “do not typically support a particular candidate, even though specific bloggers/authors may have personal biases. The main purpose of these blogs is journalistic in nature: providing news and commentaries regarding different candidates' issues, events and platforms. These may be written and kept by individuals or by groups” (Coggins n.d.).

Although Coggins’ categories were coined in relation to the 2004 U.S. presidential election, they still remain useful as the main types of campaign blogs to play a role in elections. We should, however, add two new types of blogs to Coggins’ categories: Official Party Blogs and Party Supporter Blogs. Official Party Blogs basically serve the same functions as Official Candidate Blogs. Examples of party blogs are the U.S. Democratic Party’s official blog, Kicking Ass, and the official blog of the Republican National Committee. Surprisingly, few political parties in other western democracies have embraced blogs. The Germany Socialist party uses a platform or blog, Roteblogs, to encourage members to set up their own blogs in support of the party (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 6). In the UK we have lately seen the development of Party Supporter Blogs, like LabourHome and ConservativeHome, which have no official ties to the party they represent and basically serve the same functions as Candidate Supporter Blogs.

However, blogs are used in much more complex ways by campaigns today then they were in the 2004 election. Today, as opposed to the 2004 election, almost every campaign put elite bloggers on their campaign payroll (Armstrong 2007a, Glover 2006), “paying bloggers to write, develop Web sites, connect with energetic allies on the Internet, respond to online critics, and advise their employers about how to behave in the blogosphere” (Glover 2006). Bloggers have therefore, particularly in the U.S., become strategic advisors for campaigns. This might not come as a surprise considering the fact that the blogosphere today is 100 times as big as it was during the 2004 U.S. presidential election (Armstrong 2007a) and has a potential to reach a much larger audience. When blogs mainly relied on text to get their message across in the 2004 election, they have now become multimedia content producers. The creation of new social network sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. has made it easier for campaigns to embed videos, images and text and link to platforms that give them the potential to reach a much larger audience than before (Armstrong 2007a). Blogs therefore provide an arena and an environment that are constantly changing, so it is important to look at how previous literature has assessed the medium’s impact on campaigns and elections.

Blog Campaigning: 4. Literature review

Literature Review

“There is no doubt that, increasingly, a perception exists that blogs are heavily involved in the political sphere, as participants in agenda setting, in launching critiques of public policies, in interfacing with election campaigns, in influencing political debate and events and in sparking activism” (Bahnisch in Bruns and Jacobs 2003, p. 139).

Whilst this paper will focus mainly on the use and impact of what here is defined as candidate blogs or party blogs, it is essential that we also know of the existence and role of the other types of campaign blogs as well. Supporter blogs and political commentator blogs serve as important contributors, resources and springboards for official campaign blogs, and not surprisingly, many of the bloggers that today are engaged by official campaigns have a background from either a supporter blog or a political commentary blog.

There are two ways of addressing the impact of campaign blogs on political campaigns; one is to examine how the nature of blogs and the structures within the blogosphere potentially present an opportunity for politicians to influence voter decisions; another is to locate specific circumstances where blogs helped a campaign swing voters and produce an upset election outcome. This chapter will analyse how scholars to date have addressed these approaches.

The chapter will be divided into four sections; the first reviewing previous attempts to measure how web based campaigns have affected voting behaviour; the second examining how previous literature perceives the potential impact of blogs on the election process; the third examining how campaigns have utilized the medium as an electioneering tool to date; and the fourth discussing if, and how, the uses of blogs have impacted the direction of a campaign or the outcome of an election.

Blog Campaiging: 4.1 Measuring effects: Does web-campaigning win votes?

4.1 Measuring effects: Does web-campaigning win votes?

Studies attempting to measure the effects of web based campaigning are limited and the evidence that has emerged is mixed (Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 5).

Conducting one of the earliest analyses of the effects of web-campaigning D’Alessio found that websites had a strong effect on votes during the 1996 U.S. congressional election (Gibson & McAllister 2005, pp. 5-6). D’Alessio found that “a website provided a candidate with an additional 9,300 votes, after controlling for party affiliation and incumbency” (Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 5). However, sceptical of his own findings D’Alessio (1997, p. 498) argued that: “it seems very unlikely that each candidate’s web site inspired 9,300 (on the average) additional people to vote for that candidate”. He argues that it is more likely that (1) “Use of a web site may be an indication of the candidate's use of any of a wide variety of alternative methods of campaigning. That is, posting a Web site is one element of an entire suite of strategies employed by the candidate, the sum of whose payoffs is subsumed under the main effect for having a Web site in this analysis”, (2) “The Web site might not have induced people to change their votes (or convert) but instead may have inspired a number of people to vote who otherwise would not have”, and (3) “rather than the establishment of a Web site (or associated activities) leading to extra votes, instead candidates may establish Web sites in part as a result of opinion poll position” (D’Alessio 1997, p. 498).

The impact of web-campaigning has also been explained by a general growth in the audience seeking news and information online (Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 6). Several reports suggest that the number of people seeking news on the Internet, particularly when it comes to information about political campaigns, has grown significantly in the last few years (Williams et al. 2005, p. 177). A multivariate analysis performed by Farnsworth and Owen found that online news and information had a significant effect on people’s voter decisions in the 2000 U.S. presidential election (in Gibson & McAlister 2005, p. 7). Bimber and David came to the opposite view when they applied a more sophisticated multivariate analysis to the 2000 U.S. presidential election. The authors examined the impact of candidate websites on individuals’ levels of knowledge, positive or negative feelings and voting behaviour and found that “most people were not affected by what they viewed online, particularly in terms of being mobilised to vote” (Gibson & McAllister 2005, pp. 7-8). Analysing the 2001 and 2004 Australian federal election, Gibson and McAllister (2005, p. 16) found support for a hypothesis suggesting that the use of websites has a strong effect on people’s voting decision.

“Our results reveal support for the proposition that a web campaign is an integral part of securing victory in an election” (Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 16).

Gibson and McAllister found that:

“Candidates who maintained a web page increased their first preference vote by just over 4 percent, net of individual and party resources, party membership and other aspects of campaigning” (Gibson & McAllister 2005, p. 13).

The study concluded that the importance of having a website was only superseded by incumbency and party membership. However, Gibson and McAllister (2005, p. 17) argue that as the use of the web and email in campaigns becomes more mainstream one might see this effect become less profound.

It is clear that studies focusing on the effects of the web on the political process are in the same inconclusive state as Bartels (1993) and Berelson (in Diamond & Bates 1984) find the research in the “media effects” area to be. Some studies have found that electioneering via the Internet has “minimal effects” on people’s voting behaviour; other have found it to have “strong effects”. Some are sceptical of their own findings while some see the effects become less profound as the Internet becomes a more mainstream electioneering tool. Perhaps it is D’Alessio’s (1997) alternative explanations that so far give us the most comprehensive idea of the impact the Internet has on the political process. Even so, the inconclusive state of research on the subject clearly demonstrates an urgent need for more research to be carried out in the near future. Today the web plays a crucial part in any political campaign. We therefore need to ask which aspects about blogs can impact voter decisions, and whether previous attempts of identifying the relationship between web-campaigning and voter decisions also can be used to test the impact of blogs on contemporary elections. Furthermore, we need to ask which aspects of blogs, not before considered, can have an impact on political campaigns and help change the outcome of an election.

Blog Campaigning: 4.2 The potential impact of blogs

4.2 The potential impact of blogs Most scholars see the introduction of blogs to the political sphere as a major asset for political campaigns. Nigel Jackson (2006), for instance, argues that there are several aspects about blogs that might impact elections. First of all, bloggers present “a potential alternative to traditional media as gatekeepers of information and news” (Jackson 2006, p. 295). Bloggers have on several occasions proved that they can break major news stories (Jackson 2006, p. 295). For instance, it was bloggers that created the storm of protest that led to the resignation of Senate majority leader Trent Lott for comments he made on Senator Storm Thurmond’s 100th birthday party in December 2002, supporting Thurmond’s segregationist stance in the presidential election in 1948 (Jackson 2006, p. 295). The event was broadcast and reported in the mainstream press, but while bloggers denounced the remarks vigorously, it took the mainstream media almost a week to devote significant coverage to Lott’s comments (Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 3). Bloggers were also credited for creating the media storm that lead to CBS reporter Dan Rather’s resignation in 2004 (Jackson 2006, p. 295) after he presented false documents critical of President George W Bush's service in the United States National Guard during a 60 Minutes report in the lead up to the election (Eberhart 2005). Blogs questioned the authenticity of the documents within hours and the content soon spread to the mass media (Eberhart 2005, Pein 2005). Jackson (2006, p. 295) claims, therefore, that: “the impact of weblogs appears to be helping to set the political or news agenda”. Similar, Sroka (2007, p. 9) reports that the vast majority of the academic literature “has pinned the blogosphere’s potential for influence on its ability to sway, guide, and, generally, shape the way the media sees and frames political events”. Furthermore, Jackson (2006, p. 296), supported by Drezner and Farrell (2004), argues that it appears blogs have the capability of ‘influencing the influencers’. “The impact of political blogs is not so much who is producing them, rather it is whether they attract influential visitors”, claims Jackson (2006, p. 296). Studies have found that a high percentage of visitors to political blogs are opinion makers: political reporters, politicians and policy makers (Bloom in Jackson 2006, p. 296, Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 4), and because certain opinion-makers take blogs seriously, the medium can have a wide impact on the political agenda (Drezner & Farrell 2004, p. 22). However, blogs also have a potential to influence voters that goes beyond their ability to occasionally set the news agenda (Jackson 2006, p. 296). What also strikes Jackson (2006, p. 296) is that bloggers are ‘techno-activists’ (coined by Kahn & Keller in Jackson 2006, p. 296), “so that their community is often ‘political’ in nature”. This, he claims, opens up the possibility of mobilizing this community. But what is even more important, is that blogs are unique in the way that they enable political actors to communicate at two different levels at the same time:

“First, they can narrowcast to a very small number of key opinion formers to influence the political agenda. Second, they can broadcast to as many people as possible to try and influence their individual opinion. Potentially, political parties and candidates can reach a range of voters who visit the blogosphere” (Jackson 2006, p. 296).

Abold and Heltsche (2006, p. 1) argue that blogs can make a successful contribution to political campaigns because they combine two main elements of political communication, namely openness and interactivity. Blogs consequently meet the growing demand for authentic and personal communication expected by the post-modern voter as they not only provide valuable information, but also enforce political discussions with citizens (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 1). A more technical feature that makes blogs a potentially effective campaigning tool is, according to Abold and Heltsche (2006, p. 2), the high rank of blog articles in Internet search engines. Blog articles rank high in search engines because of their linking system. Most of the search engines’ algorithms work in the way that they rank pages higher if the sites that link to that page use a consistent anchor text (Wikipedia 2007b) – “the text a user clicks when clicking a link on a web page” (Wikipedia 2007c). However, several recent sources claim that search engines, in particular Google, are working hard to change their algorithm after bloggers in the election battles of 2004 and 2006 organised so called ‘Google Bombing campaigns’ (see Easter 2007, Cutts 2007, Wikipedia 2007b) - attempts to intentionally influence the ranking of pages and articles in order to drive as many voters as possible toward the most damning, non-partisan article written on a candidate (Bowers 2006a).

Nonetheless, it is one thing to discuss the potential influence blogs may have on political campaigns, but looking at how political parties and candidates actually use the medium might give a different perspective of the mediums’ capabilities as an electioneering tool.

Blog Campaigning: 4.3 The uses of blogs in political campaigns

4.3 The uses of blogs in political campaigns

“One of the key questions that should concern any study of the potential affect of blogs on politics and policy development are how politicians themselves are utilizing the new communications technologies” (Sroka 2007, p. 22).

Academic literature examining uses of blogs in political campaigns has mainly focused on the 2004 U.S. presidential election as this was the first campaign ever to see a political candidate use a blog as an integral part of a campaign (Rice 2004, p. 1, Williams et al. 2005, p. 178).

The candidate leading the technological revolution was Howard Dean (Trammell 2005, p. 2). Dean and his campaign team were especially open to new strategies. In planning the campaign, the team looked at previous Internet successes to create a new model of online communication that was genuine in its ability to reach out to supporters (Rice 2004, p. 6). Dean therefore created an official campaign blog, Blog for America, developed a massive email list of supporters and embraced online forums and tools as means to organize events and rallies (Rice 2004, pp. 5-6). The idea behind his strategy was to allow for volunteers to take a key role in the development and processes of the campaign (Rice 2004, pp. 5-6). Nonetheless, Dean never achieved his final goal of becoming the 44th president to govern the United States. Whether his campaign was successful or not has therefore been the topic of numerous debates. Yet, some scholars argue that Dean’s online campaign strategies in many ways made him a successful candidate. Rice (2004, p. 6), for instance, argues that Dean’s success can be measured by his ability to use the web to raise more funds than any other Democratic candidate, recruit more than 500 000 supporters and propel him to frontrunner status. Several scholars also argue that Dean’s online presence made a significant impact on the political agenda (see Rice 2004, Trammell 2005, Williams et al. 2005).

“[…] the media noticed Dean’s Internet success and wrote extensively about his use of technology, creating even a bigger buzz and generating plenty of earned media that none of the other Democratic candidates were receiving” (Rice 2004, p. 6).

In fact, Trammell (2005, pp. 2-3) argues, the buzz became so loud that the other candidates followed suit and integrated a blog to their campaign toolkit. As a result, more than half of the primary candidates ended up operating a campaign blog during the 2004 election (Williams et al. 2005, p. 180).

However, as many would have expected when a technological innovation suddenly becomes a central part of a campaign’s message management machinery without the campaign getting the chance to explore the innovation’s usability, audiences experienced a huge variation in the way candidates expressed themselves through their blogs. Bloom and Kerbel argue that candidates mainly used their blog for three functions during the campaign: “diffusing information to internal audiences; building up a volunteer base; agenda setting of the mainstream media” (in Jackson 2006, p. 196). Blogs were either “written by the candidate himself or herself, ghostwritten for the candidate, or authored and identified by another member of the campaign staff” (Trammell in Conners 2005, p. 5). Only some of the campaigns invited voters to comment on their blog. Most often the blogs were only used for one-way communication purposes, spreading information from the campaign to prospective voters (see Rice 2004). In general this is to say that most blogs did not present any new features that were not already presented on their campaign website.

Not surprisingly many studies argue that the candidate that made the most of his blog was the only candidate that was properly prepared for a campaign that focused on Internet outreach, namely Howard Dean. Williams et al. (2005, p. 180) found that Dean used his blog more actively than any of the other candidates when it came to voter outreach. He included more features on his blog than any other candidate “by letting visitors comment on blog posts and subscribe to the blog through syndication (RSS, XML). He also categorized the blogposts by subject and posted ‘‘trackback’’ data showing the context and links to other (noncampaign-related) discussions of particular blog posts” (Williams et at. 2005, p. 180). Additionally, Dean embraced unofficial campaign blogs by creating a blogroll linking to numerous unofficial supporter blogs (Rice 2004, p. 13). Dean used his blog to transmit a stream of information concerning the campaign, including “information of upcoming events, review of events, campaign updates, volunteer activities, open-thread dialog, fundraising goals and returns, reviews of debates and press coverage, and pictures”, argues Rice (2004, pp. 12-13). Readers were constantly encouraged to post their own comments and promote entries and links to other blogs that referenced the campaign (Rice 2004, pp. 12-13). These findings were also supported by Kerbel and Bloom (2005, p. 1), which by analysing the content of 3,066 unique posts encompassing every entry in the Dean blog from March 15, 2003 through January 27, 2004, found that the campaign used the blog to encourage its audience to discuss media coverage of the campaign and “facilitate discourse about Dean’s positions on issues and public policy in general”. Kerbel and Bloom (2005, p. 11) also found that Dean’s team used the blog’s interactive capabilities to engage bloggers in tactical exercises such as: “writing letters to undecided voters, canvassing, and organizing campaign events”, and that the blog played a significant role in the campaign’s largely successful fundraising effort (Dean raised over 40 million dollars for his campaign) (Kerbel & Bloom 2005, pp. 11-14).

“Giving money became a cathartic experience for bloggers who felt attached to the Dean campaign through their membership in the virtual community that the blog created. […] Campaign officials encouraged this giving by playing up goals and benchmarks” (Kerbel & Bloom 2005, p. 14).

In conclusion, the previous literature argues that through his blog, Dean, more than any other candidate, invited supporters and volunteers to play a key role in the campaign process. Perhaps his efforts are best summed up in a Slate article published November 2003:

“The metaphor of choice for Howard Dean's Internet-fueled campaign is "open-source politics": a two-way campaign in which the supporters openly collaborate with the campaign to improve it, and in which the contributions of the "group mind" prove smarter than that of any lone individual” (Suellentrop 2003).

Most of the other candidates running for presidency in 2004 chose not to make their blog as active and open as Dean did. Wesley Clark’s blog offered a fairly high degree of interactivity: “thanks to his hiring of a well-known blogger, Cameron Barrett, early in his campaign”, argues Conners (2005, p. 5). Otherwise, Rice (2004) found that the other campaign blogs were used more as conventional news wires and websites than blogs. For example: neither of the selected candidates, Bush and Kerry, used their blog as a major opportunity for fundraising (Williams et al. 2005, p. 181). Bush did not allow his readers to submit comments on his blog (Rice 2004, pp. 21-22), while Kerry experienced huge problems with spam posting and had to close down his comment section for parts of the campaign (Rice 2004, p. 18).

Although more limited in numbers, a few studies have been conducted on politicians’ use of campaign blogs after the 2004 presidential election. A paper by Joan Conners (2005, p. 7) discussing technological developments within the U.S. Senate campaign websites in 2004, found that only 26.3 percent of the candidates included a blog in their campaign toolkit during the senatorial race. Conners found that:

“Some blogs appeared to be little more than campaign calendars of events, or abbreviated press releases, while others summarized campaign events or attempted to motivate voters to take action (donate, register to vote, attend events, etc.). Many provided links to news coverage of the campaign or one’s opponents” (Conners 2005, p. 8).

A study conducted by The Bivings Group in an effort to assess the role of the Internet in the 2006 U.S. senatorial election found that in the beginning of the campaign only 23 percent (of the 77 candidates explored by the report) included a blog in their campaign repertoire (Internet’s Role in Political Campaigns 2006). However, after revisiting the data from the study after the campaign was over, The Bivings Group found that more candidates had added blogs to their campaign toolkit during the campaign.

“In our original study, 23% of the candidates had blogs on their websites. After the shrinking of the candidate pool (many candidates dropped out after losing their primaries) and the addition of a few new blogs, this number has increased to 41%. 31% of incumbents now have blogs and 50% of challengers offer blogs on their sites” (Telling 2006a).

Representing The Bivings Group, Erin Telling stated on the company’s official blog, The Bivings Report, that the report found that most campaigns used their blog to present the same top-down material found in press releases and candidate websites (Telling 2006a).

“A few […] blogs stand out from the political norm: Ned Lamont’s blog is particularly robust, and actually resembles a “real” blog. The quality of Lamont’s blog has been largely credited with his defeat of incumbent Joe Lieberman in Connecticut’s primary. Jean Hay Bright’s blog appears to be sincere in content, but it lacks comments, links, and a blogroll. John Spencer’s blog has the opposite problem: it allows comments and offers Web 2.0 features, but the content is nothing more than candidate press releases. Of these new blogs, those of Mark Kennedy, and Joe Lieberman are probably the worst, as they don’t publish comments and lack personal content. The remaining blogs, (Cantwell, Casey, Ensign, McGavick, Menendez, and Stabenow) followed this vein, and while not terrible, are really nothing to speak of. In my opinion, bad and phony blogging looks worse than choosing not to blog. With this in mind, my advice to candidates would be to only pursue a campaign blog if they have the time and good intentions to offer constituents unique and interesting material. A blog full of press releases and opponent attacks is not going to impress anyone” (Telling 2006a).

The uses of blogs in election campaigns have also been the subject of studies outside the U.S. And while it must be pointed out that a cross country comparison might prove difficult because of the variations among the different political systems, it can still be useful to explore how parties and candidates outside the U.S. have embraced the new trend.

The general election in Germany 2005 was the first of its kind to see party organisations and political candidates use blogs to establish contact with voters (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 1). Abold and Heltsche (2005, pp. 7-8) found that during the election over 100 blogs were run by politicians and parties at a state or federal level. However, many of these were short lived. The vast majority of the blogs lacked interconnectedness and interactivity (Adamic & Glance in Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 13). As a consequence they “missed the opportunity to develop a cross-blog dialogue” (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 13). A similar study of the British general election in 2005 showed that party blogs were “essentially used as one-way communication channels which added colour to party web sites” (Jackson 2006, p. 292).

On a final note, before moving on to discuss how the candidates’ use of blogs might have impacted voter decisions, it could be useful to briefly delve into a very recent and unique study looking at how candidates themselves perceive the usefulness and effects of the blog as a communication tool. The study, conducted by Sroka (2007), found that:

“[…] offices on Capitol Hill are less optimistic about a congressional blogs’ effectiveness in reaching the media than its potential to communicate with the blogosphere-at-large or even political opponents” (Sroka 2007, p. 25).

Explaining the findings, Sroka (2007, p. 25) argues that this might suggest that “Congressional offices feel they already have other effective means to communicate with the media and thus do not need blogs to do so”. Sroka (2007, p. 25) also suggests that the findings might mean that offices are trying to utilize blogs and have found them useful as a tool to reach out to bloggers or voters in general.

This section has looked at how political candidates and parties have utilized blogs in political campaigns. Judged by the literature discussing the subject it looks as if few parties or candidates have managed to fully embrace the features that make the blog a useful and successful campaigning instrument. The paper will therefore further explore what, if any, impact the previous literature argues that the tool have had on specific campaigns or elections from 2004 to 2007.

Blog Campaigning: 4.4 The impact of blogs

4.4 The impact of blogs Lawson-Border and Kirk (2005, p. 548) claim that blogging did not have a significant impact on the outcome of the 2004 U.S. presidential election. They do, however, argue that the effectiveness of blogs was demonstrated in the election campaign, and that an emerging application of the tool paved the way for future campaign communication. But it was political commentator blogs, not campaign blogs that achieved this:

“Freed from the economic pressures, bloggers opened doors and created pockets of public opinion that pressured the mainstream into assessing the validity of stories the dominant parties and candidates might be tempted to suppress” (Lawson-Border & Kirk 2005, p. 550).

The problem with many of the campaigns was that they, as with the introduction of any new media, used the tool without knowing what specific communication function it could serve (Lawson-Border & Kirk 2005, p. 557).

“Some campaigns used them because it is considered hip, whereas others used them strategically or not at all” (Lawson-Border & Kirk 2005, p. 557).

Rice (2004, p. 4), on the other hand, claims that the Internet and emerging technologies made a “profound impact” on the presidential campaign.

“Online campaigning has revolutionized political communication, grassroots activism, supporter outreach, and fundraising. Ten years ago, the Internet was barely used in politics; today it is an innovative, informative, interactive, and a creative tool that transformed Presidential campaigning” (Rice 2004, p. 4).

Gill (2004, p. 4) claims that given the fact that people during the election were increasingly using the Internet to retrieve political content, it was no surprise most of the candidates included blogs on their website. A Pew Internet and American Life Project survey of the 2004 Internet users found that “40 percent of those online sought material related to the election” (in Williams et al. 2005, pp. 177-178). Even more interestingly the survey found that Internet users were not using the Internet merely to reinforce political opinion, “rather, Internet users who seek political material are more aware of arguments in support and opposition to their preferred candidates” (Williams et al. 2005, p. 178). Should we therefore assume that blogs at least have the capability to influence the decisions of some of these potential voters?

In an effort to assess the impact of campaign blogs in the 2006 U.S. senatorial election Erin Teeling (2006b) of The Bivings Group compared the number of winning and losing candidates who included a blog in their campaign. It turned out that of the 26 candidates including a campaign blog, 13 ended up winning and 13 ended up losing the race in which they competed (Teeling 2006b). Teeling, clearly assuming that the effect of blogs can be measured by a simple quantification of a winning-losing dichotomy, stated that: “This factor surprised me because I expected the Internet would play a more effectual role in this cycle's elections” (Teeling 2006b). In a commentary to the report she further stated:

“At any rate, Democratic candidate blogs, which tend to be a bit more well-developed than their republican counterparts, fared slightly better in this year's elections than Republican candidate blogs. Democratic candidates with blogs had a record of 11-5, while Republicans were 3-8. In the six races where both Republican and Democratic candidates had blogs (VA, PA, CT, WA, NV, UT), Republicans won 2 races and Democrats won 2 races, and Joe Lieberman, an independent, won the race in Connecticut. Overall, the average margin of victory or loss by candidates with blogs was 20%. This figure was significantly smaller in 2-blog races, where the margin of victory/loss was just 5%. I believe that these results indicate that there are many factors that contribute to a campaign victory. The presence of a campaign blog or aggressive campaign Web strategy may contribute to the outcome of the election, but will not be the deciding factor” (Teeling 2006b).

During the German general election in 2005, Abold and Heltsche looked at the attention of voters toward campaign blogs as an indicator for success of blog based campaigning. They conducted a two-wave survey among users of online campaign sources, recruiting respondents by posting a link to the survey in political oriented Internet forums (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 13). Their findings suggest that political party blogs lacked originality and did therefore not manage to strike the right tone to inspire voters (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 18). Only 17 percent of the respondents agreed to the statement: “Weblogs have an effect on public opinion”. 20 percent of the respondents believed that blogs were important within political campaigns (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 18). Not surprisingly, active blog users – users that regularly read and comment in all kinds of political blogs – rated the importance of blogs significantly higher than all the other respondents (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 18). In conclusion, Abold and Heltsche (2006, p. 18) stated that “voters perceive weblogs not as an effective way to influence the outcome of an election”.

Similar, a study of the use of blogs in the British general election in 2005 found that the impact of blogs was fairly limited. The study suggested, however, that some blogs might have had a PR value, helping candidates raise their profile during the campaign (Jackson 2006, p. 300). Some of the smaller parties claimed that their blog helped them put the Party higher up on search engines on a range of issues, which again helped make the parties more visible on the web (Jackson 2006, p. 300).

In conclusion the previous literature reveals that there is still a huge gap in the research focusing on how blogs impact the outcome of an election. So far little has been said about the immediate or direct effects of blogging on a particular campaign race or the outcome of an election. Less has been said about how we can actually measure this relationship. In an effort to generate a better understanding of this relationship, the paper will further present new data that views the subject from a blogger’s perspective.