Blog for America

Blog for America was a blog setup for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential democratic campaign run. Regular contributors used the blog as a highly social space. Many claimed that it had a real, tangible, feeling although it was online. It provided a means for old-fashioned retail politics on a mass scale.
Most of the content in this article is from the work of Bloom and Kerbel.[1]

Operation

A team tied to the campaign was responsible for maintaining the blog. They would provide the post and encourage others to follow-up with their comments, thoughts, and ideas. While the contributors were limited to a select number of individuals, many thousands would contribute through comments. Kate O’Connor, an assistant to Dean would often include images and other rich media items that brought life to the virtual space.

Attention Grabber

The blog served as a mainstream media replacement because Dean was not yet a frontrunner. As Dean’s campaign gained more and more attention from traditional media, the discourse on the blog actually changed to more mainstream. However, it still served as a platform to discuss issues that were overlooked by major network channels. Similarly, Blog for America could raise interest in topics that it believed to be important.

Involvement

Unlike older online technologies, Blog for America provided a space for people to vent and voice their opinions. Since this was an open platform people were more likely to contribute even if they were simply voicing their own opinion. In doing so, they raised their social capital and were more likely to become involved in return. Through this feedback method, the blog took on an activist role and people believed they were being heard. Attempting to do so in with traditional media is nearly impossible. Some claim that Blog for America turned thousands of supporters into political activists which was something that was impossible with traditional media.

Due to the online nature of the blog, it was easy to link to other online resources. There were many cases in which posts would contain links to petitions and other online services. Members would frequently start meetups by which they would organize social events online that would take place in the real world. Although Blog for America, was typically a communication channel, it also provided tools for its visitors. These tools included the ability to build a customized Howard Dean poster.

The site also served as a massive source for fundraising that was otherwise unobtainable. They were able to indirectly raise money instead of having to make phone calls or make other direct requests. Since the blog was public, it was sporadically populated with comments attacking Dean. Members made a pact that each time a detrimental comment was posted, the members would donate to the campaign. When awareness about the tactic rose, malicious comments appeared to fade.

Growth

The blog grew heavily in popularity until Dean appeared as one of the major front-runners. At that time, the number of users appear to plateau. Some claim that this was most likely due to limitations of internet access. This focuses on issues of both internet access and the demographics of blog readers. The campaign claimed that had internet access been more prevalent, they would have seen continual growth throughout the race for the presidency.

Bibliography
1. Bloom and Kerbel. "Blog for America and Civic Involvement." The International Journal of Press/Politics. 2005. http://hij.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/10/4/3.pdf
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