In the class, I wrote a journal article review of The impact of web site campaigning on traditional news media and public information processing, written by Kaid, Ku, and Pfau, and published in 2003 in the Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly journal. They argue that the attention given to the usage of the Internet in setting public agendas, both by providing information to media outlets and directly through the voters, has lagged behind its growth and has provided far less critical understanding of how the Internet influences the media and public than more traditional methods of communication, such as television advertising and media relations.
Nearly ten years after the take-off of the Internet, its ability to influence the public is still poorly understood. This is one reason why as recently as 2004, we see campaigns learning how to best utilize the Internet via trial-and-error processes that have resulted in both amazing innovation as well as brilliant failures, with the best example of both to be found in the high-flying crash of Howard Dean's short-lived Presidential campaign.
Unlike most campaigns who fail to ever effectively utilize the Internet, Dean's campaign managed to do some groundbreaking work, such as revolutionizing fundraising and organizing activists via their campaign website. However, these amazing steps forward were for naught, as Dean's campaign quickly crashed with the initial Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, squandered a tremendous war-chest, and capitalize on a tremendous volunteer base. In spite of their many advantages, many of which can be attributed to their pionnering use of the Internet, Dean's campaign vanished while the Democratic contest for the 2004 Presidential nomination continued for several weeks between Clark, Edwards and Kerry.
From the failure of Dean's campaign, we find valuable lessons to be learned. Their innovative use of the Internet is well worth studying and duplicating. However, I believe that understanding how to more consistently and effectively integrate a campaign's Internet efforts with more traditional aspects of campaigns, while avoiding the duplication of their failures, is just as important.
For those of you who want to read what I wrote, here's the link.