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Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Impact of Publications on Networking (Part 2)

By Matthew Best, Political Editor

Last month we started to explore the relationship between political publications and networking by interviewing Chris Voccio of The Pennsylvania Republican for a conservative take on the issue.

This month I had an opportunity to interview Mike Lazzaro - known as “Hunter” on Daily Kos. Daily Kos, in case you were not aware of it, is the most visited political blog in the world. According to Mike, Daily Kos is a community website dedicated towards progressive, liberal and Democrat Party goal. It exists to influence the agenda by reporting on what’s going on and have opinions and providing a forum for those opinions.

When I asked Mike about what impact networking had on the website he said that what they are attempting to do at Daily Kos would be difficult without the internet. The Internet “allows people to come together with common interests” from all over the world, whereas previously, geographic boundaries isolated communities. “The internet allows interest groups to operate on a national level and as a result – have exponentially more influence than 100’s of local groups could ever have.”

I asked Mike what kind of impact the website had on networking. He mentioned that it has been slow in making an impact on politics, but recently Daily Kos has been seen as more of a part of the national media stream and hence had more influence on the Party and the media. “Our site is changing how politicians interact with constituencies because we can organize nationally. Subgroups start to form by states or causes making these subgroups more efficient structures.” Overall geography is not a barrier as it once was.

One of the main reasons I wanted to interview Mike was because of Daily Kos’ uniqueness. Beyond the number of hits the site receives every day, the site has also done some interesting activities to test “online work in the real world,” as Mike puts it.

The website sponsored a conference “Yearly Kos,” to gather fans of the site along with activists. “People wanted to test if online action and activism could have real world effects. So the conference was really an experiment.” It was a success by their standards and they have since renamed the conference “Netroots National Convention,” to expand the focus of the conference and cover what the convention is really about – online grassroots activism.

When I asked Mike for his thoughts on how well publications were tapping into established social networks, he said that they “don’t do a good job of tapping into each other,” or blogs, Facebook, etc. Mike stated that he didn’t know why it hasn’t happened yet beyond to answer that he thinks that most of the publications aren’t sure how to yet.

Lastly, I asked Mike about what trends he saw in political networking. He said that political networks are “getting larger and more professionalized” when it comes to online networking. He mentioned that the trend is to move away from the many “single-voice communities” like blogs where only one person is writing to multi-voice communities. The reason for this trend is that “members are demanding higher levels of quality” which means there is more work, and too much work for just one person anymore. Mike’s thought about trends in online publications is that they will continue to look more and more like newspapers, “but where the community writes the content.”

Stay tuned next month for an interview I did on government, business, and networking.

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