January 18, 2007

America's taking online politics seriously… but are we?

Millions of Americans were using the internet to learn more about the Midterm elections last year, with an average of 26million people logging on every day.

Research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that 15% of Americans chose the internet as their main source of election news, up from 7% in 2002. And 23% of those people were forwarding political commentary or videos on a blog, making it – perhaps – the most interactive election in history.

The busiest month of the online campaign was August, which is traditionally very quiet in American political campaigns.

Pew Research Project figures

As far as I know, these figures are broadly similar (in direction, at least) to the situation in the UK. We’re seeing a very similar picture in the decline of newspapers and television, while radio is holding up. Magazines are more complicated as some political publications (New Statesman etc) have struggled, while The Economist has been a runaway success story.

But on the internet, I wonder if we are seeing the same levels of engagement. While political blogs here are catching up with those in the U.S., more traditional websites (especially those of the main political parties) are very poor in comparison. Compare the British Labour Party website (here) with that of Democrat Presidential hopeful John Edwards (here) which is far more interactive and fresh.

There’s an interesting game of spot-the-difference to be played when looking at Democrat and Republican sources of news. Is there a similar split in the UK?

Pew Research Project figures (3)

Finally, while newspapers and TV seem to be in decline, it’s not all bad news for them as long as they’re willing to move their operations online:

Pew Research Project figures (2)

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