Monday, January 06, 2003

The snooze on online politics. The Pew Internet & American Life Project has a new report out today on the extent to which people go online for political news. And though the report -- with the scintillating title of "Modest Increase in Internet Use for Campaign 2002" -- is entirely non-startling, there is one aspect that jumps out: the most common practice reported was visiting the websites of large, established media such as the New York Times, CNN, and local news organizations. How ... uninteresting.

The Pew survey did report an increase since 2000 from 19 percent to 32 percent in "online election news consumers" who "went most often to government and candidate websites or sites that specialize in politics." But the overall percentage of people who reported getting any political news online has increased only modestly since 1998 (from 15 percent to 22 percent). The preferred source of political news for most people remains television.

A few years ago, it looked as though politics was going to move to the Internet in a big way. The paradigmatic example was, which hired Watergate veteran Carl Bernstein to make the rounds on its behalf during the 2000 campaign. But began downsizing before Election Day, although it still exists in diminished form -- complete with a blurb from a piece that I wrote for the Phoenix three years ago calling it "the one essential site." Sorry, but it doesn't look all that essential these days.

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