The Internet is no longer a political sideshow. In the 2008 presidential campaign, it has emerged as one of the main stages.
Keep reading the press and watching the cable talking heads, but, if you want to see the complete campaign picture, also check out the Internet. Campaign coverage is now a three-ring circus: press, cable talk and the Internet.
A detailed national survey of 2,251 adults conducted between April 8 and May 11 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project convincingly demonstrates the Internet's current role--one that has more dimensions than the traditional newspaper and television outlets. The latter two communicate messages from a single source to a collective audience. But the Internet is literally a network--www, remember, is an acronym for World Wide Web.
Most conventionally, the Internet has become a more attractive destination to access information. In Spring 2008, 40 percent have already "looked online for news or information about the (presidential) campaign."
That's up from 31 percent in Spring 2004 and 16 percent in Spring 2000.
For those younger than 50, half are checking out political news on the Internet. The shares are even higher for college graduates (65 percent) and those with household incomes of more than $75,000 (63 percent). On the average April 2008 day, almost one in four Americans turned to the Internet for political content.
Blogs, political ads on rise
What visitors find on the net goes well beyond print and television content. Candidates are increasingly placing both their television spots and made-for-Internet-only ads on the Web. Political blogs conveniently provide hot links, making access only a click away. The Pew Survey finds that 29 percent have viewed at least one campaign ad online so far this year.
Campaign junkies no longer have to channel flip through the 10 p.m. local television newscasts to discover who is attacking whom for what. In Missouri, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's "Political Fix," the Kansas City Star's "Prime Buzz" and the Columbia Daily Tribune's "Political Blog" point the way to the Internet source.
Bloggers--professionals, semi-pros and amateurs--are also generating Internet-only video and stories. …