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These ideas have been around a long time. The first web site in this space with a civic mission dates back to 1994:
In 1999 the ".com" boom swept up a number of folks with the notion that they could make money on essentially a civic mission. Someone from Voter.com once said to me, "stock options Steve, stock options." To which I replied, "I can help you lose less money."
By 2000, sites like SpeakOut.com, Voter.com and later Policy.com and Politics.com fizzled as economic models. Grassroots.com shifted gears and pass the once .org DNet to the League of Women Voters who then partnered last cycle with one of the few commercial survivors Capitol Advantage which runs Congress.org (they used to make print political directories for lobbyists/etc. pre-Internet days and it looks like DNet is now gone.) In the end, the incumbent media brands won the day in terms of provision and access to _value-added_ election information.
More from 2000:
With HotSoup.com they claim they will be "the first platform dedicated to bringing together these influential audiences." (Opinion Drivers) If they succeed, yes at a _national_ level, but we've been doing this and something more inclusive in Minnesota since 1994 and locally since 1998 with our forums. In fact our lesson is that local efforts have the most potential as national partisanship struck deeper into Minnesota's state politics. The HotSoup model seems to suggest a more elite approach as connect celebrity opinion drivers with what others call influentials.*
While I am supportive of any effort (particularly those with real everyday citizens as volunteers) which give citizens better access to information and community that helps them engage in elections and politics, if it has to generate a profit to survive as a business ... good luck.
Steven Clift http://publicus.net
- See some interesting reports from the Institute for Politics
Democracy, and the Internet:
Putting Online Influentials to Work for Your Campaign July 2004: Putting Online Influentials to Work for Your Campaign describes the techniques that the Bush campaign and others have adopted to take advantage of the unique characteristics of online political Influentials--their persuasive ability, their political activism and their large social networks.
Political Influentials Online in the 2004 Presidential Campaign February 2004: A new community of citizens defined the 2004 presidential campaign. These citizens are Internet-oriented, politically energized, and they support their candidates by visiting their websites, joining Internet discussion groups, reading political Web logs and making political contributions over the Internet. Even before the first primary, they played a pivotal role in the campaign, and they may be harbingers of permanent change in American politics.
Pioneers in Online Politics: Nonpartisan Political Web Sites in the 2000 Campaign
August 2004: During the 2000 election, political information Web sites such as Voter.com, Freedom Channel and DebateAmerica were heralded as the new way to engage Americans in politics. Then the dot- com crash occurred, and many of them closed their cyber-doors permanently. What happened? Pioneers in Online Politics looks at the collapse of online politics after the 2000 election and suggests a new roadmap for providers of political information online.
Nonpartisan Poltical Web Sites: Best Practices Primer August 2004: Nonpartisan political Web sites have a mixed track record. Many of the innovations launched during the 2000 election have since disappeared. However, the online political community is enormous and growing, creating great opportunities for effective nonpartisan political Web sites during the 2004 election and beyond. This primer puts forth a series of recommendations and best practices designed to revive political information Web sites now and in the future.