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Tuesday, October 05, 2004  

Internet: Kerry campaign ups online ads

This evening's stellar performance by John Edwards, the Democratic nominee for vice president, in his debate with Dick Cheney, is more of what has been days of glad tidings for the John Kerry campaign. Reputable polls are showing increases in support for the contender. Some say he is tied with the incumbent, George W. Bush. Kerry is perceived as having won the first debate and is favored to prevail in the second. Bush's awkward presentation of himself and his failing policy in Iraq have resulted in doldrums in the White House. Wired reports that Kerry strategists are not wasting their newfound momentum. They will be promoting their message harder than ever. One of the places they will put their money where their mouth is is online.

The presidential campaigns and the major political parties have mostly ignored online advertising as a way to reach voters in the 2004 election, according to a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That is, until now.

After Thursday night's debate between Sen. John Kerry and President George W. Bush, the Democratic National Committee bought roughly $400,000 worth of ads on 50 sites, including USA Today ,The Washington Post , MSNBC, The New York Times, Salon.com, Weather.com, ESPN.com and Movieline.com. The DNC also bought ads on local news sites. In a few days, it almost doubled its entire online advertising budget for the previous eight months.

And the DNC isn't done. The party plans to have another online media blitz after Tuesday night's debate between the vice presidential candidates, Sen. John Edwards and Vice President Dick Cheney, said Jano Cabrera, the DNC's communications director.

Again, the Democrats will have good news to tout. Edwards, in early analyses, was perceived as having won his debate.

However, it is difficult to say what a victory in online advertising means overall. Indications are that the blitzes have been very effective in reaching some potential voters.

[Doug] Kelly said the DNC site had so many visitors that it deactivated the visitor log feature. "It takes up so much bandwidth, so we turned it off," he said. Kelly said Kerry's site, JohnKerry.com , had three times the number of visitors the night of the debate that it had the night of his convention speech. Twenty thousand signed up to be volunteers.

The DNC also raised $4 million the day of the debate, said Nancy Eiring, director of the DNC's grass-roots fund-raising efforts. Between 9 p.m. and midnight, she said, the party brought in $10,000 a minute. Eiring added that the DNC ads on national websites had a staggeringly high click-through rate of 5 percent.

If online advertising leads those undecided voters to cast their lots with Kerry, that is grounds for rejoicing for Democrats. But the demographics involved strike me as ambiguous. More than half of Americans have Internet access. But, the access is not always at home. Delayed viewing of material meant to influence opinion has less of an effect. An estimated forty-seven percent of Americans are not online. Some, a minority, have chosen not to surf the Web. Most people without Internet access are on the wrong side of the Digital Divide. They can't afford computers or the fees for Internet Service Providers, which average about $20 monthly for dialup, and about $50 monthly for a Digital Subscriber Line or cable modem access. Contrary to what Vice President Cheney would have us believe, Americans are divided by class. The poor and working-class, those least likely to have Internet access at home, are those most likely to vote for Democrats. The increased online advertising by the party may develop or confirm support by middle-class voters. But, efforts to get out the vote among low-income Americans should continue to be in the form of television ads, phone calls, mailings and door-to-door canvassing. There's no question about it. The age of Internet advertising is arriving. But, exposure to those messages is not available to many potential voters.

What's the art?

A logo for Rock the Vote, a voter registration project.

11:00 PM