Saturday, June 20, 2009

The 'Meet the Press' Effect, Spelled Out

On at least a few occasions during the UML Community lecture series earlier this spring, groups presented problems which usually centered around publicity and fundraising. Time and again, I broke out my "use the blogs" hobbyhorse, to mixed results.

Some supported the idea (and have taken it to heart) while others either dismissed the idea that anyone actually reads blogs, or, more pointedly, stated that while some do read the blogs, they are the politically active citizens who are most likely aware of whatever would be put out ahead of time. Besides the first problem I have with that idea -- the assumption that just because someone is 'politically active' he or she must somehow be omniscient -- it ignores what I call the "Meet the Press" effect of local blogging.

Here's how it works: Just as it's almost solely those already-plugged-in-to-politics citizens who watch Sunday morning talk shows like NBC's "Meet the Press," it's mainly the locally plugged-in who read local blogs. But just as a major policy proposal or revelation announced on "Meet the Press" would eventually make its way to a MUCH larger crowd (those who get their news in some way, at some time, via some format), so would something stated, introduced, or proposed on a local blog to a MUCH larger swathe of the local populace.

This could've been seen on at least two recent, memorable instances -- the reaction to the Tavaryna Chouen slaying and on the way a couple of the blogs helped change the timbre of the debate surrounding Bon Marchegate.

Today's Saturday Chat helps bring this concept to light once again. There really only might be a couple dozen people who regularly read some of the smaller-scale blogs (such as this) and a couple hundred who read some of the more major ones. But before you dismiss their power, you have to ask: Who are those people?

Apparently, Kendall Wallace is one of them. Today's Sun column included several references to the blogs, including direct references to something Lynne just posted on Left in Lowell.

Here's what was most interesting to me, though: The way five particular challengers were listed as "leaders" among those challengers seeking Council spots in November. I don't think it's any coincidence that the five names mentioned are the same ones that have appeared on Right-Side-of-Lowell and on Left in Lowell. So from something that might have a few dozen daily local readers, to something that might have a few hundred such readers, those names get mentioned in something that gets printed up to 50,000 times over in hard copy.

Those getting that type of virtual *press* are listed as *leaders* to a potential audience of tens of thousands that may have never heard of -- let alone follow -- the local blogerati.

To me, that's more proof of how new media can influence the debate in ways that aren't immediately obvious to all who might be tangentially affected by it.

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