Some of the leading liberal bloggers are privately furious with the major progressive groups — and in some cases, the Democratic Party committees — for failing to spend money advertising on their sites, even as these groups constantly ask the bloggers for free assistance in driving their message.
It’s a development that’s creating tensions on the left and raises questions about the future role of the blogosphere at a time when a Dem is in the White House and liberalism could be headed for a period of sustained ascendancy.
“They come to us, expecting us to give them free publicity, and we do, but it’s not a two way street,” Jane Hamsher, the founder of FiredogLake, said in an interview. “They won’t do anything in return. They’re not advertising with us. They’re not offering fellowships. They’re not doing anything to help financially, and people are growing increasingly resentful.”
“Most want the easy way — having a big blogger promote their agenda,” adds Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos. “Then they turn around and spend $50K for a one-page ad in the New York Times or whatever.” Moulitsas adds that officials at such groups often do nothing to engage the sites’s audiences by, say, writing posts, instead wanting the bloggers to do everything for them.
The behind-the-scenes tensions go to the heart of the role these bloggers have created for themselves in Democratic politics — they’re basically advocates and operatives with big platforms — and their future role, too. They argue that their efforts and fundraising helped drive the Democratic ascendancy. Yet even the Dem party committees are reluctant to advertise with them, raising the question of whether the party will ever be willing to seriously invest long-term in this new media infrastructure.
“We don’t invest in the future, and Republicans do,” says John Aravosis, the founder of AMERICAblog. “The party committees really get that we can be effective as their partners and that we’re happy to help, and they take advantage of that. But even so, very little ad money comes from them. It’s more than just wanting to share in the spoils. We are small business-people who are fighting to survive economically in a really bad year.”
This is directly related to the blogger-driven news distribution network I was talking about last week and is a key component. State and local politics aren't being covered very well in most states, Florida included. One of the reasons why is that many of the people who would cover it (like me and many of the other bloggers around the state) can't afford to cover it. We have to work day jobs to survive or take on campaign work that takes us away from doing what we do best and what we are most needed to do -- spread news, challenge the right and promote the left-wing message. It's full-time work to do this, particularly at the state/local level because there is such a dearth of news sources that are easy to find or access. There is a lot that bloggers like myself could do. And it wouldn't even take much funding for one of these big organizations.
Take me, for instance, I don't live an extravagant lifestyle and don't want to. As long as I can pay the bills, have a little fun and make it to the various political events I need to cover, my financial needs are pretty slight. But I do have them and that requires me not only to teach as many classes as I can, it requires me to find additional paid work on top of that. There are quite a few other left-wing bloggers in Florida (some better than me, some worse), who, like me, would do this type of work full-time and would do a good and thorough job at it if there were a way to do it.
State-level blogs, for the most part, don't have sufficient traffic to warrant the type of ad sales that the national bloggers are talking about. It would be nice if we could, but getting that level of traffic obviously requires promotion, something that few bloggers (if any) have time for. Beyond paying the bills, there is doing the writing and research that we put into blogging. Beyond that, if there is time left, promoting our sites is time-consuming and costs some money, so it isn't easy. Some investment from some of these organizations would definitely go a long way towards increasing traffic on state-level blogs.
The only one of these national groups that has helped FPC out is MoveOn, who bought a couple of ads last year. We've been able to raise money to pay bills, such as web hosting, or travel, such as to the Democratic National Convention, but many of our members are struggling to get the bills paid, so it cuts down on what we can do. I know the situation is similar or worse for other state/local blogs. Unless people have really good and flexible jobs or are independently wealthy, there isn't much help out there. To be fair, the Florida blogs haven't quite had the impact yet that national blogs have on politics, but we are working on it. We're getting there. We'll get there quicker if we get some help.