I had wanted to stay out of this conversation until after the election, but events, threads, emails, and other posts seem to have dragged me in. I’m not sure this is a helpful thing to distract us from the pending election, but I’ll make this brief.
Let me first be direct, hopefully without offending anyone: there are lots of bytes spilled over the future of the right online. Some of it is on coming up with compelling narratives, some on use of technology, some on the need for money, etc., etc., etc. Very little is spent doing anything about it.
Here is my bullet point take:
1. I used to think a few of the traditional groups could restructure, but very clearly most of the groups are either too worried about their 501(c)(3) status or they have become institutions of personalities and are no longer institutions of action and ideas. We need investigative journalists like Mark says. We need online think tanks like Iain says. We need online activists like John, Patrick, and Jon say. We need online pundits too. But we need activists in communities doing things offline more than anything else. The online can reinforce, supplement, and build things to go offline.
2. There is money out there. Unfortunately there have been more than a few charlatans taking massive donor dollars with nothing to show for it. Now right of center donors are rather cool toward big investments.
3. Do you really trust bloggers with your money? Do you really trust 20-30 year olds with your money and plans, some of which you don’t understand? That is the inherent problem. As much as we need to foster an online right, some of that requires taking solid offline people and putting them online. No offense to anyone reading this, but sometimes the real world and the online world collide.
4. There are already big projects out there that are flying under the radar. That some bloggers don’t know about them does not make them not so. Some groups out there are ahead of the curve. Some names you haven’t heard a lot about are Erik Telford, Em Zanotti, and Eric Odom. Trust me. There is action on the right, though you may not realize it.
5. I’ve totally decided it is absolute garbage that some sites on the left are ad based revenue sites. Yes, they are technically. But who is buying the ads? It is more often than not unions and other groups who cannot contribute to the DNC or, and this is a big one, maxed out donors or others who can buy an ad via their businesses and take a business deduction. These are people who don’t want to or can’t make a political contribution because it would not be deductible, but can make an ad buy and deduct the cost as a business expense. We can cultivate the same groups.
6. I think bloggers have to have something to show first. A lot of “building the online right” posts amount to “give me money and watch what I can do.” Meanwhile the donors, already burned by that, want to see some established activism.
Now let’s talk about RedState’s successes to date in some of this stuff.
First, we’ve raised $15,695.00 off Slatecard in the last few months. That number is not astronomical, but it does show a tendency to give. Couple that with the other $10K – $15K we’ve raised this past year away from Slatecard and we see our readers are willing to give.
Second, Jon Henke notes this from the Berkman Center:
technology usage patterns on the left and right of the blogosphere are significantly different.
I think that is absolutely right. I hear from hundreds of people a day who prove that point. There is a different culture on the left and right. Over time, I think some of that will change, but by and large you are, on the right, dealing with a different demographic. Because the demographics are different, the tools are sometimes different. That we on the right do not do what the left does should not induce handwringing from our side without first examining how the action fits or does not fit in with our demographic, which is largely married, working professionals with kids.
I have found routinely that our email action blasts can be more effective than posting the same thing on the site. In fact, in the seven months or so that we have done our action items emails, we seen a constant expansion of the list. We now have roughly four and a half times more people subscribing to our email blasts than we did when we started. They are all opt-in and the open rate is astronomical. Why? Because there are busy people out there who can deal with an email better than a website during the course of the work day. And there are people who want to connect and be involved who can’t stay online all day with work, family, recreational activities, kids’ sports, etc.
Do we need improvements? Absolutely. Do we need to advance? Absolutely. Do we need tweaking? Absolutely. Do we need investment? Absolutely.
But it is also not as bad as we sometimes think. And frankly, being in the minority across the board, should it come to that next Tuesday, would be very clarify for a number of people and will, to a degree, separate the wheat from the chaff.
Let’s not understand the problem. But let’s be realistic about the offline culture on the right that will necessarily affect our online efforts.