Supporting Progressive Blogs

Over the past two years, I have commented at great length about the need for more sustainable funding of the progressive, political blogosphere. Despite its great importance to both the Democratic and progressive causes, which I have previously summarized in The Emergence of the Progressive Blogosphere (with Matt), The Role of The Netroots in Democratic Victories, and On Preaching To The Choir, it operates on a shoestring budget and volunteer labor. If it continues to do so, eventually it will collapse. That would be a huge tragedy, and a great win for conservatives. The Democratic and progressive establishment should fund the progressive, political blogosphere and netroots. They need us, and we need them. Neither of us can win without the other.

Perhaps the most striking example of this problem came in the Illinois 6th congressional district in 2006. Despite having virtually the entire weight of the local and national Democratic establishment behind her, Tammy Duckworth still only edged under-funded, ne'er organizationally endorsed, people-powered Christine Cegalis in the Democratic primary by all of 3%. Then, in the general election, Duckworth received over $3M in DCCC support, making her one of the ten best nationally funded Democratic House candidates in the entire country. However, she still ended up losing an open seat in a Democratic wave year in Rahm Emanuel's backyard. (Gee--Emanuel's backyard? I wonder why she got so much funding, especially considering that Cegalis got virtually none when she was the nominee in 2004). I don't know how much local progressive movement activists worked for Duckworth in the general, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did little outside of voting for her. I mean, I'd have been pissed off at the way the machine crushed Cegalis's grassroots campaign, too, and not exactly eager to go bang on doors or drum up small donors as a result. In fact, in more than one conversation I had with friends after the election, there was a general sentiment that Duckworth's defeat was payback for the Democratic establishment's often clandestine--and often not so clandestine--support for Joe Lieberman in the general election against Democratic nominee Ned Lamont. "They took out one of ours, so I'm glad they lost one of theirs," was the mood in many movement circles. Of course, the tit for tat resulted in the Democratic nominee losing both races.

We were quite fortune that the splits we saw in IL-06 and CT-Sen did not happen on a wider scale. If they had, Republicans would still control Congress. Gong back further, such a split would also have resulted in the privatization and destruction of Social Security. In the fights that we did win in 2005-2006, victory only happened because the establishment and the movement were on the same page. Neither side can win without each other, as virtually every election made perfectly clear from 1994-2004. The Democratic Party was in the wilderness until the progressive movement rose to challenge the conservative movement. It was only when the progressive movement reached maturity that Democrats took over Congress. They needed us to close the fundraising gap, convince them to run on Iraq, stretch the electoral playing field, keep the base excited, challenge pro-Republican media coverage, and generate new campaign ideas. At the same time, movement challenges to neoliberals and DLC-nexus control over the party have never succeeded unless we have formed a coalition with dissenting establishment elements. Howard Dean getting crushed by a wide array of backroom alliances late in the 2004 primary campaign, but requiring the backing of state party chairs to win the DNC, is a good example of this. We can't win without each other.

So how can the Democratic and progressive establishment support the progressive blogosphere? I constantly hear about ways we can help them, but they are often perplexed when it comes to finding a way to help us. One of the problems in achieving sustainable funding from Democratic and progressive sources for the progressive political blogosphere is that we are chaotic. In this sense, "chaotic" means difficult to control, and viewed as a potential liability within the established media and donor community. What happens if they give us money, and we say something they don't like? Or, perhaps even worse, what happens if they give us money, and we start only saying things they like, thus creating a quid pro quo, and destroying the vibrant independence of thought and energy that makes us so vital? It isn't an easy problem to solve, especially when one considers that there are hundreds of different bloggers, who operate under a variety of different legal mechanisms, to potentially support. Yet more chaos.

However, there is one simply solution for even the most risk averse Democratic campaign and progressive organization: buy Blogads. For many bloggers, blogads is their primary source of revenue. Further, there are many networks in Blogads that makes reaching your target audience easy. For national campaigns, there is The Liberal Blog Advertising Network which reaches virtually every large, national progressive blog. For environmental groups, there is the Environment and Sustainability Blogad network. Women's groups can use the Feminist Bloggers network, and GLBT groups can consider the Gay Blogads network. And the list goes on and on. Any group or campaign, no matter your issue and no matter if you are national or local, can find a group of potentially supportive blogs and advertise ont hose blogs.

This will get money to your friends in the blogosphere. It will get you noticed in the blogosphere. It will also get you a very good CPM, one that is often 3-4 better than any other advertising source. It won't make you liable for anything a blogger might say. It will allow the blogger to maintain her or his independence. If you use one of the big networks, it will reach a wide swatch of people at once. Basically, it is a simple, low-risk way to help the progressive blogosphere. While not solving all of our problems, is a good start. And Feedburner works for a lot of blogs too.

So, if you are running a large campaign or advocacy group, and you want to help the progressive blogosphere, go to Blogads, go to Feedburner, make some accounts, and start buying some ads. We need this really badly. Blog advertising always struggles, except in the few months leading up to an election. Right now is no exception, as most blogs on the liberal blogad network are running two ads or fewer. On MyDD, we only have one ad running right now. Help us out, because we can't help you out if we have to close our doors due to lack of funds.

Tags: Blogosphere, Democrats, Money, progressive movement (all tags)

Comments

18 Comments

Re: Supporting Progressive Blogs

WHy is it that conservative rich guys are more generous with their money when it comes to funding think thanks, but liberal rich guys are not as quick to fund progressive blogs which are the liberal counterweight to think thanks. (My assumption is Conservatives tend to rely on their think thanks more than liberals, while liberals tend to look at their blogs more than right wingers).

It would be nice if people like Soros  donated a tiny chunk of his outlays to a couple of liberal blogs.

Blogs also need to find a way to get more leverage. I rarely see even a big blog like Kos get the same kind of access to Democratic politicians for in depth answers as a nutty right wing radio host with republican politicians.

by Pravin 2007-05-11 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Supporting Progressive Blogs

I just want to chime in and say thanks, Chris. Your continued diligence on this topic at MyDD means so much to me and all of us out here who work so hard to get financial support.  BlogAds really make a big difference to me and my radio show, but also to my readers and listeners who do what they can financially, but shouldn't be our only means of financial support. We bring a lot to the table for corporations, publishers, etc. Our work is very important and we earn the right to be paid.

Again, just thanks for all you do.

Taylor Marsh
http://www.taylormarsh.com

by Taylor Marsh 2007-05-11 12:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Supporting Progressive Blogs

Is this a crazy idea:

We're all familiar with collective action asking a business not to advertise in a certain medium (Sinclair Broadcasting, ABC, whatever), and I wonder if we could--with extreme polite delicacy--turn that around. Ask businesses to advertise via Blogads.

"Dear Barnes & Noble: I tend to shop for books online via Amazon, just from the force of habit. But if you start advertising on Blogads, I'll break that habit and start a new one!"

That sorta thing.

And speaking of B&N, does anyone have any clue if advertising novels via Blogads ever works?

by BingoL 2007-05-11 02:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Supporting Progressive Blogs

I am amazed at your restraint - you didn't call on us to click on those ads more frequently :)

Maybe the blogs should participate in that old grassroots strategy - fundraising.

- How about MyDD shirts or hats? Seriously, I'm totally dorky enough to sport some blog gear.

- DailyKos has its auctions, though I'm not sure how effective they are.

- Or, how about regional fundraising dinners? Not sure if this place has the social cohesion to make that sort of thing work (not that this is necessarily a bad thing).

- Or how about a high-profile fundraising drive, ala KQED. Actually, I freaking hate those things (one's going on here as I type).

That's all I've got. Bake sale anybody?.

by LandStander 2007-05-11 12:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Supporting Progressive Blogs

Chris, I've sent you and the network administrator two emails over the last two weeks about applying for Advertise liberally membership for The Newshoggers.

I know that the administrator is unwell, but I'd love to have our group blog join the network for exactly the reasons you outline. Any chance of some help here? I apologise for taking this to a public forum but we really want to join.

Regards, Cernig @ Newshoggers

by Cernig 2007-05-11 01:38PM | 0 recs
support the long tail, too

anyone familiar with a Zipfian distribution can attest to the fact that there are as many eyeballs in the long tail of the progressive blogsphere as there are in the top tiers. One problem with the Liberal Blogads Advertising Network is that (given the minimum traffic requirements) it is heavily biased towards that top tier - which means that up to 50% of all progressive blog reader eyeballs are being ignored. Granted there is substantial overlap, but a small blog with a handful of ads is essentially sharing more of its real-estate with Blogads than Dailykos is.

The advantage of the big blogs is that the sheer volume of hits means that even with very low click through percentages, the number of clicks in absolute terms is high. However, I theorize that a Small Liberal Blog Ad Network would deliver a substantial fraction of that same clickthrough traffic in absolute terms, because the percentage of clickthroughs would be higher.

I dareesay that most of the local activist blogs, focusing on state level races primarily, dont have the traffic to qualify for the big blogad network. But were there a "small cap" network established for their benefit (say, traffic between 100 - 1000 readers a day), they'd deliver the eyeballs. It's worth a try to test this hypothesis, if someone wants to step up to teh plate and get it going (disclaimer: We have a newborn in our household and I am moving from Texas to Wisconsin in less than a month, so count me out for the next three months at least)

One other important subset of liberal blogs are those with very long histories, which are a magnet for Google-derived traffic. Take my aging blog, Nation Building, to which I rarely post nowadays. When I do post, it is lengthy essays and detail, and the list archives go back over 4 years (to the Dean Nation days), so I would estimate about 90% of my traffic comes via google referrals (try for example, Howard Dean - I'm still in the top ten). A similar process surely operates for any longstanding liberal blog with any substantial post archives, such as Shadow of the Hegemon or Legal Fiction, just to name two out of many, many. A casual internet user may well arrive at a progressive netroots site such as these via google or other search engine despite having never heard of Dailykos - and to be frank, old blogeys like ours probably have more Pagerank than DK on specific topics because we tend to be more focused, and beat our hobbyhorses on selected issues more consistently.

The upshot of this is that there are many eyeballs to be captured from the pool of non-netroots readers, which if course is vastly larger than the daily audience of the liberal blogsphere as a whole, let alone the top tier of blogs in the Liberal Blogad Network. Tapping into these "markets" of old hi-density archive blogs, and small fry local blogs, via new blogad networks tailored to them is a win-win situation across the board.

What the heck, I'll cross post this at NB.    

by azizhp 2007-05-11 01:41PM | 0 recs
Re: support the long tail, too

However, I theorize that a Small Liberal Blog Ad Network would deliver a substantial fraction of that same clickthrough traffic in absolute terms, because the percentage of clickthroughs would be higher.

Yes, exactly.  I'm working on a small liberal blogads network right now.

LeftyBlogs.com is the home to lots of those small long-tail blogs.  We actually started exploring a small liberal blogs ad network last summer, but never got it off the ground.

We're re-engineering LeftyBlogs.com right now, and once that's done, we'll roll out this ad network.

(FYI, you're right about the long tail.  My initial research showed that we'd have 2.5 times the number of blogs - generating the same amount of traffic - for half the price of a network-wide buy.)

by karichisholm 2007-05-12 12:05AM | 0 recs
Re: support the long tail, too

I am glad. Do write a diary here (and even drop me an email if you have time) when you've got it going.

by azizhp 2007-05-12 12:08PM | 0 recs
Thinking small / thinking big

I totally agree with the analysis of the problem and the need to fund progressive causes.  Blog Ads are small-thinking, however, bringing in peanuts.  This is now way to solve the problem.  We really, really need to think about building a $100 million endowment. Yes, $100 million.  Consider the costs of making "progressive" films; consider the rounding errors in Soros' portfolio.  Progressives are not used to thinking about large sums of money, and it is a huge self-limiting factor.

Politics is big time stuff. It requires big time thinking and big time funding.

Think big.

by camilow 2007-05-11 02:09PM | 0 recs
Why not use Google Ads

like TPM, Huffington Post, DailyKos?

by jasmine 2007-05-11 02:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Supporting Progressive Blogs

I've gotten my first 3 blogads ever in the past month.  I don't get quite the traffic to charge anything more than bargain-basement prices, but anything that shows recognition and reward for what I'm doing is fantastic.  It's truly inspiring, even if I can't do much more with the money than grab a few dinners.

by dday 2007-05-11 03:48PM | 0 recs
For the last time

It's Ceg--E--lis, not Cegalis.

And Chris I honestly haven't heard anything regarding payback for Lamont from the people who worked for Cegelis. The grassroots people most who did the hard work in the primary for Christine either offered to work for Duckworth's effort (and often felt turned off by her campaign people) or went to work for other local candidates. I know few who wanted Roskam, and even fewer who would have done anything to help his cause via any type of "payback" mentallity.

But Christine's campaign is alive and well, having sparked the Greater Chicago Caucus and Turn DuPage Blue, both vibrant and new Democratic grassroots organizations here in IL-06. I just wish we had a decent candidate to challenge Roskam. I fear this is the legacy of the IL-06 primary.

by michael in chicago 2007-05-11 05:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Supporting Progressive Blogs

Chris - as I have written numerous times, I share your concern about an underfunded progressive blogosphere. I continue to encourage you to develop numerous revenue streams - ads, subscriptions, donations, etc. etc.

Insofar as I know, very few journals of opinion have ever been totally self-supporting from ad revenue alone.

by Dr K 2007-05-11 06:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Supporting Progressive Blogs

Where does the Center for Independent Media fit into all this?  After all, they're experimenting with funding bloggers right now.  

It's still very small, but it seems to me that if they're able to make it work - there's a vehicle right there for funding bloggers.

by karichisholm 2007-05-12 12:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Supporting Progressive Blogs

Yup, blogads are way down.  Yup, you get less blogging if people are being paid peanuts for it, because they have to spend lots of time doing other things. It really does lead to less support.  At some point some of us may decide that McD's (or more likely, the corps) are calling.  Maybe that's as it should be, maybe blogging is really for the 3 biggest blogs per niche, and everyone else should just treat it as a hobby.

Maybe, dunno.  Probably not for me to say, since I'm kind of self-interested.

But at the end of the day, ya get the media you're willing to pay for; at the end of the day, this isn't sustainable - people eventually decide that Kraft dinner ain't cuttin'it; that maybe they should get some health insurance, or that maybe they want kids or a spouse who doesn't have to sacrifice for the "cause".

Or maybe not.  Do we really need any other blogs taht are updated multiple times a day besides Kos and Huffington Post?

Perhaps not.

by Ian Welsh 2007-05-12 03:14AM | 0 recs
But what about journalistic independence?

I am sympathetic to your call for more support for progressive blogs.  But if the democratic establishment were to fund the netroots, your credibility would be instantly reduced.  How could MyDD hold aggressively hold the democratic party to account if it were financially dependent on the democratic party?  I know I would take your writings with a much bigger grain of salt.

Currently the progressive blogs are full of passionate, independent voices.  What would prevent a blog like MyDD from becoming merely a propaganda arm of the democratic party?  Would projects like the attack on Lieberman still be possible?  I don't want to see the blogosphere defanged.

by grimm 2007-05-12 09:24AM | 0 recs
Improve the format too

I know it gets frustrating to see some interesting diaries gets displaced after a couple of days and then someone starts a similar diary and we are back where we started repeating the same stuff.

1)Maybe if some of the diaries, especially the ones by frontpagers, get classified as features with a longer shelf life, and any diaries that duplicate the content just get linked to the features instead of taking up space in the diaries list. A lot of us end up repeating the same points over and over because of people who keep bringing up points refuted in earlier diaries.

2) Improve the search function. It's a chore trying to locate something said in a prior comment.

3) Add in some diary categories when you find a lot of diaries are devoted to the same topic. If I am not interested in polling, it gets kind of tiresome to eyeball the diaries list and see a bunch of polling diaries. People who want to post a polling diary every single hour can do as they please by clicking on the category and posting their diary over there.
Example: THe Diaries list could look like this(the ones in capitals being links):
 POLLING DIARIES
 EDWARDS CAMPAIGN DIARIES
 OBAMA CAMPAIGN DIARIES
 HILLARY CAMPAIGN DIARIES
 Diary 1
 Diary 2
 Diary 3
 and so on.

Diaries that do not fit into any categories(ex: Diary 1, Diary 2) can be viewed on the list by themselves.

4) REcommended List: I wonder if part of this should be editorialized. Retain the default user based list, but an admin can add or delete his own choice of diaries from the Rec List if it makes MYDD more interesting, not because it does not fit his own world view. Kind of like a diary rescue for older diaries pushed off the list that deserve more time.

by Pravin 2007-05-13 08:47AM | 0 recs
progressive blogads?

maybe i'm missing something, but how come there isn't a progressive company competing with blogads?  the profits could be folded into donations for blogpac or something useful like that.

by Shai Sachs 2007-05-13 06:54PM | 0 recs

Diaries

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