Last night, Patrick Ruffini published an article on his own site and on techPresident that everybody writing about online politics should consider — though much in the online political world that gets public attention is shiny and pretty, it’s generally not what’s winning elections. Online video? Drudge-like aggregator sites? Good for some press coverage and bringing some site visitors by, but the real work of online political campaigning is in building lists of donors and volunteers and in coordinating their activities. For instance, Patrick compares glowing press coverage of Mitt Romney’s online video outreach (a work-a-day site feature but nothing particularly innovative) with the total LACK of attention given to a list-building operation of his that added 30,000 supporters in a day. Patrick ends his piece with this observation:
When it comes to covering the online campaigns, reporters tend to home in on stuff that’s actually pretty easy by comparison. Throwing up a YouTube video or a MySpace page. Cleverly repackaged press content. Anything goofy. It’s easy for campaigns to get thrown off by this, and keep going after press hit after press hit. But some of the most important technology work that campaigns do is a lot less sexy — voter databases, activism tools, Web-based interfaces for high-dollar fundraisers. How about some coverage of that?
As anyone who’s read e.politics since its beginning knows, I’m much more focused on the nuts and bolts of winning elections than on flash and zing, and I’ll argue until I turn blue that email is still king of keeping and motivating donors and supporters. Patrick’s article should be read right along with Alan Rosenblatt’s recent piece on the media’s over-attention to political blogging — they both offer a good corrective for the “gee whiz” media coverage we’ve seen so much of over the past few months.