The Buying of the Blogosphere 2008?

SolidPolitics.com is questioning whether Hillary Clinton is buying favorable publicity at Daily Kos. During the 2004 campaign Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos came under criticism for taking a “consulting job” with the Dean campaign and reportedly was paid well above the customary amounts for such technical consulting. Subsequently his site became a major factor in promoting Howard Dean in the blogosphere. During the campaign I frequently criticized Kos for misquoting Kerry and for distorting his positions, but it is impossible to know for sure if this was intentional due to financial incentives or simple ignorance. Zephyr Teachout, head of internet outreach for the Dean campaign, later did admit that the Dean campaign’s goal was to obtain Kos’s support in the blogosphere.

SolidPolitics.com repeats the old questions about Kos during the 2004 campaign and also notes that Hillary Clinton is paying $4900 a week for ads at Daily Kos. Checking the rates at the Liberal Blog Network verifies that the second position ads, which Clinton is currently running, cost $4900. The premium position ads, with none currently sold, run $9000 and standard ads cost $2900 per week. The only ads in the Liberal Blog Network which are more expensive are on the premium sidebar at Talking Points Memo, running $10,000 per week.

There is not necessarily anything wrong with the Clinton campaign paying Kos $4900 per week. Unlike the situation where he was paid an inflated amount with the hopes of obtaining his support by the Dean campaign, this is Kos’s usual ad rate. While expensive, it is justified as the site has over 4 million ad impressions per week, by far the highest in the ad network. You certainly cannot blame Kos for taking the ad money. Similarly, it could make sense for Clinton to purchase such ads in the hopes of improving her relatively poor standing among liberal blog readers. For example, her current ad features a call for Gonzales to resign which might improve her reputation among liberal blog readers who click through and come to her site.

The question is whether the ad buy is affecting her coverage. SolidPolitics.com charges that Kos’s attitude towards Clinton has improved since the ads were purchased and compares his posts on her from before and after the announcement. We cannot exclude the possibility that this is affecting his decisions, however it is not the only possible explanation. Peter Daou has been very aggressive in contacting bloggers and trying to improve our impression of Clinton and perhaps either his influence or Clinton’s campaigning have made a favorable impression. It is also possible that seeing the Republican prospects has caused bloggers with close ties to the Democratic Party to take a less critical view of the Democratic front runner, realizing that a year from now they might be backing Clinton regardless of their feelings.

While it might be true that Kos’s posts on Clinton have been kinder than before the ad buys, it should also be noted that Hillary Clinton is hardly the favorite over at Daily Kos. John Edwards has dominated the straw polls and there is also considerable support for Al Gore should he enter the race. There is even a Draft Gore ad up, although at the lower standard ad rate. Still, we must keep in mind the financial motivations at stake when reading the opinions at blogs which command ad prices at this level knowing that the ads might be influencing the coverage of the nomination battle.

Update (September 15, 2007): This post has received several recent links, including a diary at Daily Kos from people who do not believe that Kos has treated their candidate fairly. At present there are no ads from the Clinton campaign, and (while I haven’t been monitoring this) I do not believe Clinton has been a heavy advertiser at Daily Kos for quite a while. While I sympathize with those who have found some of Kos’s posts to be unfair, the argument that it is based upon financial factors is even weaker now than it was when this post was originally written.

Update II: Considering how hot a topic this has become I have added a follow up post on the front page.

Be Sociable, Share!

4 Comments

  1. 1
    Rob Dolin says:

    According to Wikipedia, Daily Kos has average weekday traffic of 600,000 page views (PV) per day. If Hillary is paying $4,900/week, that amounts to $700/day. Giving Kos the benefit of the doubt that traffic is consistent over the weekend (most sites see decreases), then Hillary is paying $700/600,000 per ad impression. This is $1.17 per 1,000 impressions (abbreviated in the industry as eCPM.)

  2. 2
    Bob says:

    Jerome “Securities Fraud” Armostrong openly supports Clinton but has said that there is a Treehouse agreement that the blogs wont “endorse” anyone. Search MYDD for referances

    Something weird is swell of support from several corners “netroots nation” for Chris Dodd. Like he is a serious candidate.

  3. 3
    M V Stuart says:

    As an avid (though new) Daily Kos member I can attest that until recently, Kos has had little good to say about Senator Obama. However, Kos has frontpaged several entries giving support to Senator Obama’s recently announced policy position on Iraq.

    As for being a supporter of Clinton, I have seen very little on the site to indicate that Markos has taken any particularly favorable position to the New York Senator. If any candidate can be said to be given a disproportionate amount of support on DailyKos, it would have to be John Edwards, diaries covering his candidacy are to be found in the recommended section nearly every day. I do believe that this happens to be due to Senator Edwards’ popularity among Dailykos users, and not to any sinister motive.

    Even if Kos personally supports Senator Clinton, this has not translated into any significant support for her candidacy by users of the site, who consistently place her in the 9%-10% support range in site polls.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    “As for being a supporter of Clinton, I have seen very little on the site to indicate that Markos has taken any particularly favorable position to the New York Senator.”

    Unfortunately the original article I was responding to is no longer on line so some of the context is gone. The article made a case that there was a shift in what Kos wrote about Clinton last spring to being less critical. In writing this I was willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt that, over a certain period last spring, Kos might have appeared to be less critical of Clinton and might have had more favorable comments. Even if we grant that, it still does not prove that the ads had any bearing on that. The argument becomes much weaker when we include the period from when this was written to present.

    I also pointed out in the post that, even if Kos was secretely supporting Clinton, it is not spilling over into the rest of the site. On one level this is irrelevant in refuting the article I was responding to as they were only speaking of what Kos himself was doing. However it does remain worth pointing out that even paying off Kos for better coverage would not be enough to change the overall tone at Daily Kos.

    “Something weird is swell of support from several corners “netroots nation” for Chris Dodd. Like he is a serious candidate.”

    I see absolutely nothing wrong in backing a candidate who is seriously trailing in the polls. I backed Kerry in 2003 when he wss trailing Al Sharpton. While I haven’t decided on a candidate yet, one of the candidates I’m watching is Bill Richardson, who remains a long shot.

    At this point in a nomination race, a long shot still has a meaningful possibility. If we go under the assumption that the net roots has influence (the amount of which remains unclear) then we must grant at least the possibility that strong net roots support for a long shot has a chance of turning them into a credible candidate. If we ignore polls and look at the individuals, I see no reason why Dodd should be a less credible candidate than many of the others. It would be different if Dodd was a nobody with no experience or qualifications.

1 Trackbacks

Leave a comment