Jerame Davis

To the DNC: It's the selection process, stupid!

Filed By Jerame Davis | June 01, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Site News, The Movement
Tags: blog relations, Democratic Convention, Democrats, DNC, Towleroad

It has been long established conventional wisdom that Democrats understand the web and know how to use it for political purposes better than Republicans. The #1 blog on the Internet is a liberal blog (The Huffington Post) and the Democrats almost always top Republicans in online fundraising.

So it rather shocked me when the DNC picked eye-candy and celebrity gossip blog Towleroad over other more politically focused LGBT blogs like this one. I don't have a list of all the blogs that applied for credentials, but I feel pretty safe in saying that there were probably other choices aside from The Bilerico Project that would have been a better fit for the coveted three slots that were allocated to LGBT specific blogs this year.

The DNC's mistake makes obvious their lack of understanding of the blogosphere and especially brings to light one of the most common misunderstandings, which is that traffic and traffic alone is king. It's not and after the jump we'll explore why.

I think this needs to be explained because a number of folks have mentioned that we're just "being a sore loser" or that "jealousy" is a factor in our complaint that the DNC denied us credentials to the convention this year. That is simply not the case. Pam's House Blend is a perfect choice for the DNC Convention. Pam and her contributors write daily on politics and are tried and true capital D Democrats. That choice makes sense and I can't imagine PHB not being at the convention.

You see, this is about how the blogosphere works and how looking at traffic and/or page rank alone is not a smart selection process. Blog audiences are highly self-selecting. It is a very segmented and niched space. One doesn't go to The Fake Steve Jobs blog for hard-hitting political analysis anymore than one goes to AmericaBlog for pictures of naked boys. It's just not their niche.

The DNC appears to have looked at all LGBT blogs that applied for credentials without any regard for what kind of audience that site attracts or even whether or not that blog does the kind of analysis and reporting that should be expected when being granted one of only 3 slots allocated to LGBT blogs.

Towleroad, which I read regularly and think is a fantastic blog for its niche, does not cover politics with any depth or breadth and they definitely do not cover the entire spectrum of the LGBT community. Let's just take a look at the weekly roundup posted on Towleroad today to get an idea of how much political coverage there really is.

road.jpg Mystery surf saviour surfaces.

road.jpg Sex and the City: our interview.

road.jpg George W. Bush chest bumps a cadet.

road.jpg Gay slurs fly in Real World: Hollywood fight.

road.jpg Boy Scouts sue Philadelphia over rent increase.

road.jpg Dad: Lindsay Lohan lesbian romance is obvious.

road.jpg GOP strategist peddling Charlie Crist 'sex tape'?

road.jpg Australian Olympic diver Matt Mitcham: I'm gay.

road.jpg Riot police stand guard over Romanian pride parade.

road.jpg POLL: majority of CA voters against gay marriage ban.

road.jpg Anti-gay attacks continue on rural Tennessee gay man.

road.jpg Penn Badgley tells you everything he knows about sexy.

road.jpg VMan/Ford Models male model contest winner announced.

road.jpg Space shot: Mars photographs Phoenix lander on descent.

road.jpg THE TUBE: Weezer, Sharon Stone, Bob Barr, Mariah Carey.

road.jpg Macy's celebrates same-sex marriage, wants your registry.

road.jpg Lauren Hutton: Sex and the City women based on gay sluts.

road.jpg First gay parliament member Sunil Pant takes oath in Nepal.

road.jpg Brooklyn high schools students threatened by bullies with guns.

road.jpg Bill O'Reilly guest can't think of good reason to oppose gay marriage.

road.jpg Larry Craig writing tell-all book about arrest, plus Bobble-foot frenzy!

road.jpg NY Governor orders same-sex marriages from elsewhere recognized.

road.jpg CA Attorney General urges court to reject same-sex marriage stay petitions.

road.jpg Scott McClellan book blasts Bush White House, White House goes apoplectic.

road.jpg Berlin's memorial to gay Holocaust victims unveiled; the interviews, the kiss.

road.jpg MUSIC: Cyndi Lauper, Hercules And Love Affair, Smashing Pumpkins, Ne-Yo, CSS.

road.jpg STAGE: The New Century, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Top Girls, Cry-Baby, A Catered Affair.

road.jpg PLUS: Sydney Pollack, Chace Crawford, Vince Young, Sam Champion, Paul Rudd, Cristiano Ronaldo, YMCA.

Out of 28 entries listed (there were more than 28 total entries this week on the site,) at most 6 could be called "political". Let's be clear, I'm not sure Bush "chest bumping" a cadet or Charlie Crist's "sex tape" are really deep political analysis stories. But there's plenty of the so-called 3 M's (Marriage, Madonna, and Martini's) although the Madonna and Martini's are in the metaphorical sense (Lindsay Lohan is playing the role of Madonna in today's performance.)

Whereas here at the Bilerico Project, we have daily coverage of politics on both the state and national levels. We regularly receive guest posts from Congressmen, Senators, and community movers and shakers. Both of the current Democratic presidential candidates have guest posted. We dissect, analyze and discuss politics and that generates lively comment threads and alternative viewpoints. We try to give the world a glimpse into the true complexity and diversity that is the LGBT community.

There is nothing wrong with covering the 3 M's. We cover them too. My point isn't that Towleroad is somehow lesser than other blogs because it covers what many would consider fluff topics. I guess I just don't understand why, if traffic is the motivating factor, they didn't just choose Perez Hilton. I mean, he gets 47 million visitors a week! That's more than Towleroad, The Bilerico Project, and Pam's House Blend and several other blogs put together.

We're really proud of the DNC for being more progressive toward new media by having more blogs at the convention this year than at any time in the past. We just want them to maybe hire a consultant and bone up on how this blog thing works and why choosing is more than traffic or Technorati rank.

This was a boneheaded move on the DNC's part. Yesterday's hearing regarding the seating of Florida and Michigan delegates once again proved there are no hard and fast rules in the DNC. It's a big convention center in Denver. I'm sure there is room for a few more bloggers. The DNC should correct it's mistake by granting us at least some of the credentials we requested and then hire some Internet consultants to get ahead of the curve for 2012.

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More importantly, the readers of political blogs are influencers - other people ask them whom they are supporting, and why. These are the loyal grassroots workers and organizers, the community "experts" who can bridge the gap between the mainstream and the LGBT community (ditto any other subgroup), and can advise campaigns on ways to reach out.

I don't think you give them enough credit.
The last thing you want to have as credentialed bloggers are those who will ask in-depth questions.

Ideally, you want a non-black, non-female demographic with oodles of cash, and who will swallow whatever Party Line is fed to them.

Americablog is a good choice, as they will follow the DNC line without asking awkward questions about ENDA. Towleroad is even better, as their readership has no stake in ENDA whatsover. Remember, ENDA is the One Big Issue that is GLB in their minds, DOMA and DADT are for later (if ever).

The selection of Pam's is dangerous, but one or two blogs like that can be included for "diversity" as they can be steamrollered by the rest. As long as you pick those without too many resources to do in-depth investigations, or better yet, those who can't even afford the hotel bills for more than a few reporters, you should be fine.

They've learnt from past mistakes.

Of course, I'm Australian, and when it comes to politics, we're a cynical bunch.

I don't think it has much to do with demographics, Zoe. I think they were thinking along the lines that Jerame pointed out - it's a monumental task and if you're not familiar with the blogosphere, at least how it functions, then the easy way to do it is to look at traffic and links.

Either that or they're just pissed off at us for not taking the party line re ENDA.

I think a lot of it was just "Hey - we picked a black lesbian and a white gay man. That should keep them happy!" Diversity in (in)action.

I really think they just don't get the blogosphere. I don't think they understand anything about the web and how it works today. I think there are elements within the party who do and that those elements are growing in number, but whomever was in charge of the selection process just doesn't quite get it.

I just think Towleroad is an odd choice for covering a political convention. If we'd have been beaten out by another political blog, I'd be much more understanding.

Maybe we'll get a better answer from the DNC. We're trying, but for now I'm just left to wonder.

Whatever the quality and content of your blog, Towleroad has a greater readership and is an influencer.

GLBT issues at th convention are best spread by a serious well-regarded highly-trafficked vehicle such as this.

Bilerico reads it every day, and can crosspost from it from the convention. If Towlroad's coverage has gaps or is slanted in some fashion - we're all free to call Towleroad on this.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 2, 2008 1:45 AM

I am confident that there are plenty of people in the democratic party who understand the blogs perfectly. How about oh, Howard Dean, who basically invented fund raising on the net before his primal howl meltdown?

We are the group they both embrace, and seek distance from, so they do not piss other interests off. They don't want tough Enda questions being asked at the convention. They are going to have plenty of problems gluing together the interest groups that comprise the Democratic base when the Hillary-Obama mess comes to an end (hopefully) next Tuesday.

Fluff pieces about political candidates are hardly new and very popular so once again the short attention span of the internet user is pandered to rather than having to concentrate on issues.

In the "great melting pot" Bil alludes to above, we are one small ingredient. I am sure Pam will do us proud and (hey Bil, maybe she needs a room mate) LGBT's know that the alternative is much worse. How many, (if any at all) Gay bloggers are going to the Republican National convention? Would you go there and what would you ask them? Would they even talk to you at all?

Robert makes a good point.
I've been a member of a now-defunct blog that was accredited to both GOP and DNC conventions. So yes, it is possible.
The question is, could Bilerico reasonably be expected to give the GOP a fair shake, despite the political differences? I think it could, though it wouldn't be easy.

For example, everyone knows of GWB's attempt to make a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. But how many know about what he also said in 2004

"I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so," Bush told Gibson during the interview. Gibson then noted that the Republican Party platform opposed civil unions, to which Bush replied, "Well, I don't." Gibson then asked, "So the Republican Party platform on that point, as far as you’re concerned, is wrong?" "Right," Bush said.
Source: New York Times, "Bush Says His Party Is Wrong to Oppose Gay Civil Unions," Elisabeth Bumiller, Oct. 26, 2004;

How many know that when GWB visited Australia a few years ago, he asked the Australian PM, John Howard, to remove some of the discriminatory provisions on same-sex relationships as it was a Human Rights issue?

By all means mainly report the GOP mainstream view, which ranges from the mildly homophobic to Batshit Insanity, but also report the minority position too. 20 Republicans crossed the floor to vote for ENDA, after all.

I will point out that there are going to be some trans delegates to the convention - so far, I have heard of 3. Perhaps they can find the time to blog from the inside, although the one of the 3 I know well, avoids the blogosphere altogether. I would expect that Bilerico would welcome their postings. Also, the convention will be heavily covered by network news, and probably C-SPAN, although that isn't being there.

I for one think the DNC knew exactly what they were doing when they picked Towleroad --- they wanted one of the GLBT blogs to be a Fluff Blog. They did this deliberately. Zoe and Robert give the reasons in comments #2, #7 and #8 above, and as I did in a previous thread: Briefly, there is a population segment --- a large one, in fact! --- of GLBT Democrats that tends to view the convention more as entertainment and less as politics, and Towleroad is perfect for that. Finally, TowleRoad readers include a few wealthy white gay men who will throw money toward the DNC without much thought. Where's the mystery?

I'm not saying this is the way it should be. This is just my notion that explains why things are the way they are.

In a word, TowleRoad covers a particular niche of tres haute gay culture. Well, fluff celeb gossip is culture. Entertainment is culture. Advertising is culture. Religion is culture. Politics is culture. Who is humping who is culture. The more I think about it, the less I'm upset that TowleRoad was selected --- although I myself would not have selected TowleRoad to do a job like that.