Is online politics only for the rich?

Interesting report from across the pond reported on the BBC which found that according to a report by the Pew Internet Project;

“According to the report 35% of US adults on incomes of at least $100,000 (£62,000) participate in two or more online political activities compared to just 8% of adults on incomes of less than $20,000 (£12,000).”

However, it says that sites like Facebook and Twitter may be changing this trend ;

“Some 31% of US citizens with a social network profile have engaged in either political or civic activities such as joining a political group or signing up as a friend of a particular candidate.

A further 15% of online adults had contributed to websites or blogs on a political or social issue.”

Hardly surprising that both sites should draw those with lower income into involvement since both are free to join. Therein lies a potentially valuable lesson between social networking sites and political engagement which to be fair most political parties in this country actually appreciate though the effectiveness of their interventions remains patchy. I suspect that if the same survey were conducted in the UK the %’s would be lower all round but that would in my eyes be largely due to the fact that the internet is less embedded in the United Kingdom. However, that is rapidly changing with 63% of households having a broadband connection and an estimated 73% of adults accessing the internet every day according to latest statistics.  I think culturally as well; internet access is rapidly becoming seen as something that you must have, much like a television.

Obviously, this will make corporate interests more keen to penetrate what could be potentially a lucrative market although given one of the attractions of the internet is that things like news come plentifully and freely it will be interesting to see if they can actually achieve the cultural shift required to get people to pay.  I rather suspect that the shift won’t happen (if you have to pay to access an online newspaper then you might as well buy it to be honest) and that advertising revenues will become central to supporting news outlets. The internet does have vast amounts of potential to democratise politics and draw people into involvement but if it is to do that commercialisation cannot go too far or else online politics will become only for the rich.

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About darrellgoodliffe

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2 responses to “Is online politics only for the rich?”

  1. Marvin says :

    What surprises me in this article is the seeming assumption that news have to come from online versions of newspapers. But internet has the power to democratise not just politics, but business–and newscasting–as well. In the internet, big and small sources of news compete on equal footing. Blogs for instance have the power to communicate events from a first-hand perspective, without the constraint imposed by editorial boards. I therefore think that for as long as people have universal access to internet at home, the “shift” will happen sooner or later. Then, yes, commercialisation indeed won’t go too far when internet users don’t cast their votes (“clicks”) on those commercial links. Yes, internet users do have a say on the level of commercial activities in the internet.

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  2. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Marvin,

    You make a valid point that online news does not just consist of newspapers but the argument is that Murdoch and co want to squeeze those who are providing news free out of the market. I am not sure I agree totally with this point; big newscasters while naturally have a bigger advertising budget, can bump themselves up on search engines etc than smaller ones who have to work harder and in reality build up a dedicated following to come close to compete.

    Agree about blogs but they are less about news provision and more about commentary in my eyes. They do and hopefully like I said they will react against things going too far.

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