January 23, 2004
@ 05:05 PM

Theres been some recent surprise by blogcrazy about the recent democratic party caucus in Iowa in which John Kerry won 38 percent of the state convention delegates, with 32 percent for John Edwards, 18 percent for Howard Dean and 11 percent for Gephardt. Many had assumed that Howard Dean's highly successful Internet campaign with its adoption of blogging technologies and support by many bloggers were an indication of strong grass roots support. Yeah, right.

Robert Scoble wrote

Along these lines, by tomorrow, I'm sure there'll be more than one person that will gnash their teeth and write "weblogs failed Dean."

Well, the weblog hype did get overboard the past few weeks. Weblogs do matter. Why? The influentials read weblogs. The press. The insiders. The passionate ones.

But, the average Joe doesn't read these. Come on, be real. Instapundit gets, what, 100,000 to 200,000 visitors a day? I get 2,000. That's a small little dinky number in a country of 290 million.

Weblogs and online technologies have helped Dean and others collect a lot of money, but you still gotta have a TV persona that hits home. Just reality in 2004. I'm not bitter about that.

The lessons for big-company evangelism (or small company, for that matter) are the same. If your product isn't something that average people like, it doesn't matter how good the weblogs are.

Considering that Robert Scoble is one of the weblog hypesters who may have gone “overboard“ as he puts  it I find his post particularly telling. Folks like Robert Scoble have trumpetted that weblogs would be triumphant against traditional marketting and in many posts he's berated product teams at the company he works for [Microsoft] that don't consider weblogging as part of their marketing message. Weblogs are currently a fairly low cost way of communicating with a certain class of internet savvy people. However nothing beats traditional communication channels such as television, billboards and the print media for spreading a message amongst all and sundry.

Don't be blinded by the hype.

There's one other response to the recent events in Iowa that made me smile.  Doc Searles wrote 

I see that my positive spin yesterday on Howard Dean's "barbaric yawp" speech got approximately no traction at all. Worse, the speech was (predictably) mocked by everybody in the major media from Stern in the morning to Letterman and Leno in the evening. 

  Clearly, its effects were regretable. It hurt the campaign. But it was also honest and authentic, and in the long run that can only help, for the simple reason that it was real.
  So. What to do? 
  Here's my suggestion... Look at media coverage as nothing more than transient conditions, like weather. And navigate by the stars of your own constituency.
  The main lesson from Cluetrain is "smart markets get smarter faster than most companies." The same goes for constituencies and candidates. Your best advice will come from the people who know you best, who hear your voice, who understand the missions of your campaign and write about it clearly, thoughtfully and with great insight. They're out there. Your staff can help you find them. Navigate by their stars, not the ones on television. 

I've always found people who espouse the Cluetrain Manifesto as seeming particularly naive as to the realities of markets and marketing. Telling someone to ignore media coverage and keep it real is not how elections are won in America. Any student of recent American history knows the increased significance of the media in presedential elections ever since the televised Kennedy-Nixon debates in the elections of the1960s.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.