Kerry plugs site

The Institute for Politics Democracy & the Internet at George Washington University

Sen. John Kerry's plug for his Web site resulted in a record spike in traffic to JohnKerry.com, according to an online research firm.

Kerry (D-Mass.) told the Democratic convention audience during his presidential nomination acceptance speech July 29 to do "something that Franklin Roosevelt could never have said in his acceptance speech: Go to JohnKerry.com."

Between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., the period during which Kerry delivered his speech, his campaign Web site drew approximately 50,000 visitors, according to officials at comScore Networks Inc., which tracks consumer behavior and attitudes on the Internet.

Kerry urged listeners to visit the site to learn more about his plans for the economy, education, health care and energy.

In all, more than 300,000 Americans clicked onto the site on the day of Kerry's speech — exceeding the daily average of 40,000 visitors per day in June.

President Bush's official re-election site saw increased traffic, too. GeorgeWBush.com drew approximately 30,000 visitors during Kerry's acceptance speech, the highest hourly traffic level recorded in at least the past week, according to comScore.

Kerry's Web site promotion highlights the Internet's growing importance in political campaigning, an expert says.

Web users are likely to be "disproportionately influential with their friends and colleagues and neighbors," according to Carol Darr, director of the Institute for Politics Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University. They're seven times more likely to be opinion leaders than the average person, she added.

"The people involved in politics through the Internet were not a bunch of geeks like the press had earlier portrayed them," Darr said.

JohnKerry.com gets high marks from Darr. "It's good on usability, and it's good on focusing on what he needs to focus on immediately right now, which is to draw people in as volunteers, as opposed to drawing them in as contributors," she said.

Because Kerry accepted $75 million in public funding for the general election, his campaign is barred from using citizen donations following the candidate's formal acceptance of the party's nomination, except to pay off debt.

But that doesn't mean the Web site decreases in importance, Darr said. People who point their browsers to politicians' sites are "figuratively peering in the window of campaign headquarters, trying to decide if they want to walk in the door."

The Internet played a strong role in campaign politics his year, starting with Democratic primary candidate Howard Dean's use of the Web to raise money. As of June, the Kerry campaign raised about $60 million from Internet donors — approximately 35 percent of the campaign's total at the time, according to the institute.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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