Special Interest groups have a unique opportunity to fill the void left by the decline of newspapers but have not yet reached their potential, according to a Hall Institute study.
“Our research strongly suggests that interest groups have much more to do in order to improve the informative capacity of their websites,” the study concluded. “If these sites are to have a strong presence amid the cacophony of voices on the web, they must do a better job not just of providing information, but connecting it to activism and adding value to the larger web conversation.”
The study focused on internet activity during the 2008 senate campaign, and was conducted by Bob Sommer, a lecturer at the Institute of Planning and Public Policy Communications at Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and a former President of Observer Media Group, the parent company of PolitickerNJ.
Sommer and his co-authors found that several interest groups failed to tie in the campaigns to their message and could have done more to convince their audiences that the election was relevant to the cause.
“Interest groups in our New Jersey study as a whole could have done more to maximize the potential of their websites to convince their audiences of the relevance of the Senate election to their particular issue and in doing so, provide more useful policy information to these consumers,” the authors wrote.
The authors identified 8 criteria and graded advocacy groups concerned with each issue.
Among the groups graded by the researchers using data from the campaign between incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Republican challenger Dick Zimmer, were the New jersey Policeman’s Benevolent Association, which was given a grade of D, the New Jersey Education Association – given a C, and the American Cancer Society of New Jersey, also given a C.
Among the groups that scored high in tying the political message to their own were the AARP of New Jersey, the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) and the American Chemical Society, which were al given A’s.