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Up Next: The Right

By Jose Antonio Vargas
When it comes to online donations, to activity on user-generated and social networking sites and to community interaction on local and national blogs, this much is true: Democrats have had the upper hand. That was the case last spring. It remains the case today.

That's why the next few months, leading up to the November elections, will be a real test for Republicans, said Soren Dayton, one of the co-founders of The Next Right.

Launched last Monday, The Next Right is the latest high-profile addition to an online conservative mediasphere that includes the likes of Townhall.com, Pajamas Media and Red State. Founded by three well-known GOP online political operatives -- Patrick Ruffini, previously the eCampaign director for the Republican National Committee; Jon Henke, a former staffer for Fred Thompson; and Dayton, project manager at the online firm New Media Strategies and (briefly) a John McCain aide -- the new site aims to be a virtual think-tank and community-building hub for conservatives. And judging by outside buzz and actual activity on the site in the past week, it's off to a rollicking start.

A recent post headlined "GOP Group Relationships," which was later updated with a diagram, features arguably the most informative breakdown anywhere of various GOP groups. "Status Quo Republicans" (think Richard Nixon) should not be confused with "Paleo-Libertarian Republicans" (think Ron Paul), which is not the same as "Progressive Republicans (think Teddy Roosevelt).

It's all part of the quest to repair what conservatives see as online inequities between themselves and the liberals. To date, the conservative mediasphere has not yet found its online answer to Daily Kos. Though the conservative Drudge Report continues its reign as a must-click for news junkies, the unabashedly liberal Huffington Post, with its pioneering Off The Bus citizen journalists, has had several successes. And when it comes to the grassroots, user-generated political sphere, it often seems as if the Democrats have outnumbered Republicans online.

One of the "critical differences" between right and left blogs, Dayton says, is the level of interaction they allow readers. For many conservative bloggers, the goal has been to drive the traditional media narrative, not necessarily to build an interactive community between bloggers and readers. Following on the heels of Red State, where Dayton has contributed, The Next Right hopes to foster a robust interactive community.

"The Democrats have mastered two things online," Dayton said. "One, they've got more people producing, collecting and distributing information on the Web and, by my count, they have more local and state blogs. And two, they have a constituency -- or a coalition of constituencies -- that actually sits there, reads the blogs and interacts with them."

And so another recent post, this one headlined "Republicans on the Web -- Who Are You?", readers of Next Right were invited to introduce themselves.

This is the fifth in a series of online columns on our growing "clickocracy," in which we are one nation under Google, with e-mail and video for all. Please send suggestions, comments and tips to vargasj-at-washpost-dot-com.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 3, 2008; 8:15 AM ET
Categories:  The Clickocracy  
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