Web logs, or blogs, may be a powerful new force in U.S. politics but they have not displaced traditional media in terms of information and influence, a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed Monday.
Charting the discussion of issues during the 2004 presidential campaign, the study found political blogs — online opinion and information sites — played a similar, but not greater role, as the mainstream media in "creating buzz" around the candidates' campaigns.
The study dispels the notion that blogs are replacing traditional media as the public's primary source of information, said Michael Cornfield, a senior research consultant at Pew.
"Bloggers follow buzz as much as they make it," said Cornfield. "Our research uncovered a complicated dynamic in which a hot topic of conversation could originate with the blogs or it could originate with the media or it could originate with the campaigns.
"We can say that if people still have that idea that the bloggers are the new fifth estate, that the bloggers are the new kingmakers, that's not the case."
The study charted 40 blogs, online message boards and forums as well as newspapers and television in the last two months of the race between Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry.
It followed topics as they were discussed in the various outlets.
For example, it showed the Bush campaign paid more attention to an Osama bin Laden tape than did the blogs. At the same time, the Kerry campaign made more mention of missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq than the blogs. The mainstream media made more mention of Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter than either the blogs or the campaigns.
Political bloggers' power "waxes and wanes" depending on factors like what information is available and what other outlets are doing, said Cornfield.
"What political bloggers are doing is following stories and then amplifying the hell out of them," said Dan Gimor, author of "We the Media."
The results showed blogging functions alongside traditional media, said David Sifry, a software developer at the forum.
"It's not about 'either/or.' It's about 'and,'" he said. "That's why I still read 'The New York Times.'"