The patron saint of blogging, Iain Dale, is often bemoaning politicans who don't take advantage of e-campaigning either to keep in touch with constituents or to get elected in the first place. With a blog (this one), a website, a regular e-newsletter and more to come I'd like to consider myself somewhere in the top half of candidates when it comes to using the net. But one moan of MPs and the like about online campaigning is there is little evidence about the actual impact it has; and a recent statistic I have come across may help to flesh this out a little.
My campaign site - www.electantonylittle.com - is run using wordpress which has a much clearer and easier stat counter than most providers. You can see on a graph how many unique visitors you have and it is therefore easier to correlate this against other campaigning activity.
If the site it linked to by another big player - either Dale or ConHome - then you get a spike in visitors. Similarly if it gets a name check in the local press or even sometimes this blog can push visitors over to it.
I don't see e-campaigning and traditional campaigning (posters, leaflets et al) as mutually exclusive and thus we spend a lot of time in Norwich South out delivering and door knocking. The website has featured in the latest leaflet which is currently being delivered.
And with each big delivery session ... yes, you get "the peak" too; so last weekend we delivered thousands of leaflets in Thorpe Hamlet, Lakenham, Town Close, New Costessey, Bowthorpe and Earlham - and yes, the site got its biggest day of traffic. Yesterday we splurged in Eaton - another spike - and today in Town Close - and, yes, a smaller but very clear spike.
Because this happens everytime we do a major leaflet drop and there being no other explanation the web stas have to be linked to the paper campaign; if people like what they read or want to know more they can go online.
So yes I believe the future of politics is online and the visitors on sites like this are increasing all the time. But many candidates will wonder how to develop an audience; and here we come to a chicken and egg situation. You have to run a good paper campaign to establish your online presence - but when you have and people return time after time, then the internet comes into its own.