Brilliant piece by Scott Henson comparing the the prose form of campaign blogging to the musical forms of jazz and blues.
Mass media campaigns are fixed compositions, where the same notes are played over and over again. (Scott uses the analogy of classical music, but I’d say Top 40, Clearchannel, focus-group-tested, endlessly-repeated pop.)
Campaigns using bottom-up media are more like blues, where the theme is repeated with enough variation to keep things interesting, enough repetition to be satisfying, and a folk culture transmission in the music community.
Thinking out loud, the cultural parallels may extend to social organization. Group blogs like Daily Kos and RedState are like bands with leading soloists, and background players who occasionally take front stage. The group structure is in flux, with soloists heading off to start their own band, like Billmon from Kos, and the creation of supergroups like Tagsonomy, which can be more or less than the sum of the parts. There are informal but distinct “schools” connected by interlinks — Texas bloggers, liberal bloggers, conservative bloggers, environmental bloggers.
Like musical traditions, blog communities are about affiliation. Blogs are language, not music, and one of the primary roles of language is persuasion.
Scott’s argument is targeted at traditional campaign managers who are antsy at giving up control to the free-wheeling blogosophere. Just as ClearChannel is losing market share to services with greater diversity, like iTunes and satellite radio, Scott argues that campaigns based on fixed repetition will lose out:
Message-makers who resist the change, especially those who stick to the repeat-it-ad-nauseum approach, will increasingly cause their campaigns to lose the message wars. Those who’ve learned to vary their message and rhythms to accomodate the changing environment along the line of the 12-bar blues model possess greater flexibility to operate in the new era.
Coming from the opposite “emergent democracy” side of the conversation, which celebrates the “bottom-up”, improvisatory spirit and scorns the rigorous practices of organization, Scott’s focus on campaigns is rather refreshing. Campaigns are unabashedly, er, purposive. Evangelism and persuasion are part of the blogging genre, whether the domain is politics, technology, or something else. Ants get other ants to swarm with pheremones; humans get other humans to swarm with ideas.