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CONVENTION 2000 / THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION

Despite Improved High-Tech Accessories, Republican Convention Flopped on Web

August 14, 2000|JEFF LEEDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Web-savvy political junkies hyped all manner of Internet pageantry at the GOP convention, from 360-degree Web cameras to an endless parade of online pundits. But a new study suggests nobody watched.

"Americans had almost no interest in experiencing the convention over the Internet," concluded a study released Sunday by the Vanishing Voter project, a research group at Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

Traffic to the four most popular news sites dipped 14% during the week of the convention from the week before, according to the study, citing data from PC Data Online, which tracks the choices of 120,000 home Internet users in the United States.

"Not a single respondent in our survey claimed to have participated in a convention-dedicated chat group," the report says. "Only two respondents claimed to have visited a Web site dedicated to continuous convention coverage."

Indeed, researchers found mixed results when trying out some of the sophisticated features the news Web sites were touting. C-SPAN, in partnership with Yahoo, let viewers pick among several camera angles, including one of the cable channel's control room. But the video was "dark, tiny and hard to decipher," the study says.

Another political Web site, http://www.voter.com, offered nightly poll results and placed kiosks around Philadelphia, the site of the convention, to draw users. But it failed to pull much traffic: Only 120,000 visitors went to the site all week.

Michael Bustamante, a spokesman for the Web site, said the study's estimate of traffic to the page was off by at least half. But he said politics still has a viable future on the Internet.

"I don't think people were interested in the toys and gimmicks," Bustamante said. "But there's always a hunger for information."

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