The presidential candidates are investing heavily in their own Web sites, but they're finding other ways to reach out to voters online. Their supporters are also getting in on the action.
Free websites like Myspace and YouTube reach audiences that may not watch the debates or other news programs. They reach millions of people and have become incredibly attractive to campaign managers who before had focused on spending thousands of dollars on television advertising.
As soon as Illinois Sen. Barak Obama announced his Presidential Intentions to the nation Saturday, a network of multi-media machines helped kickoff the campaign. His campaign now features a podcast on iTunes, video on the internet source YouTube, and nearly a dozen posts on Obama's unofficial MySpace network of friends’ pages.
"It's about creating buzz or excitement,” said Peace College political science professor David McLennan.
McLennan said the fact that many of these sites are free attracts millions of people. It also reaches out to young potential voters to make politicians more attractive.
"It's about really engaging people,” McLennan said. “It's a long marathon between now and the primary season. It's difficult for the campaigns to sustain momentum."
It's a fresh approach embraced by former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsak. Both have official MySpace web pages.
Supporters of Republican Sen. John McCain and former Gov. Mike Huckabee set up pages to attract potential voters. Also, more than 100 pieces of video are available under a YouTube search for Rudy Giuliani’s name.
"I don't think it's at all reached its potential,” McLennan said. “I mean, if we're talking about a year from now, four years down the road, this thing will only be bigger."
Of course, there are drawbacks to these sites. In particular, with so much information spread across the Internet, it’s very difficult for candidates to control what’s said about them.