Parties, their websites and 'da youth'…

The SDLP kindly responded to my request for links to their youth site yesterday. There’s some interesting interactive content, though it probably needs radical re-organising. So far it contains the only interactive feature of any of the youth sites.

This is an important difference. Phil Noble told that seminar in Westminster I went to last Tuesday that political parties and politians in general are current only using about 20% of the capacity available now online.

Stephen Coleman, also pointed out that the age group most keyed into using the net for political information (in the US) is the 18-24 age group. This is the broadband generation. Given the current dynamic situation in politics here, this age group is also key to each of NI’s poltical parties.

What do people look for from the sites they want to return to? Interactivity. The first political site on the net was Teddy Kennedy’s back in 1994. It was what we regard today as a placeholder – a large graphic inviting the ‘viewer’ to vote for Kennedy.

The Hansard’s Society’s report on political blogging suggested that brochure sites that carry political messages were a first iteration of political sites. Today, they are clearly moving towards fast changing content, and higher interactivity.

If Phil Noble’s to believed, it can also be a profit, rather than a cost centre for political parties. The Ogra site at least does have a link to the party’s online shop.

Humour is almost entirely missing from any of the sites we’ve seen, this was an important driver of traffic to political sites in the recent US elections.

So where’s the DUP site? Well, my suspicion is (and we’ve not heard anything from the party at this stage) that it’s main site has already built with precisely this younger demographic in mind – think text messages/ election cartoons/ emailing list. I’m not really sure what they’d change from the main site to make it a youth site. Ironic, since their party leader is nearly twice the age of any of the others.

Herein may lie the problem for the other parties. The 18-24 age group is not marginal to your net presence – it’s the key! If you can start talking to this age group, you will simply be making the medium sing in tune! And you won’t necessarily loose your older readers.

The brochure on the net approach doesn’t work. Young people want good information, a chance to participate online, and yes, be entertained. To paraphrase Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams line: “If you don’t build it, they will not come!

The message is clear – invest, think about who you want to talk to on the net and starting ‘talking’. And above all, don’t be dull!

  • Warm Storage

    I got distracted into checking out Tommy Gallagher’s web site — under ‘Links’, check out what he has under listed first under ‘Youth Interest’. I know the SDLP has lost the plot but…


  • Warm Storage

    Apologies for the proliferation of “under”s in that post.

    Under the weather…

  • Warm Storage

    Apologies for the proliferation of “under”s in that post.

    Under the weather…

  • Michael Shilliday

    Its hardly a SDLP youth site, more a page or two on the SDLP site.

  • unionist_observer

    maybe the lack of response from the DUP is because they don’t have a youth section – one man shouting with his lone follower, no matter how loud does not constitute a youth organisation.

  • mickhall


    Sometime ago I wrote a piece for the Blanket after trawling through nearly, if not all of Ireland political Parties web sites.(north and south) Back then only the Irps of all people had an interactive board attached, which taking into account their history I thought at least was a step forward. As for the rest they were all little more than a notice board and an ego booster for the party leader.
    For all that politicians talk about the web being the future ect, most seem to walk in fear of it.


  • Weapons Of Crass Instruction

    “Rock your vote”??

    Christ, for one horrible minute there I thought I was back at the Ben Elton school of eighties ‘yoof’ sub-culture.

  • Mick Fealty


    That’s absolutely right. I don’t see the party’s making much use out of their sites until they are prepared to take some risks.

    This means opening up channels of real communication, using cheap technology and investing in *someone* in your party who understands the net and is trusted well enough by the party establish him or herself as a genuine voice of the party on the net.

    Press releases and the kind of control that may be necessary for tv and radio just don’t do it!

    The kind of dialogue the net can generate can be hugely useful to any party looking to build internal consensuses and draw opponents into dialogue. But again it needs the manpower to handle it.

  • unionist_observer

    This isn’t the website of a political party but it is an example of an excellent political website.

  • Davros

    The Pictures on the SDLP yoof site are so …naff!
    U2 ? Come on, that’s really sad!

  • cg

    “The Pictures on the SDLP yoof site are so …naff!
    U2 ? Come on, that’s really sad!”

    davros I would have to concur 😉

  • unionist_observer

    ah no, I think they’re kinda cool, definitely appeals to the youth. Besides its nice to have pics, makes it seem more human and fun.