- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

LOS ANGELES All through the Democratic National Convention, the talk was strictly happy along Internet Alley and Democracy Row until someone asked about the Internet services' profits and actual number of users.
Then with one or two exceptions among the 62 Web site representatives on hand at the press center there was hemming and hawing.
Take Women.com Network, an extensive Web site launched in January and dedicated to the females who now make up the majority of Internet users.
The site is nonpartisan and allows users to write petitions, sign any of more than 1,000 existing petitions, write their state and federal representatives and register to vote in states where it's legal to do so on line. The site even provides "shopping" information on candidates and lets women say exactly what they want in a politician. The site also has video of interviews and clips of convention speeches.
"We are doing very well," said Executive Producer Lisa Stone.
But ask her how many visits her site logged during the Republican Convention and how many it was getting during the Democratic one and she refuses to be specific.
"We've had a definite traffic bump. But we only give out numbers quarterly." she said.
In contrast, Voter.com was not the least bit hesitant to discuss either numbers or its business plan. The site features advertising, both commercial and political; unfiltered position papers and press releases from politicos, and offers candidates target outreach to registered users who say they want to get material from particular politicians or companies.
"We normally have 500,000 unique users a month, people who come on at least once," said Chris Lisi, Voter.com's media relations director. "On the second day of the Democratic convention, we had 280,000 page views, which translates to 140,000 users, which was a record for us. We're not making a profit yet, but we think we're well on our way."
ABCNews.com, which features video interviews conducted by ABC-TV stars Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts, was not offering specific numbers.
"We have no numbers yet from the conventions," according to a spokeswoman, "but we do know we've had an increase of 20 percent from our regular programming. That's probably because we're doing five Webcasts a day during the convention, compared to three normally."
Maybe one reason the dot-coms don't like to give out specific numbers is that the numbers aren't yet very good, and no one can be sure if or when they ever will be good.
A study of Web traffic during the Republican convention conducted by Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy concluded that visits to the four most popular news Web sites dropped 14 percent. The survey tracks choices of 120,000 home Internet users.
"Not a single respondent in our survey claimed to have participated in a convention-dedicated Web site," the report said. The survey also found that even though Voter.com placed computer kiosks around Philadelphia, only 120,000 people visited the site during the Republican convention.
Over on Democracy Row, the nonprofit Web sites were less concerned with money, more interested in visits. But they were equally unable or unwilling to get specific.
The 6-year-old California Voter Foundation's calvoter.org Web site, the largest state-oriented net operation, lists the top 10 donors for and against every ballot measure in the initiative-happy state and provides links to hundreds of other election-related Web sites. The site is funded by private donations and foundation grants.
"Our traffic has doubled with every election, both primary and general, since we started in 1994," said Executive Director Kim Alexander. "It's now about 500,000 page views per election. Even in our lowest times, we get several hundred visits."
One oddity she reported: Web site visits rose more during the week before the Republican convention than they did during convention week itself.

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