Daily Kos Starts Running Radio Ads

Daily Kos has been raising money for liberal politicians for years, but now, for the first time, it will begin airing campaign ads.

The blog says it's raised just over $20,000 to fund radio ads attacking Paul Ryan, the GOP Budget chairman, and moderate New Hampshire Republican Charlie Bass, who won re-entry into Congress this past year. Daily Kos is partnering in this endeavor with the liberal activist group Americans United for Change, which approached Daily Kos with the ads.

Listen to them below:

The ads both begin running today and will continue to for a week.

The ads are part of a larger effort by Daily Kos, which is registered as a corporation, to expand its activist arm--which, in turn, is part of a larger trend seen in independent political blogs over the past several years. Daily Kos brought in Chris Bowers, formerly with the liberal blog Open Left (which he recently shut down), to take up that initiative as campaign director.

"This is something I've been eyeing for a while," Bowers said of the radio ads. "It's certainly one of the hallmarks of a strong activist group, their ability to run independent paid media, and this specific idea was brought to me by Americans United for Change and the people at Blue America, and I thought it was a good ad, it was timely, we coordinated it and [began raising money] about two weeks ago."

There has long been overlap between political blogs and activism. The popular blog ThinkProgress, for instance, is run by the Center for American Progress's advocacy arm. Daily Kos is no stranger to politics, either: Partnering with other progressive blogs in the Blue Majority coalition in 2006, it helped raise $600,000. Again banding together with other popular liberal blogs in 2008, it helped raise a total of over $2 million as part of its Orange to Blue initiative, Bowers said.

Americans United for Change, for its part, has seen liberal blogs as natural allies for activism and fundraising. AUFC has traditionally worked in coalitions with an array of big and small progressive groups, and the partnership with Daily Kos is part of a larger initiative to partner with blogs. In mid-January it launched a partnership with Daily Kos, Down With Tyranny, and Crooks and Liars to orchestrate ads attacking Republicans over health care. But the Ryan and Bass ads mark the first time Daily Kos will be the sole blogging backer of an a political ad campaign.

Since rising to a peak of prominence during the 2006 election, liberal blogs have struggled to stay relevant.

"As a collective whole, I would say probably not," Bowers said when asked if independent liberal blogs are as influential now as they were in 2006. Bowers cited large news organizations' ability to snap up bloggers and pay them full time, and Barack Obama's ascent to fill a leadership vacuum on the Left that bloggers, Bowers said, filled in 2006.

Expanding into more activism is one way to retain influence, Bowers said.

"You're simply going to be taken more seriously, and as the blogosphere and the progressive Netroots matures, that's something we're very interested in doing," Bowers said.

"There's a couple different directions" in which blogs can go, Bowers said. "One way is you can have more of a professional reporting style, which I think is typical of places like TalkingPointsMemo, but you can also...expand your activist operation."

Whereas progressive blogging was once about news aggregation and analysis, Bowers said, it now has to be something more.

"That's still going to be an important feature, but it's not going to be sustainable in and of itself," Bowers said.