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November 1, 2006

HotSoup/MSNBC: A Powerful Combination or Hype and Bluster?

MSNBC is hoping to garner stronger interest in discussion surrounding political issues, and subsequently stronger ratings for its political coverage, through its new partnership with the MSNBC site as well.

In addition, the two co-founders of HotSoup will appear weekly on Hardball with Chris Matthews and other MSNBC shows. The co-founders are Matthe Dowd who worked with the 2004 George W. Bush presidential campaign and former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart.

The popularity of HotSoup among politicians and celebrities in a short amount of time shows that it may have been the right product at the right time for politicians and the politically inclined in the public sphere to have a forum in which to communicate directly with concerned citizens dedicated particularly to issues of public policy. But is it more than just a marketing tool, or do these people actually engage with the site or only someone on their staff who is trying to give the appearance of their interest?

These are the types of questions raised in a savvy piece from William Beutler on Oct. 24, before HotSoup's deal was launched. He asks, "What to make of HotSoup, the no-partisan, non-ideological, mostly non-everything political discussion/debate site?" From his perspective, the site isn't amounting to much so far.

But what will the partnership with MSNBC mean for the site, if anything?

I guess we'll find out...


Sam, thanks. Here's my guess, as I replied back at Blog PI:

My initial guess is that someone at HotSoup finally realized their rhetoric about creating an exciting new forum was losing to reality. They already had advertising from NBC and McKinnon is making regular appearances on Hardball -- so corporate synergy was already in effect.

So by signing up with MSNBC, HotSoup is already a success, despite everything else. Now they could tap MSNBC's resources to improve the website and maybe locate an audience. More cynically, they might try to sell it off and wash their hands of the project.

Thanks for the reply! I guess that MSNBC may get some value about the perception of the partnership, even if it doesn't necessarily reflect reality. As you mentioned, if they can make it seem like they have a valuable product, that may be the value, anyway. And, if MSNBC ends up creating value before it, it will be forgotten what happened in that few-week period before this partnership, anyway. Again, even if it doesn't live up to the hype initially, this deal may whitewash over it. I guess time will tell.

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