Republicans and the Web
Matt Stoller has a good post up regarding the Republican, and conservative, use of the web and how it has fallen behind that of Democrats and progressives. Conservatives have, without question, done extremely well with direct marketing and with talk radio. Since the late '80s, the dominant voice, practically the only voice, on talk radio has been conservative. And while Democrats are catching up at direct mailing, Conservatives are still far ahead in organization and deployment of that means of communicating their message. On the web, on the other hand, while conservatives dominated in the 90's, today progressives dominate in terms of readership and, which is very important for future political contests, in fund raising. The Q1 numbers for the various candidates show the Democrats far ahead of the Republicans.
Among the reasons offered in the comments is the hierarchical nature of the conservative movement. I think this is very much a part of the difference in performance. The conservative movement is much more top-down in organization and much less tolerant of dissent, or even new ideas, coming up from the ranks. Note the way that conservatives described the effort to unseat Senator Lieberman. That was a "purge" of almost Stalinist proportions. This coming from the same folks who, only a few years ago, wanted term limits to keep Senators and Representatives from staying too long. Remember the Republic desperately needed to keep these people from staying in office longer than a few terms. But this is in the nature of the modern conservative mindset. To have a top-down kind of restriction on time in office, that would be ok. Having the people decide that this office holder needs to go, especially if it is one that conservatives like, that is monstrous.
The Democrats and progressives, on the other hand, are much more accepting of the bottom up approach. Now, don't mistake me, nobody in charge likes getting criticism from anybody, let alone from folks lower down on the pecking order. Democrats and progressives do grumble and gripe about it, but we also recognize that it is necessary, needed and ultimately good (even if it is bruising to one's own ego).
The internet and net roots, at least as it is currently structured, is well suited to tapping that grass roots kind of activism and input. Anyone can set up a blog, or participate on MyDD or Kos and start making a contribution. The comments coming from such sources do get heard and eventually recognized. Furthermore, this kind of input is vital to coming up with good, effective solutions to problems and developing winning strategies. It is a strength, not a weakness.