Data from Alexa can be soft and self-selective but it is useful for establishing patterns in what is an extremely complex world. Single-issue campaigns and fringe groups do perform very well online. They are organised and tend to sweat the entire membership, which means that unlike the main political parties, whose following is much more casual, a significant proportion of their supporters are highly active.
The BNP has waged a number of successful tactical campaigns online. These have been thought out; they advertise on Google and focus on search engine optimisation to make them come top of searches. But the success of their online strategy is more a symptom of a deeper malaise in mainstream politics than evidence that they will swamp us at the polls in June.
The right-wing tends to perform better online than the left, perhaps because opposition delivers more passion than government or the established parties. In all media it is easier to attack than defend. The fringe groups can tap into a large wall of sympathetic websites that help boost each other. The political mainstream's digital strategies are improving all the time, but many still lack the clear message and delivery of the sort that helped bring Barack Obama victory in the last US presidential election.
Jimmy Leach is editorial director for digital at 'The Independent' and former head of digital in the Prime Minister's OfficeReuse content