Before you read any further, I’m not endorsing any candidate. I’ll leave it up to your good judgment as to who you want to be our next president.
We’ll be bombarded again with television and radio ads this year. Although, I think the 2008 Presidential Campaign marks the true arrival of the Web as a campaign tool, to connect, to raise money and as a source of information and misinformation.
Politics and the Web are not a new mix. John McCain made effective use of it in 2000. Howard Dean successfully harnessed the Web to raise funds in 2004. His famous scream after the Iowa Caucus was both heard and seen around the world by that same Web. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee shot a spot on the cheap with actor Chuck Norris (who endorses his run), posted it on YouTube™ and got a million hits.
Succeed by technology or fail by technology. It still comes down to content, message and voter perception; their perception is their reality.
A new survey released by the Pew Internet and Review Project shows 48 percent of Web users have been to video file share sites like YouTube. The daily traffic to these sites has doubled since last year. Predictably, it’s younger users who visit the most. They’re a key demographic in this election.
A recent article from MediaPost.com Publications called “Politicos Spend Big On Traditional Media; Crumbs For Web” said that of the $5 billion spent on campaign advertising this campaign, less than one percent will be spent on the Internet. Broadcast television will still get the largest portion of money, at least 60 percent. The story from MediaPost also said that “the Web’s importance for candidates goes well beyond what they’re paying for online media.” It cites Barack Obama’s 2007 second quarter fund raising of $17 million, $10 million of which was raised through his campaign on the Internet. It’s hard to argue with that kind of return on an investment.
What candidates have also discovered is the Internet removes the filter of network reporters, pundits and analysts. Why risk “Meet the Press” when you can meet the people via the Web? If you watch network coverage, you’re merely seeing reports on what the bloggers have already reported. Today’s political campaign stops include YouTube, Flikr™, Facebook® and MySpace®.
Your blog can link to your candidate and if you have any influence on Web 2.0 during Campaign 08, they’ll link to you. Link is replacing ink for coverage.
At least two debates this campaign season featured questions from folks living along Main Street, U.S.A. via YouTube. But, say something stupid during a stump speech and you can count on that blunder showing up on YouTube instantly. The Web makes everyone a reporter and everyone fair game even when it’s unfair. The rule still applies; if you don’t want to be quoted, don’t say it. Just ask George Allen.
The Web is the information source of choice for the younger generation of voters. They could care less about the opinions of those who report on America from inside the beltway. TV and print are out as far as they’re concerned. Their parents, who use the Internet in growing numbers, still read the paper and get their news from TV. So the question is, who will be more informed and more importantly who will actually vote?
As races get tighter and sadly, nastier, be prepared to see a flood of various e-mails and postings designed to mislead and misinform. It’s often hard to track the source, so pay attention to everything you read. Just because it’s on the Web does not make it true. Dirty campaign tricks are nothing new, the Web simply provides a high-tech way to create political mischief. It also allows nimble and Web-savvy campaigns to react quickly to such attacks.
Ultimately, I don’t think it will be the best political machine that wins, but the campaign team that best knows how to use the machine on their laps.
Regardless of your party affiliation, let’s take a moment to salute those who have the courage to stand up and put their name on the ballot. It’s a deeply personal commitment to do so and a high form of personal patriotism. You can’t run for office anonymously.
Respect the process by casting your vote for your candidate of choice in this year’s election.
Where are you getting your campaign information this year? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
John W. Scherer