Hi, I’d like to ask all of our Republican colleagues to go to the bathroom or go watch tv or something.
Um, yeah, just kidding, but here’s why: I’m going to be talking about a damned interesting application that electoral and advocacy campaigns can use to keep their branding and messaging in front of supporters, and I’d rather that my Democratic friends get on top of it first. I’ve been impressed with the potential of widgets as an outreach and communications tool for months now, and a product has come along that looks to fill just about every role I’ve talked about an ideal campaign widget doing. (more…)
Last night, Patrick Ruffini published an article on his own site and on techPresident that everybody writing about online politics should consider — though much in the online political world that gets public attention is shiny and pretty, it’s generally not what’s winning elections. Online video? Drudge-like aggregator sites? Good for some press coverage and bringing some site visitors by, but the real work of online political campaigning is in building lists of donors and volunteers and in coordinating their activities. For instance, Patrick compares glowing press coverage of Mitt Romney’s online video outreach (a work-a-day site feature but nothing particularly innovative) with the total LACK of attention given to a list-building operation of his that added 30,000 supporters in a day. Patrick ends his piece with this observation:
When it comes to covering the online campaigns, reporters tend to home in on stuff that’s actually pretty easy by comparison. Throwing up a YouTube video or a MySpace page. Cleverly repackaged press content. Anything goofy. It’s easy for campaigns to get thrown off by this, and keep going after press hit after press hit. But some of the most important technology work that campaigns do is a lot less sexy — voter databases, activism tools, Web-based interfaces for high-dollar fundraisers. How about some coverage of that?
As anyone who’s read e.politics since its beginning knows, I’m much more focused on the nuts and bolts of winning elections than on flash and zing, and I’ll argue until I turn blue that email is still king of keeping and motivating donors and supporters. Patrick’s article should be read right along with Alan Rosenblatt’s recent piece on the media’s over-attention to political blogging — they both offer a good corrective for the “gee whiz” media coverage we’ve seen so much of over the past few months.
Excellent parody of Hillary Clinton in a fake “Celine Dion is the winner!” song contest announcement, with lots of wacky edits and camera angles, wide-eyed expressions, a lapdance joke and a NEW contest — a song for every issue…
The Post continues its excellent coverage of internation e-politics today with an article on activists’ use of cell phones and the web to organize protests against a proposed chemical factory in China. Local authorities squelched mainstream media coverage and tried to intimidate organizers, but thousands turned out in the streets anyway.
Something unprecedented occurred that gave the demonstrators a power even they had not envisioned: Citizen journalists carrying cellphones sent text messages about the action to bloggers in Guangzhou and other cities, who then posted real-time reports for the entire country to see.
“The second police defense line has been dispersed,” Wen Yunchao, one such witness, typed to a friend in Guangzhou. “There is pushing and shoving. The police wall has broken down.”
Chinese tuned in to the blogosphere in great numbers, viewing written accounts and cellphone photographs. Sites carrying the live reports recorded thousands of hits. Some sites were knocked out by security monitors. But by then their reports had bounced to other sites around the country, keeping one step ahead of the censors. Many of those tuned in were traditional newspaper and magazine reporters whose editors were afraid to cover the protests because of warnings from the Xiamen party Propaganda Department.
“The Chinese government controls the traditional press, so the news circulated on the Internet and cellphones,” Wen, also a blogger, said later. “This showed that the Chinese people can send out their own news, and the authorities have no way to stop it entirely. This had so much impact. I think virtually every media worker in China was looking at it and keeping up with it.”
My favorite detail? That the local party has its own official Propaganda Office — I gotta get me one of those. Overall, a fascinating look at the power of the power of the online world to give citizens a voice. Perhaps one day the Chinese public will do more than just stop a chemical plant….
[Sorry, couldn't resist the obvious.] Justin Hamilton with Cong. George Miller’s office has written in to promote an interesting integrated online campaign called “Ask George” that the congressmember is running — he’s asking people to submit video questions about the Iraq war to any of the major video-sharing sites tagged with the term “askgeorge,” and he’ll answer them on his MillerTV video podcast (no word on how many questions he’ll take per week). He’ll also take appropriately titled emails as well as messages sent through an Ask George Facebook group. Finally, Miller’s folks have worked with vendor SplashCast media to create a Facebook Application (the first by a Congressmember?) to display MillerTV video, which I just installed to check it out. Here’s Miller’s video explanation of the campaign:
Very cool concept all around: as Justin puts it, it’s the “first interactive, multi-dimensional congressional town hall, and first congressional facebook application. Our goal is to use new media to further engage the public in a critical public policy issue and help bring us closer to achieving a new direction in the Iraq war. The idea is to have this conversation take place, not on our site, but where ever it is people are online.”
One small recommendation: for MillerTV, go with the more casual setting rather than the formal standup — Miller seems much more relaxed and conversational sitting in his office. Otherwise, excellent way to use the medium — combining video back-and-forth, content-tagging and social networking. Oh, and don’t forget good old email.
Fascinating article in Slate today about the use of political campaign tactics to build demand for Michael Moore’s new film about health care in America, Sicko:
The Weinstein Company, Sicko’s distributor, has hired a Democratic “phone vendor” to contact a select group of potential moviegoers and encourage them to see the film. Phone vendors are usually employed by political campaigns and other interest groups to promote a candidate or a cause. But in this case, they just want you to watch a movie. They’ve already made “tens of thousands” of live calls, with another slew of “robo calls” — recorded messages read by Moore himself — on the way, according to the president of the firm Winning Connections. Callers target known Democratic contributors or activists in New York and Denver, where the film is being released this weekend.
Slicing and dicing political donor lists? That’s crazy talk! As in, fox crazy — the calls apparently cost only 14 cents at most, and they’re aimed at lefty opinion leaders, so each successful call should have a multiplier effect. The film’s being debuted across the country in a steady roll rather than all at once, so the producers (working with Democratic consultant Chris Lehane) are hoping to build a national audience incrementally without having to resort to expensive mass-market tv ads (though I’ve seen some targeted cable ads). Campaign methods spread to commercial marketing! (Though in this case, for a product that definitely has a political edge). What’s next? Negative ads! “Reese’s Pieces — they say they’re an innocent candy, but what do we REALLY know about them? As THIS footage shows, they once shared a room with an illegal alien…”
“Top 20,” produced by Ansar al-Sunnah, is a compilation video of attacks on U.S. forces, presented as a greatest-hits competition among “insurgent brigades” for footage of the most spectacular attack. It is made with the express intention to encourage “healthy” rivalry among cells of fighters.
“It is very fast-paced and clearly aimed at the video game generation,” says [Daniel] Kimmage, who is an Arabist and a regional analyst for the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which broadcasts into Iraq.
Mother Jones has an excellent series of articles about online politics in its July issue, now online. Each article is flanked by sidebar quotes from folks in the field ranging from Howard Dean to Esther Dyson to friends-of-e.politics Mike Cornfield and Julie Barko Germany, and I managed to slip in some nice cynical words alongside the intro article and in a section on What’s Over-Hyped. Very cool! Some real liberal cred.
Toward the end of last week, the John Edwards campaign pulled off a bit of a technological coup — they got around the inherent limits of raising money via cell phone text message. But here’s the rub: the tools they used may not work as well again for Edwards, or for anyone else for that matter.
A few weeks ago, I put out a request for vendors that create sites using Drupal or Joomla, specifically focusing on progressive campaigns and nonprofits. Here are the results, with the most-suggested two companies first and the others in the order they were recommended. I haven’t used any of these companies and know them only by reputation, but this list should give you a good starting point for price and feature comparisons.