Greetings from South by Southwest!

Hi folks, I’ve been at the SXSW Interactive Festival/Conference since Friday — hell of a time. I’ve been going to plenty of great panels (plus a couple of dogs…c’mon, people!) on the intersection of tech and politics/advocacy, but other fun topics have been on the menu as well. Government and Augmented Reality, anyone?

But of course, the best part of any event like this is meeting and talking with so many bright, interesting and motivated people — it’s a huge boost to the brain, and I’ll be walking out full of inspiration.

SXSW Interactive ends tonight; after that, I’ll plunge into four days of SXSW Music (4000 bands! 50-odd venues!). Look for an article or two inspired by Interactive panels and conversations to appear in the next few days, but not too many — I’ve got business that involves amplifiers, and I’m not one to shirk my duties. Next year? I bet you might just see me here again…SXSW has changed enormously since the first time I went in 2003, but it’s still a unique environment and a wonderful community. Check it out sometime if you can.


Add comment March 11th, 2014 Trackback

Big Data in Politics: How Did We Get Here & Where Are We Going? [Presentation]

On Thursday I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with Chris Wegrzyk (Blue Labs), Bruce Willsie (Labels & Lists) and Matt McMillan (Buzzmaker) at the 2014 Victory Awards Conference (you might remember that last year won a Victory Award at this Spanish-language conference as Best Blog in a language other than Spanish). Our topic? How Big Data is transforming politics — good stuff.

We had a great conversation, and as promised, I’m posting my slides from an introductory presentation below. How has big data played in politics? Where does it apply? What are its limitations? If you have questions about any topic in the presentation, feel free to drop me a note — I’m happy to chat.


Add comment March 8th, 2014 Trackback

How Upworthy Won the Internet, and What You Can Learn From Their Adventures

Content aggregrator is one of the few websites that’s clearly changed the way the internet does business. How? Through a ruthless process of testing, they discovered the power of those teasy, clever headlines that absolutely make you want to click them…and which were promptly copied by every online publisher alive. Unfortunately, most of those publishers did NOT share Upworthy’s focus on quality content with a progressive slant, meaning that most of the copycat headlines pointed to articles that thoroughly disasppointed. But at least the headlines worked! (for a while…).

The folks at Marketo have put together a nice infographic explaining how Upworthy did it and what you can learn from them: the absolute keys are testing and being open to change. As Upworthy’s Adam Mordecai put it in a listserv discussion about this infographic, “we’ve been testing lots more descriptive headlines and they are working. (and in fact, if you tested one of our old headlines now, I imagine it would test poorly. That’s why we always test, because people grow weary of a specific style over time.) So while some copycats may poach our style from 2012, I assure you we aren’t in the business of pushing meaningless content.”

Check out the infographic below. I guarantee it will change your life forever.


Add comment March 6th, 2014 Trackback

Top Ten Progressive Advocacy Facebook Posts (2/24 to 3/3/2014)

Back after technical difficulties! Check out last week’s top 10 over-performing Facebook posts, from the (roughly) 400 progressive groups followed by our friends at CrowdTangle. Of note this week: leaf slugs. Trust me.

1. Energy Action Coalition (129.1x)



Add comment March 4th, 2014 Trackback

Obama Releases 2012 Data/Tech to 2014 Campaigns: What are the Implications?

The big news in the domestic political campaign world late last week was the announcement that the 2012 Obama campaign’s trove of data and technology would be released for use by other Democrats in 2014. For details, check out Kate Kaye’s excellent coverage in Ad Age, which also explores the implications for the data market on the Democratic side (plus, I got a few quotes in the piece — thanks Kate!). I wrote it up over the weekend for the next C&E magazine TechBytes column, but that won’t be public for another few weeks. Let’s think through some of the implications:

  • Obviously, this has the potential to affect the dynamics of individual races in significant ways this fall. If Democrats can target outreach as effectively as Obama did in 2012 (and note that Democrats in Virginia claimed BETTER targeting in 2013 in part because of data and experience accumulated in the state the year before), they can offset at least some of the Republican financial advantage in the fall. More bang for your buck = effectively, more bucks.
  • It’s likely that Dems will find it easier to roll out data access before the fall than to introduce major new software and technology, because of the learning curve and the need for training. As I’ve written about previously in TechBytes, though, Democrats already had a solid plan in place to give House and Senate candidates a comprehensive set of data-driven tools for voter outreach, and much of the Obama 2012 tech legacy was already slated for transfer.


Add comment March 3rd, 2014 Trackback

TechBytes: Dems Plan to Take Virginia Model Nationwide, Plus Good Reasons to Boost Your Facebook Marketing Budget


While I’ve been working on the next Technology Bytes column for Campaigns and Elections magazine this past week, the previous one went online (the print version of the magazine shipped a couple of weeks ago). This issue, we’re talking about:

  • Now Democrats plan to take the data-driven outreach model that helped them win the Virginia governor’s race in November nationwide, a topic you’re going to hear a lot more about
  • The need to plan for a pay-to-play Facebook marketing environment
  • How the power of social validation argues for building a Facebook following early

Check it out! BTW, when’s the new column coming out? We go to press next week, so subscribers can expect the magazine in their mailboxes in 4-6 weeks.


Add comment March 1st, 2014 Trackback

Catching Up

Hi folks, sorry for the recent content shortage — I’ve been swamped with work and other commitments pre-South by Southwest and had to let the site rest for a bit. One adventure last week? An all-morning training for government relations professionals on Monday, which gave me a couple of chances to talk digital advocacy with people I like. For instance, in the picture below, Henri Makembe (Beekeeper Group) and Julie Germany (DCI Group) and I are discussing the strengths and weaknesses of email for political advocacy:


Good times, and a true pleasure to get to hear what they had to say. BTW, if you missed the article a few days back, check out the key online advocacy trends I’m keeping an eye on, which got its start while I was prepping for that training. And, now that the dam’s broken, look for more articles to follow in the next few days.


Add comment March 1st, 2014 Trackback

Visualize Dark Money: Interactive Map Shows Senate Races that Drew Undisclosed Political Cash in 2012

One of the lovely quirks of our political finance system is the role of “dark money” spent by organizations that DON’T have to disclose their donors. Where does it go? Thanks to a MapLight analysis of Federal Elections Commission data, we can see the Senate races that these “dark” organizations emphasized in 2012. Check out the map embedded below, and be sure to play around with it: clicking on a state, for instance, brings up a list of groups and their expenditures in that state. For 2014, look for “dark money” to flood again into competitive Senate (and House?) seats across the country. If money is speech, these folks have an awfully loud megaphone….

Learn About Tableau


Add comment February 21st, 2014 Trackback

Three Key Online Advocacy Trends to Watch in 2014

What are the big developments to watch in online advocacy? That question is very much on my mind: Monday I’ll have the privilege of leading a digital strategy training for public affairs professionals, and I’ve been pulling slides together and getting ready to handle some smart questions. So here are three key trends that I’m following closely in 2014:

Data-Driven Targeting = Individually Targeted Media

More and more, political advocates are learning the power of TARGETED communications with their supporters, with potential advocacy partners and with the actual targets of their advocacy work. Once-exotic animals like cookie-targeted online ads now get their fair share of attention, but advocates can employ data to direct their outreach in other ways as well.


Add comment February 21st, 2014 Trackback

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