As Newt Gingrich Rises in the Polls, Why His Grossly Over-Priced Website Matters

Update: Only hours after this piece was published, the Gingrich campaign announced an upcoming New Hampshire-focused site based on the NationBuilder platform, which is good technology. Perhaps he’s learning!

Newt’s back! Or so the polls would suggest, though I’d agree with Jonathan Bernstein that he has the proverbial snowball’s chance in Hell of being the nominee, and a negative probability (if such a thing could exist) of becoming President of the United States.

I’ll take as one piece of evidence his grossly overpriced website/email management system, which reportedly cost close to $800,000…for a competent but thoroughly pedestrian site (built in Drupal, an open-source platform) married to a cookie-cutter mass-email system. Which of course should have cost him closer to a range of $25,000-$50,000 at most. Why does this matter? Because it goes to his ability to deliver. For a candidate who touts his “big ideas,” who aimed for a high-tech campaign launch and who’s long been “preoccupied with technology,” he sure doesn’t seem to know much about putting any of it into practice.

Okay, so he overpaid for standard technology by a factor of 20 or so. Despite that little flap over potentially fake Twitter followers, perhaps he’s mobilized an internet army that’s poised to act on his behalf? Apparently not, since Atlantic correspondent Elspeth Reeve had to look far and wide to find much grassroots support for him online at all. He does have SOME digital support — at least judging from the three comments left yesterday on the previous Newt website story — but so far the only thing I’ve seen him do is to send a relatively high volume of emails about Newt (I’d be fascinated to watch the trend of open rates on those…).

I’m sorry to sound dismissive, but Big Ideas are a dime a dozen — it’s the execution that matters, and in the one area I’m relatively qualified to judge, Gingrich is all self-hype and no delivery. Unless he undergoes some magical transformation, God help the Republican Party if he DOES end up the nominee. And Barack Obama will be the luckiest man you’ll ever know.


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Colin Delany
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