Thursday, February 28, 2008

Comb Overs

This. Is. Awesome. You gotta watch it all the way through. Here's a hint: comb over at 22?

Things haven't changed much, aside from the clothes and hair styles. That is, until this cycle...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Paradigm Shift

Patrick Ruffini offers a similar message that you have heard here, that there is a fundamental shift in the manner with which political campaigning is conducted.
All of this — the massive resource advantage Obama now enjoys — is the result of a decision to trust in a fundamentally more deeper and more resilient medium for building support for his campaign: a word of mouth network that can only be corralled online. Hillary Clinton trusted the establishment and is on the brink of losing. The GOP candidates who leaned on the party’s Wise Old Men lost.
We saw the first concrete results of adaptation in 2004 with Dean's prowess in online fundraising. Adapting to, rather than fighting the new paradigm of political campaigning with the social web has enabled Obama to out-raise everyone. More importantly, he has taken the opportunity a step further, out-mobilizing everyone through the use of technology to boot.
The political web is now reaching the vast majority of the primary electorate with dozens of touchpoints throughout the cycle — few of them controlled by the campaigns themselves — and is reaching all the people who will do anything beyond vote in a general election.
The impact goes beyond just politics. A new channel for communication is maturing, with a power to persuade unlike any other. And, the right message radiates with an ease never before seen. The social web exponentially changes the balance between effort in and effort out. The message has even more paramount than ever.

The ramifications of the success of political web strategy this cycle will be felt for years to come outside this space. There are certainly areas where politics follows distantly behind traditional marketing. Even some of the techniques finally being employed with much success this cycle have been around for years. However, there are few events as public and as closely watched as the US presidential election. Just as the message radiates, so too will the methods...

Nader Analysis

Yes I am bitter. Not only did he let George Bush into the White House in 2000, he cost me a job (I was working for Al Gore at the time). But, rather than write my own diatrbe on the lunacy of his persistence, I defer to Micah Siftry's in-depth look of the Nader candidacy given the power of today's political web.

My favorite quote:
Nader is at most a Web 1.0 candidate in a 2.0 era, seeing the web as a cheap tool for broadcasting ("transmitting") his views to others and missing entirely the power of the network. He may argue that all sorts of issues are being ignored by the major party candidates, but the tools for mobilizing people around neglected issues have never been more potent--if you are willing to work in concert with others, give up some control of your message and embrace the democratic public sphere that we are all collectively building.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Media as We Knew It Is Dead!

Every day, the chorus of the blogsphere grows. The media as we knew it is dead. Long live the conversation!

With the rise of the media machine in the mid twentieth century, certain techniques, methods, etc., were developed to manage the news. When information was doled out, what manner, and by whom became carefully choreographed. On the presidential stage, Kennedy brought it to television, and Reagan perfected it.

As we evolved to a 24-hour news cycle, the rule book was re-written, major edicts deleted and whole new sections created. President Clinton lived much of his term under the scrutiny of this new and seemingly unmanageable beast. His actions certainly helped fuel the fire, but the fire was burning just the same.

And now we come to 2008, the cycle that will belong to the user-generated media. Most of the mainstream publications have added comments, discussion boards and other tools of the user-generated media. But even they must bow to the power of the blogsphere. The major media outlets still have a role, albeit a diminished one.

The first presidential election since Time's now infamous naming of YOU as the person of the year will require a whole new set of methods and strategies, with which to manage. Social media is certainly a new tool at the marketing manager's disposal. Others are certain to come about. Should be fun!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Focused actions

Jeremiah Owyang has yet another great post on how to effectively take advantage of social media from a marketing perspective. As I look at his thoughts through a political lense, I believe he / we should go further with business objectives bullet. From his post:
Meets a business objective: First and foremost, any marketing campaign or activity should match with a business objective, regardless of the tools being used.
As I mentioned in the comments, I think this idea can be taken further, to ensure the success (especially within the political world). I believe that, for a social media campaign to be effective, it must also drive a focused, specific action of the community. For some campaigns, that may be as vague as “engagement”; for others it may be “visit our store” or “donate”. The more focused the action, the easier it is to measure and (I argue) the more likely it is to be accomplished.

Just more of my 2 cents...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Technology vs. Machines 2008

Is it me or is our electoral process getting tighter and tighter as technology continues to imbue the process? First, we had 2000 - the first online presidential election, and that went down to Florida. Next, we had 2004, with the Dean phenomena and a result that went down to Ohio. And now we have Clinton v. Obama.

Obama's candidacy is nothing if not unique. Have we had a candidate with less federal or executive experience be the nominee of a major party? Even Kennedy had 6 years in the House, and 8 in the Senate before 1960. Yet, Obama continues to succeed, much in part to his innovative use of technology.

I don't necessarily see this as a counterpoint to his candidacy. I am a big believer that direct experience is NOT necessarily a predictor of future success. It comes down to how successful is the candidate in the environments they have been in before. Context can be learned.

What I do see is that technology is enabling a new kind of politics, one where the traditional political machine is no longer as powerful. Issues, ideas and vision are rising to the top, past the traditional trajectory the hierarchical machine spews out.

In the 2000 and 2004 elections, the machine won. The Republican army was amazing if not exquisite in their execution. Despite some of the worst approval ratings in modern times, the Bush machine was able to secure re-election.

Are we at the tipping point, where technology propels the non-traditional past the machine? We shall see...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

You Too Can Play at Home...

Rick Klau and friends put together a wiki to monitor the DNC's super delegates. It offers a rundown of who is committed to whom, as well as a decent integration with Google Maps & Earth, enabling users to see exactly where these delegates reside. (Rick works at Google.)

CNN recently used it:

Assuming Clinton survives her current slide, this could become a very useful site to explore how things may play out come August (and a bit freaky for the delegates themselves).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 Not Affiliated?

McCain's daughter Meghan has been blogging since October. There are a few things about this that peaked my interest. First, the blog is interesting - professionally done with a very casual feel. Meghan and team do a great job of weaving behind-the-scenes tidbits with song lists, video vignettes, etc. - hitting the armchair politico, the fashinista, and the iPod DJ in one swing.

What I find interesting is that they claim not to be affiliated with the campaign, yet they are on the campaign plane with unparalleled access to the Senator. Who is paying for this? There is no advertising on the site, nor any other means for revenue that I can see. Was this separated in order to shield the campaign if things go awry?

And why shouldn't they be affiliated with the campaign? In the age of the social web, it is this kind of unique perspective that engages and entertains.

The prevailing opinion of the coverage at launch was that this would be "a farce". Given what I see thus far, this is an excellent step forward (by the McCain campaign?).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mitt's Video Post-Mortem: No Wonder...

Michael Kolowich, one of the folks involved in Mitt Romney's video operation offers this dissection of what happened on the web video front. What struck me is how his language continues to be about quick returns on investment, versus seeding the conversation as required by the social web:
If part of the idea is not just to inform but also to inspire people to act (give money, sign up, give us their email, etc.) then YouTube was weak at the “call to action” part.
Politics has never been an A = B environment - you never get your return on investment at first blush. There are tools at the politico's disposal that do drive specific action, but there are just as many that are about laying groundwork. I argue YouTube is a channel for laying groundwork towards the masses.

Providing rich video content on YouTube enables the campaign to reach a large, mass audience. Given the cacophony of content available (opposition clips, foibles, etc.), it is critical that the campaign be loud and proud within this channel, to ensure their message is heard.

He continues:
The most remarkable statistic of all is that more people watched the Romney campaign’s clips on Mitt TV than on our YouTube channel.
Sorry, Michael, but the reason your channel was more popular was not because your video was better, more tailored, etc. It's because you spoke to your zealots rather than the masses. In politics, the zealots get you close, but in the end it is all about reaching the masses. The fact that your YouTube channel was less popular was more a symptom of a more pressing problem - that your campaign's message was not inspiring the masses.

Was your Mitt TV content also published on YouTube? Assuming all content is cross-published, YouTube views should exceed your internal video site. You should be reaching folks that don't necessarily engage in your campaign, but at least hear your message. Focusing on such "seed" channels is just as necessary as focusing on those channels that drive action, in the age of the social web...

Monday, February 11, 2008

TSA Gets in the Game

Interesting - the TSA now has a blog. From the New York Times:
The T.S.A. blog has links to independent bloggers and real news reports, including negative ones. It also has personal blogs by five employees of the agency. But its most notable feature is the lively give-and-take, without refereeing, except for monitoring for obscene language and egregious crack-pottery.
This is an impressive foray into the conversation. It is already helping improve things, particulary around consistency as to how various airports implement regulations. What a great way for the government to use its constituency to help get the job done. Crazy how the TSA can launch a blog that is more open than most campaign blogs...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Its the Economy, Stupid!

A little off topic, but I had to share this article from the Politico. My favorite point:
As the economy was rising late last year as a major issue for voters, McCain in New Hampshire delivered this grenade, with its pin still in it: "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should," he said. "I've got Greenspan's book."
Let's hope this gets the attention it deserves.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Red Trucks & Explosions & Money, Oh My!

Online fundraising has been explosive, yet hesitancy abounds as to what is "appropriate" in today's political climate. Michael Turk discussed a few weeks ago how the Thompson campaign waited to deploy their successful Red Truck idea, out of fear of appearing too focused on raising money. From his comments (emphasis added):

In October, we began discussions of an end of quarter fundraising drive featuring a real-time disclosure of our success. The concept was shot down over concerns that it would place too much emphasis on money. As we moved through November, we began to hear rumblings of Fredsgiving Day - a third party money bomb effort scheduled the day before Thanksgiving.

It was unclear whether the campaign would support the effort. There were concerns (voiced by many online) that the timing was off - nobody would pay attention the day before the holiday. In the event the campaign decided to jump in, we went ahead and built the little red truck to track contributions that day. It was never deployed.

It was late in December when the little red truck finally saw the sunlight. Over the next three weeks, that little red pickup helped the campaign raise 1.25 million dollars. Had it been unveiled sooner, who knows what might have happened.

I have a few ideas on this front that have been met with this same fear. Campaigns have yet to come close to pushing the envelope of what is accepted. They continue to try new things, yet they can do more. Does anyone have an example of a campaign that pushed the online envelope too far? Where does this fear come from?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Election Night Tools: Cover It Live + Mashups

Last night was an interesting prep for November. In fact, given the complexity and differences of each party's nominating process, you could argue last night was more difficult to cover than even a tight race in November. I dug around to see what new tools were in play, and came up with two interesting examples.

If you are not using Cover It Live, you are smoking crack. It's free so far, and a great way to live blog. The idea of live blogging is to cover an event as it happens, with blog entries in real-time. Many bloggers have begun doing this for major events, such as Apple keynotes. As the blogsphere audience continues to grow, so too will the audience for a live blog. Last night's election coverage was a ripe opportunity to test the idea out. Many blogs updated consistently throughout the night as results became evident, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. But only a few used this free technology.

The Cover It Live system refreshes itself as comments are made, negating the need for the constant page refresh. They also have a voting tool included as well. Very slick... I came across it last night while watching the results with the TechPresident crowd. It sure beat the experience I had with the New York Times liveblog, or even Obama's consistent blog updates...

Another cool tool was the Google + Twitter mashup. Unfortunately, I think this was cool in a geeky, tech-is-fun sort of way, and not very useful. The twitters were flying at me so fast it was difficult to understand what was going on. Maybe next time they can add a Digg-style component to the mix, to help filter and prioritize the information?

Did anyone come across other new and interesting tools?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mindset of Michael and McEnroe

I recently read the book Mindset - an excellent read for anyone with the slightest ambition or interest in psychology. The core idea is that those that seek growth and learning are more successful at accomplishing their goals in the long run than those that do not, despite short run pitfalls and mistakes. Seeking growth trumps natural talent, limited or non-existing resources, etc. The book is full of great anecdotes to drive home the point, from Michael Jordan being cut from his high school varsity team to John McEnroe's limited career, despite his obvious talent.

I can't help but overlay this idea upon the evolution of web strategy within politics. I am learning every day that the evolution within American politics will not include a silver bullet - that one tool that produces so much value for the campaign that its use becomes obvious and ubiquitous at the same time. Though I continue to believe focus on the goal is vitally important to any web operation, campaigns must continue to deploy diverse resources to explore this vast and ever-changing idea of web strategy. Just as important, they must measure these investments in terms of their overall goals, learn from them, refine and repeat.

Like Dean in 2004, Obama now carries the mantle of online guru. All presidential campaigns are doing something new in this space. However, Obama's effort appears the most adept at building upon what has worked elsewhere, inside and outside politics. Even among his own internal efforts, the campaign continues to try, measure, refine and repeat to grow beyond current successes. They are not always successful and they certainly could go further, yet it is clear they have the mindset of a champion, with regard to web strategy. This is certainly not the only reason Obama has been successful thus far, but it most definitely is aiding his ascendancy.

Will Obama be cut from the team like Dean in 2004, or will he be given the chance to lead the Dems into November? We will see soon (today?) if there is payoff in the long run...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Online vs. Offline: The Feb 5th Fight

Tomorrow's gonna be fun. Obama's digitally-driven grassroots rise versus Clinton's decades-in-the-making offline organizing machine. Colin Delaney offers what will undoubtedly be the first of many articulations of what exactly the Obama campaign has done right with online politics, should he do well tomorrow.

Clinton continues to use what has worked in the past. Her campaign is conducting an interactive town hall this evening - something that has been done as far back as 1992. Sure, it's being streamed via the web, but the base idea is nothing new. And, her offline field operations will undoubtedly far exceed Obama's efforts, as Karen Hicks et al coupled with decades of political organizing makes for a formidable operation.

Whereas, the Obama folks continue to employ the digital channels at their disposal, raising $28 million online in January alone. I have spoken a few times about the need to experiment (here and here). However, my ideas have often focused (incorrectly?) on larger projects. Jose Antonio Vargas' story this weekend indicates Obama has been pouring resources into the small things, like communicating with prospective and committed voters through their channel of choice.

Just like with Clinton's offline operation, its the small things that may add up for Obama. We shall see what tomorrow brings!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Barenaked Ladies and Crowd Sourcing

Barenaked Ladies are no longer signed with a record label. As of 2003, they own all of their intellectual property going forward, and also are able to re-record older music to use as they wish. Given such a position, they are wisely exploring the digital age, to discover tools and resources to better develop and engage their fan base.

One recently discovered tool is crowdsourcing. They have begun using their fan base choose a few logos. Fans are asked to submit designs, as well as vote on which ones they like best. The theory is that the best will rise to the top. In their tests, they have also gone the traditional route of working with a professional designer. Each time, however, the crowdsourced design has been favored by both the band and the fans. They hope to use this idea to choose the cover art for their next album, due next year.

Clinton used half of this idea to a limited extent, with her choice of theme song over the summer. However, the content was preselected. The YouTube debates CNN produced used the other half of the idea, by allowing users provide content, but not the opportunity to help select it.

Who will be the first to put the two halves together? Though control over the outcome is ceded to the "fans", the engagement driven will provide significantly more value to the campaign than a controlled outcome would ever provide...