How the blogs and the internet change campaigning

Let's look at the impact of blogging in political campaigning, and we don't have to look specifically at the Lamont race, as there have been multiple instances now of a different campaign template emerging.

First, let me describe how the traditional campaign works, and allow me the broadstroke of generalities to make a few points about how blogs and the internet change the way campaigns are run. I'll call how campaigns are run for the most part now "modern campaigns" and would look back to their emergence over the decade of the 70's, when the television replaced the party for choosing candidates (The Permanent Campaign is the book to read on this matter).

And so over roughly the last 3-4 decades, modern campaigns were run by first getting a candidate, then polling for the voter temperature, lining up fundraising, getting endorsements from special interest groups and creating policy positions. That's what I would describe as the first stage. In the second stage, a campaign would begin filling up with field and communication staffers, stockpiling money, and reaching out to media outlets for earned media and debate. And finally, near the election, the field campaign would round up all of the volunteers to GOTV, and the campaign would blow all of it's money with broadcast television advertising and direct mail.  

Let's call what works today the post-modern campaign, keying in specifically on what is new. In the first stage, a candidate reaches out to the base, and specifically over the internet, reaching out to bloggers, especially those most local. A campaign builds up it's listserve, the candidate aims to get buzz from the activists on the ground, and recognizes the local blogosphere as the pre-field organization of the campaign. At this stage, it's a very decentralized operation, and the candidate's message works because he's seen the movement rally around it, and everything going forward builds off of this base.

Moving into the second stage, when the campaign brings on field staff, they are integrated with the grassroots. The communication staff are in daily touch with the bloggers for message and tactics, and rapid response and oppo research. The Financers recognize that if they can get buzz and chatter and small donors, it's more  than just noise and provides validation for the larger donors and funding organizations.

By the time we get around to the last stage of the campaign, I wouldn't argue that it's all that different. It's still mostly about TV commercials, direct mail, and GOTV. Certainly the campaign that recognizes the power of using niche media to reach the other 65% of the voters that don't watch broadcast television has an advantage. But bloggers are not as integral a part of the closing effort of the campaign, except in helping to rally troops, and some with rapid response (but can still be pushed around by the media mainstream memes).

That's the broad outline that brings out some differences that the blogs and internet make happen. I doubt it's exhaustive, but at least gives an indication of why they are powerful at especially the beginning stages of the campaign, but sort of recede in power as the campaign attempts to reach out to low info voters in the closing days.

If I were to go on with this, I think you could look toward the Jon Tester campaign for how specifically the net and blogs help with early field operations; the Webb campaign for how running a perfect template of what use to work just doesn't work (Harris Miller), and how Webb won through internet reach in NoVA, word of mouth, and earned media that began with blogger buzz; and the Lamont for doing rapid response, throwing off the opponents with oppo research and influencing the storyline of the campaign.

I'm continually amazed at how consultants that work in DC for Democratic candidates, whose only job is to win, don't recognize the strategical advantage that can be gained by embracing the netroots, niche media and re-learning how to target. It's not by looking to the past, and sticking with how they learned to do campaigns, and pretending that the world hasn't changed, that they will win.  

Tags: bloggers, campaigns (all tags)



Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign

Do you have a cite on the 65% don't watch broadcast TV?

by dantheman 2006-08-10 06:02AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign

a lot of those 65% don't vote... which makes it difficult for a campaign (modern or post-modern) to find and activate.

those you can't reach on tv but who ARE likely to vote can be found on the voter file, so are great targets for mail/phone programs.

by steveolson 2006-08-10 06:41AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign
That's no longer true -- the viewers of the Cable News channels vote at higher rates than broadcast viewers.
And with the increasing mobility of voters the voter file is no longer as reliable as it was 10 years ago.
The old voter-file based GOTV model that we lost Ohio with in 2004 (and Lieberman used to lose in CT) is no longer the way to go. It was state of the art in 1998, still hot in 2000, stale by 2002 and far surpassed by the GOP in 2004 with their data-mining based on consumer profiles and multi-level marketing style voter to voter outreach.
by Texas Nate 2006-08-10 07:04AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign

thanks for the clarification on the cable news voting - but cable news viewing wouldn't be necessarily exclusive of broadcast TV. The significant indicator really is "news consumption" not venue. Jerome is referring to where folks are watching (hbo, youtube, etc.) where you can't put persuaision tv messages.

also you shouldn't view the data mining as a different model from the old voter file one. what the GOP did was add commericial data points to the voter file records to target folks irrespective of their geography. We (I have worked at the DCCC and am now at Planned Parenthood) that can't really work without the info traditionally on the voter file, specifically becuase being registered is such a powerful predictor of turnout.

the old model i think you are referring to is when parties would just to target and blast precincts based on the (d/r)pi and what-not. No responsible direct mailer or canvasser these days would do that (unless the CHAID models and what-not gave you an outrageously high hit-rate in a precinct). Almost every mail/phone/canvass program i have worked with in the last decade hasn't been that bad. :)

In fact, precinct is still generally a predictive factor in the models, but now it is used as a smaller in an array of significant predictors (instead of by itself - don't quote my on this but i think the reason it still has predictive value is that the homogeneity of precincts tend to serve as a proxy for other socio-economic factors you may not be able to get easily from commercial data).

by steveolson 2006-08-10 07:16AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign
Good comments Steve -- couple quibbles amidst much agreement -- cable viewing by definition precludes broadcast viewing -- in so far as you can only watch one channel at a time. If voters are watching CNN they're not watching the local news. Democratic consultants are notoriously conservative about using cable. It's one of Jerome's hobby horses (I hear it on a daily basis) so I think that was his point -- plus cable advertising gives you more targeting & message flexibility -- putting different ads on Fox and the Home & Gardening channel for example.
I certainly didn't mean to imply that we don't need the voter file -- that remains the basis of any list build, but Dems stop there too often.
The main advance the GOP has made in GOTV in my opinion is their use of friend to friend organizing to replace our reliance on paid canvassers who are too often fish out of water in the areas they are sent.
by Texas Nate 2006-08-10 08:17AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign

All I'm saying is that is an amazing stat if true, and I think some documentation would be helpful.

by dantheman 2006-08-10 08:11AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign

Or maybe he means that 65% of all Americans don't watch broadcst TV news, which is far more belivable.  That's a far cry from saysing that 65% of all voters don't watch broadcast TV at all. TV ads can and do still reach the large number of TV watchers who don't watch the network news.

This kind of shoddy use of statistics greatly overstates the case for the internet.

by dantheman 2006-08-10 08:17AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign
I'm not sure about the 65% stat but NDN's New Politics Institute has good stats on TV viewership. I would assume the 65% stat refers to not just people watching cable instead of broadcast but also includes people not watching TV at all (internet, TIVO, DVDs, videogames, etc).
One more thing to keep in mind -- historically younger voters haven't voted but the current crop of 18-24 year olds seems to vote at higher rates than my generation did in the 80s and 90s so it's critical  that we find ways to reach them.
by Texas Nate 2006-08-10 08:20AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign

65 that get their news from other source-cable, internet, radio, niche...

by Jerome Armstrong 2006-08-10 01:11PM | 0 recs
blogs and the internet change campaigning

The consultants in DC don't support the same candidates that we do.  Time and time again they won't work with us because we are on different sides.  

I live in MD and know plenty of inside the beltway types who were anti-Dean.

I can't get them to give Mfume the time of day.  Its like Dean all over again.

by aiko 2006-08-10 06:11AM | 0 recs
Re: blogs and the internet change campaigning

Considering the record of the beltway types when it comes to  winning elections, if they did give Mfume the time of day it would probably be wrong. RealDems are better off without their support or expertise at losing. Let them keep helping the Lieberman's of the party.

by Sitkah 2006-08-10 06:19AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs

Agreed that the blogs have changed campaigning.

So. What's the next campaign? Make Hillary run as a Democrat in her primary?

by Sitkah 2006-08-10 06:15AM | 0 recs
Too late

You hunt where the ducks are.

Would it bother me if Hillary was faced with a credible challenger from the Left with a couple dozen million dollars in the bank? Nope not at all because the results would likely to be either a progressive candidate in the Fall or a Hillary more attentive to the progressive wing of the party.

But near as I can see there is no candidate out there that fits the bill. So why tilt against windmills when a fraction of the dollars and the energy can move an actual winnable race?

The DLC may regard the netroots as the enemy but we don't have to put them in that same role. Jerome and Kos suggest that we Crash the Gates, in this model the DLC is just an obstacle, the prize is to be won on Capitol Hill and K Street. Hillary is just a fortified outpost that you maneuver around.

by Bruce Webb 2006-08-10 06:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Too late

Hillary is more than an outpost. She's the queen bee of the DLC hive. Taking the fight to her and getting even 30-40% of the vote would not be tilting at a windmill (Was Lamont tilting at a windmill when he was down 40%?)

And taking defeat for granted leads to nothing more than defeat -- or worse -- inaction, which is what entrenched power counts on in order to remain entrenched.

by Sitkah 2006-08-10 07:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Too late

Hillary has done a fine job as Senator, has stayed in touch with her constituents.  Her bad bills were national symbolic bills.  She is not the target Lieberman is.  Personally, I don't like carpetbaggers and I think we've been hurt by attitudes like Hillary's of adopting wishy-washy positions.  But there was no way she is going to be taken down.

by jayackroyd 2006-08-10 07:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Too late

Would it bother me if Hillary was faced with a credible challenger from the Left with a couple dozen million dollars in the bank?


by Alice Marshall 2006-08-10 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign


Take a clue... Political Parties are top down political organizations.  They behave like all pyraminds do.

What is happening is that with the internet the people are chattering to each other and some brave sole decides to front for some issues and get enough people support that they demand entry into the party structure.  Gate crashers?

The party may take note at the vote potential of this new mode of getting people to participate.  But the top down pyramid always comesumes itself so the marriage of the new paradigm with the old is not likely to be a happy marriage.

Once inside the gate you MUST buy into many of the "myths of america" and cannot question MOST of the BS which props up our "democracy"... I mean corporatocracy.

There will always be compromising and pandering to  get more (enough) votes and you WILL have to lie down with people who have some very unaccaptable beliefs (think Herseth).  So what DO you get in the end?  Hardly a progressive movement.

by DefJef 2006-08-10 06:42AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign

This may be contrary to your paradigm so hold on tight.

There are successful pyramid organizations. Lots of them. Many are businesses.

Businesses are successful because the top of the pyramid listens to the bottom of the pyramid. And the bottom of the pyramid listens to the customer base.

Translating your comment, we get: "The Democratic party is an unsuccessful pyramid because it doesn't listen to its base."

Consider this fact: The DNC now has a top of the pyramid that listens intently and a base that is actively saying, "Listen to us."

The change is nowhere near complete, yet it is apparent that it's working. I suggest you consider modifying your analysis and/or paradigm.

by KB 2006-08-10 07:37AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign


I don't expect the DNC to be listening to the base any time soon.  They are still listening to their overpaid political consultants.

The polls have shown that the people and especially the democratric identified people strongly oppose the war and Bush...  And how do the democrats in congress represent that base?  By caving into the right and holding the "middle"... seeking ways to get religion going in their party.

The most successful buisiness are predatory monopolist and not successful because they listen to their customer base. Detroit anyone?

by DefJef 2006-08-10 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign


I don't expect the DNC to be listening to the base any time soon.  They are still listening to their overpaid political consultants.

I disagree. I think you're confusing the DNC and the DLC. The head of the DNC is Howard Dean and there is every indication that they are listening to their base. Dean is pushing the party in a good direction, imo.

The DLC is another matter entirely and I have no issue with what you said - it applies to the DLC in spades.

The polls have shown that the people and especially the democratric identified people strongly oppose the war and Bush...  And how do the democrats in congress represent that base?  By caving into the right and holding the "middle"... seeking ways to get religion going in their party.

Some Democratic elected officials do this. But I think this is a smaller minority than you perceive. There are gobs of Democrats in Congress who push, fight, and claw to keep the (R)'s at bay. Once we have a majority in Congress again, we'll be in a position to ensure that caving in to the right is bad politics. You and I know it's bad politics now, but I can see how a few bad apples have trouble grasping the concept. They'll change their tune in November, once they realize that's their salary continuation plan. :-)

The most successful buisiness are predatory monopolist and not successful because they listen to their customer base. Detroit anyone?

Your statement is incorrect and your example unfortunate. Assuming you mean the Big 3 car manufacturers, they're not successful. They're getting their lunch handed to them by their competition. By this time next year, for the first time in its history, GM will not be the largest car maker in the world. They've been bleeding market share for a decade or more. Chrysler's already been bought. Ford is weak and playing catchup but at least they have a chance. They're hardly predatory monopolists. I wouldn't want to be a stockholder in any of those companies right now.

Successful businesses do listen to their customer base. Read a Tom Peters book. Read any book on business. There are a zillion examples. Southwest Airlines, Toyota, Sony, Boeing, Lands End, and on and on.

by KB 2006-08-11 05:14AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign
Part of the newness here is that bloggers encourage small, grassroots donations into campaigns. Above all else the small donors become invested in the campaign thus nurturing, as we all know, from the base upward.
Being invested takes on so many proactive, previously untapped strengths: those invested want to be informed and they want to inform, no, they crave to inform. It reminds me of the cell phone discovery that teenagers can hear a low decimal phone ring but adults can't...well the grass roots/peoples' phones are ringing off the hook, it's just unfortunate that the ringer tone has to be turned to loud before the tradition pundits hear the ring.
by mainsailset 2006-08-10 07:00AM | 0 recs
Baker's Law

Agreed. I actually coined a "law" about this are a result of some debate with Bob Brigham. Baker's Law of political blogging: the closer one gets to election day, the less effect blogs have on the outcome. This was sparked by what I saw during the special with the election day war room and last minute hype, all of which had absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election. Blogs are most powerful in the quiet days when the initial storm is brewing. The fact that this is when your traffic is lowest makes it totally contrary to how internet people think.

I am totally amazed that the Beltway crew hasn't looked at the after effects of the Hackett special and been all over targetted blogging. Instead, they kind shrugged and got blindsided again with the Lamont campaign. Right now the landscape is still wide open, which is really exciting to me (and why I've started focusing on building tools.)

One thing that I'd like to add to the discussion is that local blogging is most effective if it's not just about one specific race. A local blog becomes the commons of knowledge for the district long after the politicial de jour has left and moved on with their lives. The fact that a blog can hammer away at issues over and over and build up that wealth of knowledge against an incumbant gives a real leg up for the next challenger. By saving multimedia it's possible to use that information against them the next time around.

I half joked to someone on the Hackett campaign that for less than a million dollars I could take over Congress. He laughed and asked me how. My answer:

Congress is incredibly unpopular yet Congress members get reelected by astounding numbers. The reason is that they are all but ignored by the media. Since people don't have any information about what their representatives are doing they don't equate what they see around them with the politicians they elect. Blogging can change that dramatically.

Create news syndication feeds of specific information about Republican Congressmen that is designed to be used by local bloggers. Bloggers are currently dependant upon what content is available in the main stream media and what they create themselves. The MSM all but ignores Congress so there's little to work with, and few have access to the premium beltway content designed for lobbyists and insiders. By making it as easy as possible for them to cover what their congressmen are doing it you assure that they will blog on the race and from a perspective that you create because you are creating the original content (ala Fox News).

Hire regional blogging reporters / nerds who's job it is to create fresh local content on hot spots and be evangelists for people being their own media. By creating this content you automatically for the media to give more attention to the stories since you are now creating competition to them.

With the right amount of hustle one could completely change the information landscape when it comes to Congress.

by ignatzmouse 2006-08-10 07:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Baker's Law
A great post. However, based on how Tim Tagaris effectively used the blogs for Lamont, I would say that there are a couple of areas where blogs can continue to be successful right up to election day:
  1. Distributed research. Lamont's campaign used a website polling place indicator. Almost all the research for that was accomplished within 3 hours by a request to the blogs for help just a week prior to the election.
  2. Final appeals for GOTV assistance. There were definitely enough people around the country energized by the Lamont race to attract extra ground workers during the final days by a sincere blog appeal.
by grayslady 2006-08-10 07:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Baker's Law

I hear what you are saying. The question a campaign has to ask themselves is what brings the maximum value. In the final days that is most likely going to be good old fashioned shoe leather, not blogging about something that very few voters know or care about. It can be important if the right opportunity comes along, but you can't bet on it, nor should such a chance cause you to turn resources away from GOTV.

I think that distributed research is very important and they did an awesome job with it during the campaign. I also think that it is more important the farther you get away from a campaign. The more time you have to let ideas resonate with people the better. When you get into the home stretch you can't assume that posting some GOTCHA counter to something that Rush Limbaugh said a few hours ago is going to have nearly the likelyhood of resonating in the final days and hours, especially when we are talking about races that don't have everyone's eyeballs on them like Hackett and Lamont.

In the Ohio special Rush did a last minute smear against Hackett that the blogs were all over, yet had absolutely no impact on the race, since the people who were reading it on the blogs weren't the people in the 2nd district listening to Rush (for the most part). I actually did do a post on it that was linked by Atrios. The heat on the race was so high that the traffic from his site  brought down my webserver. In the end Rush won that point and there was nothing that we could do about it. (Liebermann did something very similar with the hacking lie). The best counter to that is for campaigns to prepare a new offensive message for the final days of the campaign to try to lock out media coverage from smears. Good offense as it were.

As for GOTV, I think that the Lamont campaign did an amazing job promoting GOTV online through the blog, proving the exception to the rule. BUT, I don't think that a one dimensional framework like blogging is the best way to use technology to promote a four dimensional activity like GOTV.

by ignatzmouse 2006-08-10 07:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Baker's Law

I should also point out that the blogs did an amazing job of proving that Lieberman was lying about the hacking story, and that their work had virtually no impact on how the story was covered in the media. The MSM ignored the truth and covered the sensationalism. Countering MSM lies through blogs takes time to be effective, a luxury that campaigns don't have time in the home stretch. Being right doesn't mean you win. There are some situations where you've just got to pull out the paid TV pundit and rip Chris Matthews a new one.

by ignatzmouse 2006-08-10 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Baker's Law

This is called The Daily Muck.

There's quite an archive being compiled over there.

by jayackroyd 2006-08-10 07:54AM | 0 recs
General vs specific.

I love the Daily Muck, but I think that there's room for much more.

My thing is targetted blogging. Personallizing the horrible activities of Republicans. In my case it was Jean Schmidt. That means that when Congress cuts funding for veteran health care, that's not how I cover it. For me it's JEAN SCHMIDT cuts funding for veteran health care. I want her to draw the same heat as George Bush for their activities.

Congress hides behind a wall of procedures and late night shell games. Local blogs can shine a light on all that. Give people a place where they know they can find out what their Congressman is really doing.

by ignatzmouse 2006-08-10 08:02AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change ...


Reading this article took me back to 2000. I worked as Internet Director for Maria Cantwell in a race that was won by about 2000 votes (the other recount of 2000). Stephen Clift asked me to write up my top ten lessons learned. I just dug them out and found them to be interesting/amusing in light of current events.

From December, 2000:

Top ten lessons I learned while campaigning online

1. The web will bring a new level of credibility to campaigning.

    In the past, the standards for a well-documented piece of political advertising were surprisingly weak. Example: "My opponent voted to allow school children to shoot each other with semi-automatic weapons at recess." Source CQ #167, 1982.
    Virtually nobody follows these kinds of citations to see what they actually say (and the citations often fly by on the TV screen in mouse type). 99% of voters don't even know how to verify such claims if they wanted to. But of course, merely placing an apparently authentic citation in an ad gives it credibility. Every voter thinks that someone is checking up on it and they would hear on the news if it was bogus. As it turns out, almost nobody is following up on these citations and even when they are somewhat suspect, it's not considered newsworthy because it happens all the time. If there's a grain of truth, it passes without comment.
    As webmaster for a Senate candidate, I had no problem providing a much higher level of citation when I wanted to get facts across. I developed the standard that a fact wasn't worth presenting unless it could be backed up by one or more of the following links: 1) a link to the Congressional record at (or state-level equivalent), 2) a link to a major and credible news organization such as NBC, CNN, NY Times, etc., or 3) a link to materials publicly authorized by the opposing candidate or their party.

2. Digital voting is closer than we think.

    I actually learned this after the election. While I have always believed that digital voting is clearly in our future, I assumed it would take another three or four presidential election cycles to really happen. The fiasco in Florida has made it clear that we need to update the process immediately.
    I believe digital voting should proceed in two phases 1. Digital onsite voting, 2. Networked voting.
    There are relatively few risks with onsite digital voting. Only the machines need to be replaced. The digital record can be supported by regular printouts and in the case of a recount, failure or other disruption, officials could easily revert to the old way and do a hand recount of the paper record.
    It will take improvements in digital security to make networked digital voting viable, but these are coming. As soon as people are used to voting on computer terminals, the step to online voting will seem less risky.

3. Many-to-many communication is a tricky proposition.

    Coming into the election we were very excited about our wide-open listserv. It was moderated, but the standard for publishing messages was very open: no mean-spirited messages, no repetitive messages, and no off-topic messages. We allowed and published highly negative messages about our candidate and we were able to respond positively with information refuting the negativity...all of which was fine and as we expected.
    What we didn't really anticipate was that the quality of a truly open forum can be very low. Towards the end of the campaign, a number of really sub-standard messages came through and threatened to degrade the relevance of the forum altogether. This phenomenon spiked immediately after the election when we were barraged with bizarre and very poorly thought-out messages (no doubt as a consequence of increased publicity). The list happened to be in limbo at this point because our election took three weeks to call. This flood of weirdness forced me to quietly shut down the list and say a prayer of thanks that this situation hadn't developed earlier in the campaign when I would have been obligated to distribute these messages.
    I still believe strongly in the open forum concept...this has the potential to be the most valuable improvement the Internet can bring to politics. I just haven't figured out exactly how to moderate a high-visibility open forum. Every message withheld will be viewed as a case of censorship, yet publishing every message received will result in an unacceptable signal-to-noise ratio.
    My best guess is that the answer is to create numerous forums dedicated to special topics (taxation, transportation, campaign finance reform, etc). This will reduce the amount of chaff on each list and provide a more tightly defined standard for what is on-topic.

4. Televised political advertising as we know it will die, and campaign finance reform is a natural consequence
    This is a corollary of point number one above. People will slowly over the course of the next decade come to see the dishonest political attack ad as an outdated sham. People will come to expect a much higher level of authenticity in political communication.
    Taking the place of TV as the dominant medium influencing elections will be third-party political sites, online news organizations, official government resources, party sites and candidate sites (in that order). The web will probably merge with TV-style content to become much more media rich.
    Right now, huge sums of money are required to broadcast messages because the channels of communication are limited, creating a case of near monopoly. (In Washington state, I estimate that 90% of the TV dollars in politics are spent with six television stations in two metropolitan areas--which are owned by 4 media conglomerates). This means that the money spent is largely dedicated to funding expensive broadcast operations and paying near-monopoly rents. In a web-based mediascape, campaigning will still be expensive, but it will be much more labor intensive than capital intensive. It will take dedicated volunteers to create and promote an Internet campaign, and not truckloads of cash.
    This will bring us much closer to the ideal: "Of the people, for the people, by the people."

5. We still haven't had an "Internet Election"

    Just in case it isn't obvious, we are still waiting for the election where the Internet is a major force. We are still in a novelty phase with respect to the Internet. I'll be the first to admit that our candidate won primarly because she had the resources to buy massive TV time.
    (Of course I should offer a clarification on that last statement She was an outstanding candidate, and this comment is not intended to suggest TV alone got her elected. She was by far the best-qualified candidate running. However, she could never have withstood the barrage of old-style negative TV advertising if she hadn't been equipped to fire back with the heavy artillery. The Internet certainly helped, but it could not have played a lead role in deflected the assault that came at us over the airwaves.)

6. How to tell when the Internet revolution is here

    I suspect that the Internet will continue to be viewed primarily as a fundraising tool in the near future. And it's very well-suited to this purpose. But consider the irony of using an extremely inexpensive and flexible communications medium primarily to raise money to fund the use of an extremely expensive and highly limited communications medium. The Internet revolution will be here when fund-raising falls behind the following activities in relevance: providing detailed candidate information, volunteer recruitment, discussion forums, GOTV, supporter networking, and truth-squading.

7. A skeleton Internet crew requires three people

    The bare minimum staffing for an effective Internet operation would be as follows
    Internet Director. This person manages the Internet team, plans budgets, plans messaging, plans promotion, communicates with the press on Internet and technology issues, handles security and other technical problems, hires outside contractors and consultants, and co-ordinates the Internet program within the campaign. The Internet director should be a member of the campaign's steering committee and/or war team.
    Designer/HTML. This person is responsible for managing the web site content and also for the quality of all digital communications. This may include videotaping the candidate in the field, making digital images and other press materials available to the press, creating banner ads to promote the site, etc. This individual might also take on responsibilities for all communication materials generated by the campaign, but the Internet responsibilities will be full-time in the final weeks of the campaign.
    Writer/Researcher. This person is responsible for developing written content for the site, moderating any Internet forums that the campaign may be hosting, all e-mail communications, verifying claims by the candidate and by the candidate's opponents, and keeping the site fresh and relevant. This person might also have additional responsibilities within the campaign, but will be engaged full time in the final weeks.
    (IT management should be a separate operation altogether...)

8. The last two weeks before an election are as important as the rest of the campaign
    Traffic on a political site spikes significantly in the days before a primary or general election. In our case, traffic on the day before both elections was approximately 8 times higher than it was 14 days prior. If you don't have your act together in the last two weeks, your Internet effort can be largely wasted.
    For the time being, the Internet is most useful for tilting thoughtful undecided voters--and these are the people who show up in the last two weeks. Avoid strident messages, avoid preaching to the choir. Focus on providing complete and accurate information designed to help independent or middle-of-the-road undecided voters reach the right decision.

9. Be ready to truth squad online
    This lesson may or may not be universal, but in our case we were the target of an astonishing blast of false and highly negative TV advertising. We improvised our Internet response rather successfully, but in retrospect, the best bit of advice I could have received in advance was to be better prepared for it.
    Here is how to be prepared: Have the equipment, staff and procedures in place to digitize attack ads the instant they appear. This includes digital screen shots and written transcripts. (Streaming media versions are optional.) While preparing the traditional press release setting the record straight, there should be a corresponding web page under development. Whoever prepares the rebuttal should also be collecting web links for supporting citations (this is a higher standard that usually found in press releases).
    Be ready to create a high profile "rebuttal zone" on the web site. We called ours "Attacks vs. Facts" and put a link at the top of the home page. Promote this feature whenever practical, so that voters know where to go for the truth the instant they spot a negative ad.
    Use e-mail as a two-way street. Encourage supporters to alert the campaign to negative advertising the instant they see it. And communicate the facts to supporters so that they can spread the truth.
    This proved to be a very labor-intensive process and eclipsed virtually all other Internet activity in the final weeks of our campaign.

10. There is a whole new universe of dirty tricks waiting to be exploited

    There are a couple of ways to look at Internet dirty tricks...either as an opportunity or as a threat.
    First, there are ethical "dirty tricks." For example, supporters of our opponent created two attack sites and promoted them in television ads. For some reason, neither site had a .com address. (One was a .net and one was a .org.) From my experience working on the Internet, I know that half of the people instructed to go to a .org site will type in the .com address. Same with .net. Incredibly, they had failed to register the .com versions of their web addresses. We grabbed these domain names immediately and put up our own web pages, which tastefully deflected the accusations made by our opponents. The result: half of the people who saw the attack ads ended up visiting sites that we controlled. This was a very satisfying (and highly ethical) form of "dirty trick".
    Second, there are numerous opportunities for malevolent and highly unethical dirty tricks. For example, both the DNC and the RNC sites were cracked in the final days of this election cycle. Although we weren't cracked, our web logs indicate that it was not for lack of trying. Nobody is invulnerable, but we had great partners--our ISP and our security consultants worked together very effectively to prevent known means of attack--and we were able to get through without incident. (One vulnerability that we were not aware of was actually pointed out to us by a group of friendly hackers...)
    Bottom line: if you are running a high-profile Internet campaign, you MUST have access to high level Internet expertise. This will accomplish two things: it will reduce your exposure to malicious attacks and it will get you into the game as far as ethical web pranks are concerned.

John Beezer

by beezer 2006-08-10 08:06AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign

But they can't watch 2 TV channels at the same time. That's all I was saying.

by Texas Nate 2006-08-10 08:48AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign

very good points, nate - i must agree with the underuse of cable, can't wait for wider VOD distribution... :)

by steveolson 2006-08-10 08:56AM | 0 recs
Netroots fit all 3 aspects of 'virtuous cycle'

Poll results -> Positive media -> Donations -> Poll results -> Positive media -> Donations -> etc.

The Netroots fit into all three of these categories, which makes it very worthwhile for candidates to embrace.

by MeanBoneII 2006-08-10 08:53AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign

Getting people to participate in their government is no small task.  Few here vote, fewer write letters or call their congres critters.

The net thing has given some a feeling that they ARE participating and it may inspire some to get off their asses and do something.  But we have a long way to go to reach enough people for the electoral process to represent the people.

by DefJef 2006-08-10 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change campaign
sure and I'm not saying don't use broadcast, just base your budgeting on the best estimate of the % of the electorate watching it.
Bush/Cheney spent more on ESPN than Kerry spent on cable. wrong answer!
by Texas Nate 2006-08-10 10:03AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change

I'm 16, and I'd like to increase my knowledge of campaign infrastructure incase I ever volunteer for a local candidate. I know a bit of stuff - more than the average 16-year-old for sure, but I'd like to expand my knowledge some; particularly on targetting.

Would some of the experienced people who have posted in this thread such as Steve Olson or Texas Nate please help explain it to me?

(By the way, just reading this diary and the comments within has helped a lot.)

by Natyjalm 2006-08-11 05:19AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change

You should read the upcoming book, Applebee's America, by Dowd, Fornier, and Sosnik, on targeting-- it's like an extended book on Crashing The Gate's 4th chapter on the matter.

by Jerome Armstrong 2006-08-11 09:06AM | 0 recs
Re: How the blogs and the internet change

Thanks! I'll be sure to check it out.

by Natyjalm 2006-08-11 05:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Too late

Challenging Queen Bee would generate more interest and money from reform minded people.

by Sitkah 2006-08-11 10:14AM | 0 recs


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