The Obama MySpace Saga
by Jerome Armstrong, Thu May 03, 2007 at 12:27:36 PM EDT
Joe Anthony moves beyond Tech President to grant only his second interview request, to MTV. I think it answers the question about money. The Obama campaign said something about full-time work in Chicago, Joe balked and asked for volunteer off-site work. Later on, things got busy and Joe asked to be paid. The campaign balked at an on-going position and instead offered a one-time fee in exchange for Anthony handing over the profile:
According to Rospars, when the number of friends began to skyrocket, Anthony changed his password and did not share it with the campaign, which made Obama's staff "uncomfortable." When asked what was needed to restore access, Rospars said Anthony sent an "itemized financial request."
Though he said he was not comfortable with with the one-time proposal, Anthony said he took a long walk and arrived at what he thought would be a "reasonable" fee, around $39,000 for the time and effort he'd put into the site to date, plus an additional $10,000 for the amount he'd paid to maintain the site since 2004. A meeting to discuss the transfer was postponed several times and then on Monday of this week, Anthony said he was told that there was no money to cut the deal -- even though the Obama campaign has publicly announced that it raised in excess of $25 million in the first quarter of 2007 and has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign consultants to date.
"Of course it surprises me," Anthony said of the campaign's plea of poverty. "I really thought we were going to work it out ... it's largely symbolic [because] I don't need the money ... They knew that I was working on this profile this whole time ... on a voluntary basis and I was happy to do it. ... They could've stepped in at any time early on [and] started their own profile. They knew about it since 2004 and they never did anything about it, never contacted me until it started getting all of this media coverage and people started talking about Obama reaching out to the netroots community."
When asked to respond to Anthony's account, the Obama campaign deferred to the Rospars posting as its official statement.
The crazy thing here is I doubt this was ever about the money until the very end. Money has a way of becoming an 'issue' where there's conflict, but it's not really the problem. Joe had the power, he was liking it, and thought he did a great job. He knows MySpace like he lives there (cause he does). The campaign had growth in mind, and fostered it to happen, creating a conflict of philosophy. Then a conflict of control happened, pitting decentralized organizing against the reality of a top-down driven presidential campaign. The conflict became intractable, password access was removed, and finally, money substituted the problem for the final straw. The real conflict seems to revolve around the space and the use of MySpace that reflected different priorities.
The Obama campaign messed up in a lot of ways, but most importantly at the end. These are all staffers looking out for what's best for their candidate, and they failed to look a few steps down the road in their decision-making. I think a lot of the blame has to be placed on MySpace too. They have been through this process before I am sure, and could have easily become a mediator for resolving the conflict. But then again, I've visited MySpace more in the past 40 hours than I ever have before, and 'any publicity is good publicity' is probably their viewpoint.
Other tangents. I don't think the list of 160,000 members, now that I've actually got a experienced-based opinion, is worth $44K, but it's worth $20K. MySpace is a very unique social networking site, and they are highly branded to their space. Of the 20-30 blog posts I read on the topic as culled from technorati, about 70% of them thought Obama wronged Joe, 20% of them thought it was sad for both parties, and only 10% supported Obama's actions. Based on that, I'll be surprised if Obama gets back to his original numbers without a heavy investment (like $25-50K) in outreach across MySpace. I also even wonder if it's worth it. These sites are word-of-mouth water-cooler talking places.
Chris Hughes, who is one of the co-founders of Facebook, probably has a whole other perspective that we'll one day hear. I'm sure he learned that MySpace is very different than Facebook. I'm actually wondering if in fact campaigns have any business at all trying to do official efforts on social networking sites. Why not just pass off a lot of widgets to the volunteers to try and gather the info, and let them do the evangelizing among the community. It's probably on the unofficial sites that the more effective outreach, to influentials that they know or can tell they know, because they belong to the community.
And finally, I was looking at the list of Joe's recent friends, and noticed that yesterday afternoon, Hillary Clinton 2008 was added to his friends list. But the kicker here is that it's an 'unoffical" Clinton site that has over 43K members, and which Tech President has been culling from as it's 'official' MySpace counter for Clinton. It fooled me too, until I looked at the /hillaryclinton2008 URL. The actual /hillaryclinton URL is the official one, and has over 52K friends, or more than twice as many as Obama.