Thinking Allowed

A blog to detail my work at QU.

The Political Power of the Internet

Posted By admin on October 19, 2009

“Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee,” said Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of The Huffington Post.

While Barack Obama’s campaign for the Presidency of the United States may not have been the first time the Internet was used in a campaign, it was the first successful campaign run in large part over the Internet. The Obama Campaign used the Internet and specifically social networks to bring its message to the public, build relationships with potential voters, and urge supporters to take action by encouraging their friends to support Obama financially and to get out and vote.

“When Senator Obama announced his campaign, his internet site was already fully developed and ready to go – with a set of tools which allowed supporters to meet and organise as well as contribute money,” according to BBC news.

The Man Behind the New Media Curtain

Joe Rospars was the new media director for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and founding partner of Blue State Digital which managed “the online fundraising, constituency-building, issue advocacy, and peer-to-peer online networking aspects of his 2008 Presidential primary campaign.” Rospars was also involved in Howard Dean’s unsuccessful 2004 presidential campaign, including the Blog for America.

In Naked Conversations (2006), R. Scoble & S. Israel state, “Dean’s passionate supporters never managed to cross the traditional chasm between early enthusiasts and mainstream voters who generally had not yet turned to blogs for information and conversation. While they thought blogs were amplifying their voices, they were in fact merely talking to each other.”

Here is a very interesting interview of Rospars with Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN discussing the Obama Campaign.

“We got into the content business in a way that was bigger, that was different from advertising. Advertising is necessarily, no matter how good your ads are, is necessarily an interruption of the thing that people actually want to watch. We tried to create content that was in and of itself attractive to watch, and would be worthy of advertising in it,” Rospars said in the above NDN interview about how the Obama campaign used to get out their message.

As Dan Ackerman Greenburg posted in the TechCrunch blog (2007), The secret strategies many “viral” videos, “Generally, a concept should not be forced because it fits a brand. Rather, a brand should be fit into a great concept.” posts that, “People spent more than 14 million hours watching over 1,800 Obama campaign-related videos on YouTube that garnered more than 50 million views. All of this content taken together created a healthy positive feedback loop for the campaign.”

The Local Connection

On the local front, we are now seeing politicians reaching online to voters. For instance, in Stamford, Democratic and Republican politicians are using their websites, Facebook, and Twitter to fundraise and reach out to voters. A New Haven Register article recently took a look at how social networks are transforming local campaigns.

In the article, Quinnipiac University’s Assistant Professor of Journalism Richard Hanley said political candidates ”need to be everywhere where eyeballs are.” He says social networks are, “a very cheap and an efficient way to get information to voters engaged in that space.”

As for national elections, I think we are in for some more interesting developments in 2012. As Rospars said in his NDN interview, ”If we had a list of 100 things we wanted to do with the technology, or to try, or to test, we probably got to do or try 15 of them. So that is part of the challenge for Organizing for America and also for whatever the next campaign looks like to keep going down that list and to add more things to that list.“

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One Response to “The Political Power of the Internet”

  1. Jackie Herb says:

    I agree that Obama’s new way to reach the media and his audiences was utilized properly. The internet reached those who were once an untapped source of support. It would be interesting to see in the next four years how far we come…