NDN Blog

NBC Getting Radical in Face of Dramatic Changes in Media Landscape

The Washington Post had an extraordinary front page article today that explained the context of NBC’s announcement yesterday that it would shed jobs and slash its budget on a path toward creating NBC 2.0.

Finally the mainstream media is writing the contextual story for what it is: a historical transformation of all media sectors towards a 21st century media rooted on the internet and in digital technologies. This media transformation has a direct impact on politics because every time you change how to reach audiences and consumers, you change how to reach constituencies and voters too.

We at the New Politics institute have been hammering on this theme for the last year, mostly notably in our 2005 report on The New Powers That Be. This report lays out the five tectonic shifts that are driving the transformation of the entire media landscape, and makes the analogy to the impact of broadcast television on politics in the 1960s. We also have been making this argument in our talks, such as The New Politics Begins.

All three avenues will give you an overview of the level of change that we’re moving through right now. It doesn’t get much more fundamental than this.

Peter Leyden
Director of The New Politics Institute

Friendster Launches New Contest for Bottom-Up Political Commercials

The Social Networking website Friendster has teamed up with an interactive advertising company to launch a contest for young people to create their own political ads before the November election.

The contest is reminiscent of MoveOn.org’s pioneering effort in the 2004 election that is still viewable at Bush in 30 Seconds. Yet now there is an exponential increase in the number of people familiar with how to create and upload online video. And Friendster is one of the largest social networking sites with 33 million members.

The contest will reward the top six video creators with prizes, ranging from $2500 to a video iPod. You can see an overview and details of the contest in an advertising trade publication report. You can see the “Get Political” Video contest announcement at the Friendster site, or go right to the video website that is partnering with Friendster to do it.

The videos seem to have a range of quality but are worth browsing to get the zeitgeist forming out there.

Peter Leyden
Director of The New Politics Institute

Toward a Majority Party? Young people and Exurban trends in The Times

The New York Times
Week in Review this Sunday had a cover story (on the prospects for Democrats or Republicans becoming the majority party ) that hit hard on two demographic trends that the New Politics Institute has been focusing on for the last year. In fact, NPI fellow Ruy Teixeira was prominently quoted through the piece, and made extended reference to data from his NPI report on The Next Frontier: A New Study of Exurbia. Ruy and NPI have been arguing that exurbia, once considered solid conservative territory, has been changing in a way that opens up much more opportunity for progressives.

Another theme of the piece, and particularly an amazing graphic “How Generation Influences Party,” was how young people today are trending progressive. In fact, the most Democratic voters of all ages are now 21-year-olds. It has dramatically been trending that way since Bill Clinton became president. And the Bush II years have only accelerated the trend.

The graphic also goes back and shows how people who came of voting age in each of the previous Administrations back to FDR’s time identify themselves politically today. Again, you can see that this current crop of young people vote more progressive than any previous generation. The only comparable generations are those who came of age in the FDR/Truman era, and also in the Boomer updraft of the 1960s ands 1970s.

Peter Leyden

Google Buys YouTube, and Video on the Web Enters a New Phase

It’s official. Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion today. The breaking news linked here came off (where else?) Google News. All the details will come spilling out in the next few days, but for now, keep in mind the significance.

If there was ever any doubt about the inexorable migration of television and all motion media to the web, then this purchase should clear the doubt. In other places, we have talked about last fall, September 2005, as being the starting point for this migration. And, here we are with YouTube, the bottom-up video phenom, with less than 75 employees, fetching $1.65 billion – all before it reached its first birthday.

Now YouTube will be able to be supercharged with the resources of Google, one of the world’s most flush companies, whose core business is selling extremely effective targeted advertising on the web.

Something is bound to come of this. Will it be the advertising model for motion media on the web? The definitive way to search for video (using some new technology that analyses spoken word, etc.)?

Who knows? We’re still in early days. But this was crossing a big threshold.

Peter Leyden

More on the NPI Tools Campaign: Buy Cable

This is an extremely important fall for progressives and the New Politics Institute wants to help maximize the impact that organizations and campaigns can make through advertising and media. Our national tools campaign focuses on four critical tools that could make a huge difference in the weeks ahead.

They are “Buy Cable,” “Use Search Ads,” “Engage the Blogs,” and “Speak in Spanish.” Each of these are proven techniques to more effectively reach critical constituencies and the public at large. Progressives can easily and immediately adopt all of them right now.

The first recommendation, “Buy Cable,” is the most important because so much political money currently goes to broadcast television ads – a whopping $1.5 billion in the 2004 cycle compared to less than $80 million on cable ads. Yet, as our new cable memo makes clear, much of that money is wasted in reaching people far beyond the districts that progressive organizations and campaigns want to reach.

Cable TV ads allow you to reach much more targeted audiences, both in demographic and geographic terms – and it’s cheaper to boot. In many if not most situations, shifting significant TV ad spending from broadcast to cable is a more effective and efficient strategy.

The accompanying “Buy Cable” memo makes the argument in more detail and points to how progressives can start to do this. It’s written by NPI Senior Advisor Theo Yedinsky, who has extensive campaign experience, and NPI Founder Simon Rosenberg.

Feel free to distribute this far and wide. If you are part of a campaign or organization, use it to influence this fall’s strategy. If you are a donor, use it to make sure your money is not wasted, but used wisely. If we all do this, we can save the progressive movement millions of dollars, and make political advertising much more potent this fall.

In the coming weeks we’ll be pushing the other recommendations of the Tools Campaign. For now, let’s help move more TV ad spend to cable.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Watching Google Move Beyond Business – into Politics

We all know how Google has impacted business. But in the last week there have been public signs about how the Silicon Valley innovator is also going to try and impact society and politics. Another front page story in the New York Times shed some light on the aspirations of Google.org, a new kind of for-profit philanthropy that is starting off with about $1 billion in seed money. The organization is run by Larry Brilliant, an amazing high tech character who I happen to know quite well. Larry (who was part of the World Health Organization team that eradicated smallpox) is pushing to take on huge problems like global warming, global poverty and disease.

The other story got much less play, but for politics may have even more significance. Google is forming a PAC to raise money for candidates and causes. The San Francisco Chronicle story emphasized that they have hired two prominent Republicans hiring former Republican Senators Dan Coats of Indiana and Connie Mack of Florida as outside lobbyists. But that’s mostly because Google recently has been lambasted by Republicans for, among other things, being seen as leaning too progressive or Democratic.

The good news is that Google, with all its talents and resources, is gearing up to finally play politics.

Peter Leyden

California and the New Progressive Agenda

People keep asking what the House Democrats and Pelosi will do if they get in power. There is a constant refrain that progressives don’t have a vision and an agenda about where to take the country. But that does not seem to be the case standing here in California. This last legislative session saw a wave of innovative progressive initiatives pass into law now that Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is tacking not just moderate, but progressive in many of his stances. However, the actual progressive agenda is being driven by the overwhelmingly Democratic state House and Senate. Arnold is mostly responding and going with the very popular flow.

Nowhere is this progressive agenda more clear than in energy and the environment. For those who missed it on Friday, the New York Times ran a huge front page story on California’s many innovative policy experiments to curb greenhouse gases and shift to alternative energies. Many of them are ground-breaking and could well point the way towards how the nation deals with these new 21st century challenges.

So what is the new progressive agenda? What will national progressives do if they run Congress? What will Pelosi do when in charge? Many of the elements are coming together in bluer-than-blue California, Pelosi’s home base. It’s worth watching….

Peter Leyden

New NPI Report on "Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics"

We just released a terrific new report today on mobile media in politics that you can get in pdf form on the New Politics Institute website. It's written by Tim Chambers, one of our new fellows who has been posting on this NDN blog, and his business partner, Rob Sebastian. You can go there directly through the links above, or read the preface that I wrote to get an overview below:

The impact of new Internet tools on politics is getting all the attention in the fall of 2006, but a whole new terrain is opening up that will also have big political consequences in the year or two ahead. The mobile phone has evolved from simply a voice communicator to a hub for mobile media. That small screen on your phone is beginning to take its place alongside the personal computer and television as an important way to connect to Americans.

Each of these screens has unique capabilities that can be used in politics. Mobile phone media, unlike media channeled through TV and PCs, allow people to connect anytime, anywhere. Today 80 percent of voting age Americans have mobile phones and an increasing number are becoming savvy at using them to create and consume media.

Some constituencies are more savvy or dependent on mobile phones than others. Two key groups in are of special concern to progressives. Any majority political movement of the early 21st century will need to connect to the massive young generation of Millennials, and the booming population of Hispanics. Both groups are among the top users of mobile phone media.

The development of mobile media is not going to take place in the distant future. As this report points out, mobile media has already proved to have had big political impacts in other countries, and it played a key role in the immigration demonstrations all over the United States this spring. Now is the time for progressive political practitioners to start to engage this new technology and media. The report ends with seven concrete steps to begin mastering this new world.

The very first step, though, is to get an overview of the whole booming field by reading this comprehensive paper. It is filled with startling facts and figures that will help even those who think they understand what is going on:

Did you know that mobile video services already reach more users than the 8th largest cable operator in the country? That by 2008 as many as 30 percent of wireless phone users will not own a land line? (What will political pollsters do?) That last year U2’s Bono got 800,000 people to sign up for the One Campaign to eradicate poverty by sending a test message through their mobile phones at his concerts?

Much is already happening, but much more is to come. The New Politics Institute wants to help progressives figure this out. This report was done by one of the New Politics Institute’s new fellows, Tim Chambers, and his business partner Rob Sebastian in a new wireless company. They are generously passing on what they know to up the game of the progressive movement as a whole.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Republican learning curve on the new reality of bottom-up video

The front page of the San Francisco Chronicle has a column on the recent run of Republican gaffes now brought to the nation via user-generated video. The New Politics Institute’s Theo Yedinsky is quoted above the fold on the paper edition. The story recounts how Senator George Allen, Senator Conrad Burns, and Florida Congressional Candidate Tramm Hudson have blundered their way into the national spotlight by being caught on video saying dumb things that ordinarily would have gone unnoticed.

I do not think it is a coincidence that this is happening more to Republicans. It’s not because Democrats don’t (occasionally) say dumb things. It’s more that the phenomenon of bottom-up video is playing to progressive strengths. The progressive blogosphere is much more active, innovative and powerful than the conservative one. The Millennial generation, those young people who are most into video-blogging, etc., are also trending much more progressive. And progressive politicos are more attuned to the sensitivities of different groups because diversity and tolerance have been hallmarks of progressive politics for decades. I also think progressives, for better or worse, are more used to the rough and tumble of more open forums and debates.

So I think these early stages of the development of bottom-up video in politics will largely benefit progressives. The conservatives, as they tend to do, will be relatively fast followers and adapt to the new realities, probably by trying to maintain more control and throwing money at the problem. But for a while, the conservatives are going to be knocked around a lot. It will be interesting to watch.

Peter Leyden

The arrival of bottom-up video into politics

I’ve been posting recently about watching politics adapt to YouTube, thinking this would be a development that would take a while to sink into the mainstream. But this Sunday the New York Times had a story on the cover of its Week in Review Section on The YouTube Election.

I have been involved in the tech and new media world for a while, and spent good chunk of the 1990s at Wired magazine. We always figured that when a trend or new technology hit the front page or a section cover of the Times, then it was mainstreamed. Then the ruling elite of the country sat up and took notice.

Well, bottom-up video has arrived.

Peter Leyden

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