NDN Blog

Thursday New Tools Feature: You Have 1.1 Billion New Friend Requests...

Nielsen this week released a study demonstrating just how popular and widespread social networking has become. From the Reuters story on the study:

Networking and blogging sites account for almost ten percent of time spent on the internet -- more than on email.

"While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption and the migration of time show no signs of slowing," said John Burbank, the CEO of Nielsen Online.

One in every 11 minutes spent online globally is on networking sites. Between December 2007 and December 2008, the time spent on the sites climbed 63 percent to 45 billion minutes.

To put that growth in perspective, the growth in "member communities" online this year was "more than twice that of any of the other four largest sectors," and more than three times the growth rate of overall internet usage. To those that think of Facebook and similar sites as optional, largely peripheral entities, this study should come as a serious wake-up call. Social networking sites are changing the game the same way that email did when it was introduced. Facebook is no longer just an excuse for college students to avoid writing papers; in fact, social networking use has grown the most among 35-49 year olds (see chart).

More and more people are using social networking sites to communicate, socialize, and organize online - the overall amount of time spent on Facebook increased a whopping 566% this year. This is a very interesting and powerful phenomenon, which will have wide-spread implications for the political sphere - for instance, back in November, right after the election, I wrote about what an incredibly effective GOTV tool Facebook was, in part due to of the sociological effects of "seeing" all of your friends vote.

Another phenomenon that promises to further shake things up is the confluence of mobile technology and social networking. The Nielsen study found that  

...the increasing popularity of social networks has resulted in increasing demand to access them on the move. Mobile is a natural fit for social networks, as consumers are used to connecting with friends via mobile calls and text. UK mobile web users have the greatest propensity to visit a social network through their handset with 23% of them (2 million people) doing so, compared to 19% in the US (10.6 million people). The numbers of people doing so are a big increase on last year - 249% in the UK and 156% in the US.

To learn more about how to use social networks effectively, check out our New Politics Institute paper, "Leverage Social Networks," which was written by Facebook's Chris Kelly. You can also watch him and others explain how to harness the power of social networks at our New Politics Institute event, Social Networking in Politics.

Finally, check out this video of Ning's Jason Rosenthal at our recent event, New Tools for a New Era:

Obama New Media Master Joe Rospars and Simon Rosenberg Discuss the State of the New Media, the Parties' Digital Divide, and More

On Tuesday, March 10, NDN hosted a special forum with Joe Rospars, the Obama campaign’s New Media Director and founding partner of Blue State Digital. Joe and NDN President Simon Rosenberg had an informative, thought-provoking discussion about the role that new media and technology played in Barack Obama's quest for the presidency. During the back-and-forth, which was viewed from all over the country and even internationally via our live Web cast, Joe made clear that the cutting-edge use of technology that resulted in the most bottom-up political campaign in history started with the Blackberrying candidate himself. A former community organizer, Obama is also very conversant with new media tools and technologies, and understands their power and how they can be combined with traditional field organizing to create a political juggernaut.

Simon also asked Joe about what new media strategies his team found most effective during the campaign, the digital divide between Democrats and Republicans, and what Rospars and his crew might have in store for us in the future. This is simply must-see viewing for anyone who wants to understand the changing political media landscape. Check out Simon and Joe's conversation, and the Question and Answer session that followed it, below:

Here's what Nick Baumann of Mother Jones had to say after hearing Joe and Simon speak about the GOP's efforts to catch up technologically and organizationally:

Michael Steele, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, has promised to take his party "beyond cutting edge." But Joe Rospars, the man behind the Obama campaign's incredibly successful new media outreach, said that the RNC's current internet strategy is "all smoke and mirrors marketing."

On Tuesday, Rospars took part in a question-and-answer session about the impact of technology on politics hosted by the left-leaning think tank NDN. Rospars dinged the Republicans' much-criticized request for a proposal (PDF) to redesign its website, laughing that his company, Blue State Digital, certainly won't be competing for the business. (Lefty BSD probably wouldn't respond to the RFP anyway, of course, but Rospars brought it up out of the blue—he was obviously referring to the widespread mockery it had already received.) He criticized the GOP's email list, boasting that the Obama campaign's 13-million-strong list was developed in an "organic" way. "We didn't purchase lists and just add people to our email list," he said. "The point of having a big email list isn't just to say you have a big email list. The RNC says they have a however big email list, but the point is to actually have relationships with people so they open the message, they listen to what you're saying, and they're willing to do something," he said.

Rospars suggested that it's a mistake to see the use of social networking technologies and new media as ends in themselves—in other words, using tools like twitter and facebook are ways of mobilizing a following, but they don't ensure you'll get one. Without adopting "the ethos of building an organization from the bottom-up," the GOP will have trouble catching up, Rospars said.

Meanwhile, Rospars is doing his best to make sure the GOP doesn't catch up. He says that of the 100 best ideas he and his team came up with during the campaign, they only used about 15. He's won't be talking about those in public. He doesn't want to "give anybody any ideas."

Too bad for Michael Steele.

Monday Buzz: GOP's Grief, Millennials' Mettle, More

NDN hit the airwaves (or cable or satellite signals, in this case) in force this week. Rob went on Fox News to talk about the budget, and laid an economic smackdown on John Kasich, former GOP Congressman and Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Check it out:

In addition to his appearance on Fox, Rob had a great article published in the Huffington Post this week. 

Simon also went on MSNBC's News Today with Norah O'Donnell to discuss the Republican Party's lack of credible leadership:

Finally, NDN Fellow Morley Winograd was featured in an article in the Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Morning News. From the article, by Gregory Rodriguez:

...Morley Winograd, coauthor of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics, has no such concerns. "This is not an embittered and cynical generation," he said. "Although they did tend to be protected as children, they were also taught to compete and to perform. This will only make them more determined."

Thursday New Tools Feature: Increasingly Capable Cable

The New York Times reports this week that the cable TV provider Cablevision is introducing a new technology that allows for targeted marketing customized for individual households:

Beginning with 500,000 homes in Brooklyn, the Bronx and some New Jersey areas, Cablevision will use its targeting technology to route ads to specific households based on data about income, ethnicity, gender or whether the homeowner has children or pets.

The technology requires no hardware or installation in a subscriber’s home, so viewers may not realize they are seeing ads different from a neighbor’s. But during the same show, a 50-something male may see an ad for, say, high-end speakers from Best Buy, while his neighbors with children may see one for a Best Buy video game.

While at the moment this only applies for 500,000 Cablevision subscribers in the tri-state area, it seems likely that it will quickly spread. Cablevision intends to expand the service to all of its 3.1 million customers assuming the trial goes well. And initial results suggest that it will:

Cablevision tested the technology by promoting its own services with targeted and untargeted ads. In the eight-month test, the targeted ads brought in new subscriptions at a significantly higher rate than untargeted ads.

Companies, aware that their advertising dollars are threatened by the rise of DVRs, the hyper-saturation of today's media environment, and the drop in impulsive buys due to the recession, are looking for creative and effective ways to market their products more precisely. Those in the political sphere would be wise to take notice as well.

Targeted television marketing is not just limited to cable, either; streaming internet-based TV services, like the upcoming ZillionTV set-top box, allow for similar levels of precision targeting:

The pitch to advertisers is precise targeting: To get high ad prices to pay for all this, ZillionTV will watch your viewing habits, merge them with data about you it buys elsewhere, and use all that information to aim ads at certain groups of viewers. Users will also be asked to select categories of products they would like to see ads about. The ad-supported content will have half the number of commercials as broadcast television, which is still more than online services, like Hulu, have now. And you can’t skip past the commercials.

NDN and the New Politics Institute have long written about the benefits of cable and targeted marketing. Staying on top of television's evolution, as it becomes increasingly personalized and intertwined with Web video, will be critical for any candidate or organization that wants to advertise effectively in a 21st century media environment. 

To learn more about how to target your TV advertising, see our papers "Buy Cable Smart" and "An Introduction to Microtargeting in Politics," and watch this excellent and incredibly enlightening video of Amy Gershkoff of Changing Targets Media from our recent NDN/NPI event, "New Tools for a New Era."

Monday Buzz: Presidential Polling, Budgetary Blogging, and the Man in the Empty Suit (?)

It was a busy week for NDN in the media. First off, Simon was the lead quote in a big USA Today piece on the release of their new opinion polling, which found broad public support for spending to help people but very little for spending to rescue financial institutions. From the article:

"Look, the American people are pleased with the direction Barack Obama is taking, but there are still parts of the economic recovery plan that people are not sure about," says Simon Rosenberg of NDN, a Democratic-leaning think tank. "He has to make it very clear that his focus is on the struggle of everyday people, and not on those with means."

The poll also generated coverage in AHN and Presna Latina.

Simon's analysis of President Obama's speech was also featured in the Washington Times:

The speech was a critical moment in Mr. Obama's "evolution" from candidate to president, said Simon Rosenberg of liberal think tank NDN.

Mr. Rosenberg, who worked in the Clinton White House, said before the speech that the night was an opportunity for Mr. Obama to detail point by point how he will lead them during a time of crisis.

"The American people are willing to give him time, but he needs to make sure they walk away with a clear sense of what he wants to do for them and that they think that it's actually possible for him to pull it off," Mr. Rosenberg said.

My favorite of the many inane / insane comments about this article from the Washington Times site, by "Woody":

"Still a man in an empty suit."

(Think about it)

Rob was featured in the Associated Press, the Huffington Post, and the Wall Street Journal talking about Obama's budget proposal. From the Associated Press piece by Tom Raum:

Is it possible that the White House will be right and the economy will recover along the time line projected in Obama's budget?

"Yes, it's possible. Do I think it's probable? No I don't. But I don't think anybody's forecast is probable," said Rob Shapiro, head of the globalization program at NDN, a Democratic think tank, and chairman of Sonecon, an economic-consulting firm.

"No one has called this cycle correctly," Shapiro said. "Because it is so unlike any other downturn, economists are legitimately more uncertain about what its course will be."

And from the Huffington Post piece by Sam Stein:

The president's plan would raise the tax rate on capital gains and dividends to 20 percent from the 15 percent levels imposed by the Bush administration. In a climate in which few people are actually making capital gains earnings, raising the rate, economists say, shouldn't dry up market activity much, if any. On the flip side, the Obama budget team projects that it could help decrease the deficit by more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2010, $5.4 billion in 2011, $12.2 billion in 2014 and $19.9 billion in 2019.

"This increase will not just have no severe effect on the economy but have almost no effect except higher revenues," said Robert Shapiro, the deputy commerce secretary under Bill Clinton and an occasional adviser to president's economic staff. "It is basically a freebie. So why not do it?"

Rob also discussed the stimulus on the Fox News Channel:

NDN fellow Morley Winograd was quoted in the Los Angeles Times on how the recession is affecting Millennials:

But Morley Winograd, coauthor of "Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics," has no such concerns. "This is not an embittered and cynical generation," he said. "Although they did tend to be protected as children, they were also taught to compete and to perform. This will only make them more determined."

Finally, Michael Moynihan was quoted about the stimulus in the Charlotte Observer.

Thursday New Tools Feature: Twitter Not Just "For The Birds"

There's been a lot of buzz in the media over the last few days about the popular micro-blogging service Twitter. On Monday, Politico published a list of D.C.'s top 10 most influential Twitterers, a story which was promptly picked up by MSNBC. Then, on Tuesday, ABC News partnered with Twitter for their live coverage of President Obama's pseudo-State-of-the-Union, even as members of both parties tweeted their reactions to the speech on the floor as Obama spoke.

It's fast becoming clear that Twitter is not just a fad; it's here to stay, or at least as much as any net-based service can be (we should probably not be thinking about Facebook or MySpace as truly permanent institutions either, but their importance in our society now is unquestionable).

I'm a little ambivalent about the ascendance of Twitter. Don't get me wrong; Twitter has a lot of great potential for politics (see the Twitter Vote Project) and is a convenient way to keep up with your friends and their whereabouts. And of course, NDN's Twitter feed is totally great and you should start following us today.

Yet at the same time, I actually do wonder what effects a 140-character limit might have on us as a society. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote about this yesterday, noting that:

...to view the hodgepodge of text messages sent from the House floor during the speech, it seemed as if Obama were presiding over a support group for adults with attention-deficit disorder.

Or, see this recent report from a top neuroscientist finding that social networking sites may harm children's brains:

Social networking websites are causing alarming changes in the brains of young users, an eminent scientist has warned.

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centred.

While I usually find stories and reports decrying the dangers of technology to be reactionary and sensationalist, playing to our collective resistance to societal change and fear of the unknown, I think Mr. Milbank may have a point. And it makes a certain amount of sense; the idea that everyone wants to know what you're doing all the time, the basic premise of Twitter, seems an inherently egocentric one. It's hard to say much of value in 140 characters (of course, my papers in college were always twice the maximum length so maybe I'm just not that into the whole brevity thing). Here are the first 140 characters of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Loses something, doesn't it?

For good or ill, Twitter has become part of the core technology set necessary for 21st century political communication. So, in conclusion, you should definitely use Twitter. But make sure to read a book once in a while, too, just in case. 

UPDATE: Once again, Jon Stewart and I are on the same page:

NDN/NPI Event, Tuesday, March 10 -- A Conversation with Joe Rospars, New Media Director for the Obama Presidential Campaign

On Tuesday, March 10, at 12 p.m., NDN and the New Politics Institute will be holding a special event here at the our offices in DC -- a luncheon conversation with Joe Rospars, the new media director of the Obama presidential campaign and founder of Blue State Digital, one of the nation's leading new media consulting firms.

There is little argument now that the way the 2008 Obama campaign used new media and the Internet has changed politics here, and around the world, forever. Joe was the director of this historic effort, and we are very pleased that he will be taking the time to reflect on their remarkable campaign, and offer some thoughts on what we might expect in this space in the years to come.

The conversation with Joe will take place at the NDN offices at 729 15th St., NW, between H Street and New York Avenue. Lunch will be served. Seating is limited and will be first come first serve -- please click here to RSVP.

For those not able to attend the event here in our offices, be sure to watch it live on our new high-end Web casting system. Just go to ndnblog.org/livecast -- the stream will begin at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Joe's full bio follows:

A Blue State Digital founding partner, Joe served as the New Media Director for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, where he oversaw all online aspects of the unprecedented fundraising, communications and grassroots mobilization effort.

Joe led a wide-ranging program that integrated design and branding, web and video content, mass email, text messaging, and online advertising, organizing and fundraising.

Prior to the Obama campaign, Joe led BSD's work with Gov. Howard Dean at the Democratic National Committee; during Dean's campaign for party chairman; and at Democracy for America. Joe was a writer and strategist in New Media for Dean's 2004 Presidential campaign.

He holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the George Washington University.

Tech Tips: Subscribe to NDN RSS Feeds!

A great way to stay up to date on NDN's thinking is to sign up for one of our RSS feeds. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it really is super simple: just click on the "RSS" symbol on the right sidebar like the one pictured below to get started (or just click here). From the RSS page, you can choose whether to subscribe to our entire blog's feed, or to specific user or topic feeds. Once you decide what updates you want to receive, click on the specific link to go to the feed.

Once you're at this page, there are multiple ways to stay up to date with NDN. The way I recommend is Google Reader - if you have a Google account (and if you don't, just go ahead and create one already!), Reader is a great way to stay caught up on all of your favorite sites easily and automatically. Just open Reader from the Google home page, click "Add a subscription," and paste the URL of the feed page you selected a moment ago (for demonstration purposes, we'll use the feed for the entire NDN blog, http://ndnblog.org/blog/feed). Then click "add," and that's all there is to it! Now NDN's blog feed will be automatically updated in your Google Reader. 

If you feel like Google is taking over your whole life, you don't have to use Reader - most browsers also have built-in RSS readers. For instance, if you went to the NDN blog feed in Firefox, you would see an option at the top that says "Subscribe to this feed using LiveBookmarks," which is Mozilla's built-in RSS reader, which looks like a regular bookmark but updates in real time. You can, of course, also select Google instead of LiveBookmarks from the drop-down menu in FireFox, an alternate way to add the feed to Google Reader. 

If you're interested in receiving RSS feeds on your mobile device, there are a number of options. I use NetNewsWire for my iPhone, but there are a number of other apps available on the iPhone and on other platforms. Just do a search to see what's available on your device - it takes a few moments to set up, but it's a real time-saver in the long run!

Monday Buzz: Twittering Twits, Canoli Calamity, More

It was another great week for NDN in the media. First off, our tech event last Tuesday, "New Tools for a New Era," was picked up by Jose Antonio Vargas in the Washington Post in a story about the GOP's effort to catch up technologically. From the Post piece:

And the GOP will be rebuilding itself at a time when the Democratic Party continues to make inroads in using technology to reach a diverse set of constituents with their message. Today, the New Politics Institute, an arm of the liberal think-tank New Democrat Network, will hold one of its many lunches for Democratic Hill staffers and advocacy folks. The title of the event: "New Tools for a New Era." Simon Rosenberg, founder of NDN, said the lunch is a part of his group's ongoing New Tools series, which tout the use of cell phones, social networks and micro-targeting, among others, in campaigning. NPI was created in 2005.

"Look, the Republican Party is at least two presidential cycles behind. They didn't get what Howard Dean was doing. They dismissed what Barack Obama was doing," Rosenberg said. "But one of the things they have going for them is, they can learn from years of trial and error and investment by us Democrats. Eventually, they're going to catch up. But they can't just combine new tools with old politics."

Simon's tech analysis was also featured in a big AFP story about the State Department's embrace of new tools. From the story:

Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a progressive think-tank based in Washington, said Clinton's embrace of the Internet is going to be imitated by others in the Obama administration.

"It's going to be all the cabinet officials, all the major agencies and departments," Rosenberg told AFP. "They're going to be under pressure to use these tools to bring themselves closer to the American people and the people of the world.

"It's going to become imbued throughout the entire government," he said. "If you want to give a shiny apple to your boss and your boss is Barack Obama one of the shiny apples you can give him is a great YouTube video that reaches millions of people about a subject that he cares about."

On a different note, Simon was featured in a great story by Ron Brownstein and David Wasserman in the National Journal about Democrats' huge gains in the nation's better-educated counties:

Republican leaders have strained their relations with voters across the Diploma Belt by appearing at times to allow their religious views to trump science (on issues such as embryonic-stem-cell research) and to prefer small-town perspectives to cosmopolitan views. "These are [voters] who use the Internet and modern telecommunications," says Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a Democratic group that studies electoral trends. "And Obama felt like he was living in the same world as they are. And the Republicans had drifted from them and been deeply disappointing in their actual governance."

Our immigration event last Thursday, "Making the Case for Passing Immigration Reform This Year," was picked up in several Spanish-language papers, including El Sendero de Peje and El Financiero.

NDN Fellows Morley Winograd and Mike Hais had their essay, "New Attitudes for a New Era," featured on the Huffington Post politics page.

Lastly, Simon made an appearance on Fox News this week to (allegedly) discuss the stimulus. Check it out below:

President Obama's Weekly YouTube Address

This morning, President Obama released his most recent weekly address. In it, he cites what his administration has already accomplished by passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment act, which in addition to making necessary investments will deliver the largest and most quickly enacted middle-class tax cut in American history.

Because of what we did, 95 percent of all working families will get a tax cut -- in keeping with a promise I made on the campaign. And I'm pleased to announce that this morning, the Treasury Department began directing employers to reduce the amount of taxes withheld from paychecks -- meaning that by April 1st, a typical family will begin taking home at least $65 more every month. Never before in our history has a tax cut taken effect faster or gone to so many hardworking Americans.

The President is careful to put the stimulus in the context of the administration's larger recovery strategy, which also involves the financial bailout and help for homeowners, and explains that all of these components will be necessary for recovery to be possible.

But even the stimulus package alone, passed less than a month into Obama's presidency, is more constructive legislation than the Bush administration can claim for the past 8 years. Listening to the President list the accomplishments of this bill, it's hard for me to believe that Republicans are so proud of their opposition, even as their numbers continue to tank. Watch the full address below:

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