The coming acceleration of mobile media into politics

I had a conversation with a political person the other day in which she doubted whether mobile media would really have an effect on politics for a long while. She said texting just didn’t seem to have the heft to make a dent on the richer media that comes at people from other sectors, including many of the traditional ones. That’s true, for now, but it does not take into account the forward trajectory of this rapidly moving space. Consider two pieces of recent evidence:

The New York Times on Saturday has a very interesting piece on Madison Avenue-level ads already starting to appear on cell phones. With the broadband that’s coming to the phone infrastructure, some very sophisticated ads are able to move through it. Once the private sector blazes that trail, political ads won’t be far behind them. Definitely in 08.

The other piece of evidence to consider is the iPhone. I know there was a lot of buzz around this announcement a couple weeks ago, but only last night did I get to watch the web video of Apple CEO Steve Job’s keynote performance that introduced the phone and explained its many features (click on the "iPhone Introduction," not Keynote). It’s worth just watching Jobs do his demo – he’s a master that political people could study just for tips on creating suspense. But the more important point is that he demoed this phone in great detail, live, on the actual cell phone grid, and the phone’s performance was spectacular. I was really astounded at how good it was, and I have been watching this space for a while.

You can’t think of the mobile phone as a land-line-like voice device that allows you to walk around in the world. That has been the paradigm up until now. You really have to think of these as very small yet powerful computers, with almost all the capabilities of current desktops and laptops, now in your hands. That is the iPhone. It’s not a phone, but a Apple computer that fits in your hand. Oh, and it is, indeed, a phone, a super smart one at that.

So everything you see on YouTube and all the craziness of the web, and the myriad ways that is impacting politics, is also coming to phones. Like, within the year. Certainly in the 08 political cycle. The iPhone comes out in June, and like with the iPod, all the competition will follow.

That’s why this space is one that the New Politics Institute will be deeply focused on in the months ahead.

Peter Leyden