Political Technology

Day 2 at the DNCC: Two Million Strong

We wrapped up our second day at the DNCC with another great event, Two Million Strong, and Growing, where we heard from Joe Trippi, Peter Greenberger of Google, and Macon Phillips, Deputy Director of New Media for Obama for America. Check out video from the event below. (We compressed it a bit, but when we're back to DC I'll re-upload it with higher quality.):

Obama's New Voter Reg Tool

The Obama campaign just launched a new website, VoteforChange.com, aimed at simplifying the voter registration process. From the campaign press release:

Today, the Obama campaign launched a new website aimed at simplifying the election process for voters as we gear up for a historic general election. VoteforChange.com is a new voter registration tool where voters across the country can verify their registration status, register to vote for the first time, or get the relevant absentee voting information for their state - all online.

"The number one reason that people don't vote is because they don't understand how easy it is to register to vote", said Jason Green, Director of Voter Registration. "VoteforChange.com, simplifies the process. It allows voters to register, check registration status, or find a polling location - all at the click of a button. By simplifying and explaining the process we believe that new voters will register, become involved in our movement for change and elect Senator Obama president in November."

Maybe this will be one of the tools given to all who attend Obama's Thursday acceptance speech at Invesco Field, fulfilling the goal of Deputy Campaign Manager Steve Hildebrand to make sure everyone leaves a volunteer.

Early thoughts on the Biden pick

Perhaps it is more relief than elation this morning, but however we sort this all out right now the pick of Joe Biden is looking shrewd, smart, sure-footed. Experienced, deep knowledge of foreign policy and the ways of Washington, strong connections to the Council on Foreign Relations crowd, Catholic, working class, son to be deployed to Iraq in October. This morning this feels like a good pick, Obama's pick, one that will help Senator Obama not only win but govern in turbulent times. It just feels right.

The buzz around the mobile announcement of the pick has also been highly successful. Reinforces the openness and people-oriented nature of the campaign. I offered some thoughts on the rollout in a SF Chronicle piece today, and Travis weighed in here too a few days ago.

For a deeper discussion on the power of new media be sure to join us for a special panel at the Convention, 2 Million Strong, which will feature Senator Obama's Director of New Media Joe Rospars, Joe Trippi and Google's Peter Greenberger. It runs from 2 to 4pm, Tuesday, at the Westin Tabor Center.

Finally, it is astonishing that in the next 8 weeks we will have the 2 VP picks, the 2 Conventions, and all 4 debates. And another 3 weeks after that to the election itself. In what has been an incredible political year we just experienced a lull. With his 3am text the Obama campaign launched the next and very intense round of what is going to be quite a general election campaign.

For those looking for more on Biden Daily Kos already has quite a bit up, and very well worth visiting.

Update 8am: Here's the text Travis received:

Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3pm ET on www.BarackObama.com. Spread the word!

Note the encouragement to watch it live on the Obama site and not on TV. The day of the always on Presidential campaign continues to evolve.

Update 6pm - Added some additonal thoughts in this Reuters piece by John Whitesides.

Update 630pm - Our good friend Joe Trippi offers these observations on Biden in a new post on Daily Kos.

Update 645pm - Via Huff Post, this is one powerful and well crafted line from the speech today:"

"these times require more than a good soldier, they require a wise leader."

This is simply one of the most powerful lines of any speech in this remarkable year.

Obama's Website for the General?

The Obama campaign has made some tweaks for the second time to its campaign website. The latest iteration is much more subtle than the first revamp during the primary process, which included an entirely redesigned site, but seems to be their site of choice to take them through the general election. Below are the new things I noticed about the site on first appearance. If I've missed or incorrectly pointed something out, please let me know!

  • Banner header: The top image of the website has changed slightly. You now see an American flag in the shape of the Obama logo weaved in and two of the campaign's critical action items, donate and find an event, are situated on top of one another. Also, the quote and image of Obama changes (hit refresh a few times) between his first quote about bringing change to Washington and a new quote about his agenda. I imagine this will rotate to reflect the policies Obama is focusing on.
  • Log-in bar: Atop the banner header is a new log-in feature where users can log into their MyBarackObama.com account (or MyBO as they call it). This makes the online community an even more prominent feature on the site, so I'm sure they expect it to continue to play a large role in the campaign.
  • Featured content box: The featured content box now cycles through horizontally, allowing the image in the box to be much bigger and more prominent. Also, I'm wondering if there will be synchronization between the featured policy and the quote in the banner. For example, I wonder if, when the Obama campaign wants to highlight its immigration policy, it will coincide with a quote at the top on the same issue. Just a thought.
  • The Obama brand: A general observation is that pictures of Obama are starting to change at key places. Where before he was superimposed in front of a graphic of crowds, emphasizing his movement, the pictures now are beginning to be superimposed on top of more traditional symbols like American flags.

10 Downing Street 2.0

Via an announcement that the British Prime Minister's Office had partnered with Brightcove for its official online video destination, Number10TV, I just came across the new 10 Downing Street website. And I'm very glad I did. It is an amazing sign that politicians not only recognize the impact of technology on politics, but embrace at least certain aspects of it.

Beyond the Beta mark in the banner image, this is obviously no traditional government website. Sites like Flickr, YouTube, and Twitter all have a prominent role on the right sidebar, major headlines are prominently featured in a Huffington Post manner, users can still use YouTube to Ask the PM, and they can sign as well as create petitions. Check out what else is new in the New Website Guide. Also check out the video below introducing the site:

While the French government's website doesn't feature picture or video references to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama as the British site does, it is also worth checking out for its prominent use of video. Our move, whitehouse.gov. (Unrelated shout out to everyone in France not on the men's 4x100m relay swim team.)

Txtual Seduction: Obama to SMS VP Choice

Plenty of people just received an interesting SMS from the Obama campaign. It reads:

Barack will announce his VP candidate choice through txt msg between now & the Conv. Tell everyone to txt VP to 62262 to be the first to know! Please forward.

To me, this decision is telling for two reasons. As we've long discussed, technology is changing the way we conduct and interact with politics. New tools like SMS - as well as many others - are making it easier for more people to become involved in the process, ultimately making our democracy more participatory. The Obama campaign clearly understands this and is hoping to continue to use the advent of these tools to further reinforce its campaign message of change.

Also, consider the constituencies that SMS reaches. From our reports:

From Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics, Sept. 2006:

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.


Studies from Telephia in 2005 showed that African American, Hispanic and mixed Asian groups make up the top three groups both in scope and in percentage of growth in using mobile.

Hispanic users had the 2nd highest use of mobile minutes, and the growth in use quarterly was rising at higher than any other ethnographic group.

All this reinforced in Go Mobile Now, Oct., 2007:

Mobile tools like text messaging and picture messaging are considerably more popular in black and Hispanic communities than in other demographics.

So what is clear is that the Obama campaign is announcing its VP choice via a method which is heavily used by Millennials, Hispanics, African Americans, and mixed Asian groups. To a lesser degree, I'm sure there will be members of older generations signing up to receive the text as well. As a result, the campaign will broaden its mobile database, making organizing and outreach to vital groups in the coming months all the more sophisticated. This surely will help cement the Obama campaign's mobile database as the go-to mobile database in progressive politics. And, more importantly, it adds another means through which the campaign hopes to build a lasting majority.

Now what would be impressive is if the campaign could figure out how to segment the Hispanic/Latino audiences from this effort and began delivering Spanish-language text messages. Imagine that foundation going into the fall.

Update: I just found out through Facebook that the campaign will also e-mail you Obama's VP choice. You just have to sign up to receive the notice. So not only will the Obama campaign hold the go-to mobile database, but perhaps the go-to e-mail database of progressive politics.

Update II: Jose Antonio Vargas has more insight in the Washington Post.

China Surpasses US in Internet Users

Thought this was interesting:

China said the number of Internet users in the country reached about 253 million last month, putting it ahead of the United States as the world's biggest Internet market.

The estimate, based on a national phone survey and released on Thursday by the China Internet Network Information Center in Beijing, showed a powerful surge in Internet adoption in this country over the last few years, particularly among teenagers.

The number of Internet users jumped more than 50 percent, or by about 90 million people, during the last year, said the center, which operates under the government-controlled Chinese Academy of Sciences. The new estimate represents only about 19 percent of China's population, underscoring the potential for growth.

By contrast, about 220 million Americans are online, or 70 percent of the population, according to the Nielsen Company. Japan and South Korea have similarly high percentages.

Moving to "3 Screens"

The New York Times had an interesting piece this week on a new Nielsen study of how consumers are now watching video. It showed a spike in TV viewerships, Internet video watching and mobile phone video use. It also showed a 50 percent increase of average consumer use of "time-shifting," or recording TV and watching it later. For those tracking changes in consumer use of technology, it is a good and interesting read.

The report reaffirms a basic argument that NDN has been making through its affiliate, NPI, that the most important medium of American life, and politics, TV, is going through profound change. TV viewership is not eroding, as newspaper readership or radio listernship are. TV viewership is increasing. But how people are watching TV is changing. Satellite and cable viewers now outnumber traditional broadcast TV viewership. More and more channels will be coming available. Video on demand use is increasing, and will become more user friendly. DVR penetration has increased fourfold in the last four years, moving from a peripheral technology to a now central one in people's homes. And studies show 60 percent of people with DVR's skip all the commercials on the recorded shows they watch.

The stat I most often site is that when I graduated college in 1985, 90 percent of anyone watching that box in our home was watching live broadcast TV. Today, it is about a third. But have political and advocacy strategies involving TV changed as much as TV has? As we have analyzed, advocated and written about extensively at NPI, not as much as they need to.

Because of all these changes, one of the central recommendations we've been making to those we speak to is that in their market research they need to add a "media battery" to the end of their questionnaire, helping give media usage data to their demographic breakouts. If, for example, your target audience for your campaign are high cable and DVR users, perhaps they would require a different marketing approach than someone who still watches a lot of broadcast TV and doesn't own a DVR. Different sub-groups are moving along this arc of change differently, and it is important to get a better understanding of all this to design winning advocacy efforts now.

Another interesting finding from this article is that people are watching more video on their phones each month than on the Internet. I was a little suprised by that, but it does confirm another belief of ours - that in the coming years the mobile device will become a much more important way of engaging Americans in advocacy and politics than ever before.

As always, more to come on this exciting front.


Google, Redefining the One-Stop Shop

In a Wall Street Journal article, Emily Steel reports that Google is set to release a new tool which measures Internet use. Intended to help advertisers identify the best places to buy online ads, the products most valuable asset might be its cost.

Unlike other services that gather data on internet use largely by tracking the online activity of different panels of people, such as comScore and Nielsen, Google will be offering its new advertising tool to marketers for free.

An excerpt from the article:

"Google's new tool could bring more efficiency to the process of buying online ads, ad executives say. Google already has one of the dominant systems for online ad-serving, which helps Web publishers manage their advertising sales and serve up ads each time a consumer opens one of their Web pages. The Web-audience data could be combined with the ad-serving system, so that advertisers would be able to find out whether they would reach the right audience before they committed to placing an ad. Existing ad-serving systems don't currently provide detailed Web-audience data about the sites where they place ads. By giving away the new tool, Google could presumably attract more ad business."

In addition, Google is expected to produce another tool which will show how web users respond to online ads. By comparing groups of people exposed to an ad with others who haven't been exposed, Google is able to account for such factors as search activity and site visitation. These tools combine to offer amazing opportunities for marketers on all levels as access to such a tool could save billions in the advertising world.

One-stop shops generally rely on more affordable prices to compensate for a lower quality package of services. However, the new Google marketing service will be both the most affordable and advanced technology on the market - making Google the one-stop shop to end all one-stop shops.

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