Political Technology

The Evolution of Mainstream Journalism with Citizen Journalism

The New York Times has a nice piece on a recent effort by Yahoo and Reuters to take advantage of the explosion of bottom-up media being captured and produced by amateurs. They will start showcasing  photos and videos shot by everyday people using their cell-phones. From the article:

“The project is among the most ambitious efforts in what has become known as citizen journalism, attempts by bloggers, start-up local news sites and by global news organizations like CNN and the BBC to see if readers can also become reporters.

Many news organizations turned to photographs taken by amateurs to supplement coverage of events like the London subway bombing and the Asian tsunami. Yahoo’s news division has already used images that were originally posted on Flickr, the company’s photo-sharing site. For example, it created a slide show of images from Thailand after the coup there in September.

Camera phone videos are increasingly making news themselves. Michael Richards, the actor who played Kramer on “Seinfeld,” was recorded last month responding to hecklers in a nightclub with racially charged epithets. The video was posted on TMZ, the celebrity news site.”

The journalism business is in the midst of a real crisis as the old advertising models that supported newspapers and television news are fundamentally shifting. This evolution towards using average citizens to help cover the world might be one piece of solving the puzzle of how journalism works in the 21st century world. Keep an eye on it.

Peter Leyden

The continued migration of adspend from old to new media

The New York Times reports on the fall Advertising forecasting season, and not suprisingly it is titled: Troubling ’07 Forecast for the Old-Line Media but Not for the Online.  An excerpt from the piece:

Still, reactions to the predictions for 2007 depend upon the perch from which they are considered. Those in the traditional media like television and newspapers will no doubt frown after hearing that most forecasters expect at best flat growth in ad spending for them.

Those who sell ads on Web sites, on the other hand, are likely to be beaming at the high double-digit percentage gains being predicted for them.

“The trend that will continue to affect the media universe in 2007 is the ongoing shift in advertising dollars from traditional media into nontraditional media, most notably the Internet,” Fitch Ratings concluded in an outlook report.

Television, radio and newspapers will “experience slow growth and ongoing audience declines,” according to the report, “and ad spending continues to follow consumer patterns.”

For more on our research and recommendations about how progressives can be thinking and using new media and the new tech, visit our NPI site at www.newpolitics.net, or join us today in Washington for a NPI event on the new tools for 2008. 

The Looming Scrum for $67 Billion in Advertising Dollars

This month’s Wired magazine has a cover story on YouTube that puts Google’s $1.65 billion buy more in a strategic context. The subhead of the story cuts to the chase: “TV advertising is broken, putting $67 billion up for grabs. Which explains why Google spent a billion and change on an online video startup.”

On the day they announcement came out I did a blog post here that had a similar quick hit that this purchase was more about putting the pieces in place for inventing the TV of the 21st century. Google is close to figuring out the advertising model that works in this new Internetized environment. And YouTube is onto something about how motion media might work in this space. Connect successful advertising and successful content and you might have a real formula that might work for a long run. By no means this is a done deal, but it does present some interesting possibilities.

All those developments come at a time when the traditional 30-second ad model for TV is breaking down with, among other things, the spread of digital video recorders like Tivo. In other words, the $67 billion dollars that currently is parked there will soon be looking for a new home….

Peter Leyden

Follow the TV Ad money this cycle towards more targeted buys

The National Journal has a fantastic article off its front page called “Follow The Money” that analyzes the record-breaking amount of money spent on TV ads in the 2006 cycle. The article is only available to subscribers so we will tease a bit of it for you to taste. The lede goes like this:

If couch potatoes thought that they were hit with an unusually high number of campaign ads in 2006, it's probably because they were. Analysts are reporting record spending on TV advertising during the midterm cycle. But perhaps more notable than the bombardment of ads was the rise of new strategies that helped candidates target voters more effectively, thus earning them more bang for their buck.

Total spending on broadcast TV political advertising surged to more than $2.1 billion in 2006, a $1 billion increase from the 2002 midterm election cycle, Evan Tracey of TNS Media Intelligence recently told AdWeek. A report by the non-partisan research firm PQ Media also found that political advertising hit a new record in 2006, fueled by the number of competitive races. TV "[a]dvertising expenditures will account for 69 percent of all political media spending in 2006, up from 67.5 percent in 2004," the report states.

The sheer numbers ($2.1 billion) and percentages (69 percent of all media spending) show how important it is to make sure progressives develop the best possible strategies to maximize their impact in this still critical television space. And the bulk of the piece explained how the shift to cable television buys is a central part of those new strategies.

This is something that the New Politics institute has been championing for the last year, most notably in our New Tools campaign in the fall. Our Buy Cable memo made the rounds during the fall and may have made some difference in changing habits, though there still is a long way to go. From the article:

The PQ Media report found that broadcast TV remains the dominant medium for political advertising and "will command the largest share of political media spending in 2006" with 50 percent. That is still lower than 2004, however, when campaigns spent about 53 percent of advertising expenditures on broadcast TV, and from 2002, when they spent 56 percent.

The whole piece is anchored by an extended quote from the NPI Buy Cable memo that sums up the trend:

"Advertising across an entire media market is a little like hammering a nail with a sledgehammer," a report [PDF] by the New Politics Institute, an offshoot of the Democratic group NDN, suggests. The report estimates that viewers of an ad for a New Jersey Senate candidate on Philadelphia broadcast TV will be viewed by almost three times as many voters in Pennsylvania and Delaware as in New Jersey. The report goes on to note that "cable allows you to ensure that almost all of your advertising dollars go into the targeted state or district -- in some cases down to the precinct or zip code."

Peter Leyden

ThinkingBlue Search and Google Co-op

My cohorts and I at my company have been interested for a while at some of the functionality that Google has been opening up in their API’s and other services. I’ve been specifically looking as to how they could be put to use to help the liberal and progressive online (and mobile) community…

The first experiment is us playing with Google Co-op… http://google.com/coop/cse/overview
This Google service allows third parties to set up highly focused search engines powered by Google searching out specific subject matter, content and specific groups of websites…

So out of building something we could personally use, but also that might be of use to the larger community, we set up ThinkingBlue Search.

This is a custom search engine powered by Google Co-op focused specifically on searching out across the spectrum of politically progressive ideas and discussion.

ThinkingBlue Search is currently covering about 400 web sites, including every major progressive think tank (over 40 of them including NDN and NPI), every major progressive blog that discusses politics and policy (over 200 of them so far), every major official Democratic web site including every single local State party website (about 70-ish of them), every major liberal political journal and magazine in print and online (over 25), most of the major progressive syndicated columnists (right now just over 20 and growing), most of the progressive watchdog groups (also about 20 at the moment) and lastly, it also searches the early progressive political wikis that exist (about 10 or so).

..and we’re adding sites daily.

See what you think. Try it out, and as ThinkingBlue Search is very much a stable alpha at this point (and Google Co-op itself is a beta) but I would love early feedback, which you can leave in the comments here... or email to tchambers AT media50group.com..

The Virtual World of Second Life Becomes Real for Politics

This week I gave the strangest talk I have ever given, and it had nothing to do with what I said. It had to do with where I was. I was inside a virtual three-dimensional world, in the online game called Second Life.

The gathered group was made up of Netroots activists from all over the country who were gathering in this virtual setting, on the edge of a grassy hilly, on an island. They each were represented by an avatar, which can look like a person, but can also be made to look like animal-like beings too. There was a billboard with an agenda, and stumps to sit on, and free tee-shirts to wear. But it was all inside an interactive game. The talk was done through typing like in a chat room, with my words coming out line by line and others chiming in over my central narrative.

It this all seems like too much, then brace yourself. It probably will start to get more traction in politics in the coming years. After all, the private sector business world is going ga-ga over Second Life right now. There has been a flurry of mainstream news stories, several prominent ones in the New York Times, the cover of BusinessWeek, and the Reuters newswire has assigned a permanent reporter to cover what is going on in there.

The reason for all the attention is that Second Life now has more than 1.3 members and as much as $400,000 a day in real money changing hands through buying and selling in this virtual world. In fact, any of you can join for free and try it out in no time at all. Just go there and sign up.

And so, like the other media tools that have been pioneered and developed in the private sector, politics will follow into these virtual worlds too. In fact, I think gaming will become a significant area for politics in the next couple years, following in the footsteps of viral video, mobile media, and social networking. But more about that later. For now, go check it out.

Peter Leyden

Will the Wisdom of the Crowds compete with Polling?

There was a very interesting political experiment initiated before the election by a group in the San Francisco bay area to tap what has been labeled “the wisdom of the crowds,” after the bestseller by James Surowiecki.

Well in advance of the election, Predict06 asked the general web community to make educated predictions about who would win any of the US House and Senate seats that truly were in play. It started out tilting towards the Republicans because some conservative bloggers and online groups first began to take part. But as the progressive blogosphere and netroots types learned about it, the predictions evened up. On the eve of the election, it was looking pretty interesting…..

The results? A full 84,501 predictions were made and the predicted results were amazingly close to the actual results. The predicted Senate was 50/50. The actual Senate, 51 Dems to 49 Republicans. The predicted House: 231 Dems to 204 Republicans, with the D’s picking up 28 seats The actual was: 229 to 196, with the D’s taking 30.

You have to wonder whether this experiment could be refined in successive cycles to evolve into a pretty accurate tool that might compete with the current generation of public opinion polling. At the very least, this is a tool that is worth playing around with. Check it out:

Peter Leyden

NDN Political Ad Wrap 2006: Amazing - Xenophobic

Sorry I couldn't come up with a Z word.  But If you're getting tired of pacing and biting your nails waiting for election returns, here are some of the political ads that stood out this year.  Also make sure to read James Crabtree's picks in the Guardian

It's been a landmark year in political advertising, with new approaches taken to breaking through the media clutter and connecting to voters.  Sure, there were plenty of grainy attack ads that made the usual distortions and took words and votes out of context.  There were also soft-focus bio spots with uplifting music that showed candidates with any combination of children/men in hard hats/senior citizens /their families, etc.  But what made this cycle of political advertising stand out was the new wave of political ads that Simon described as "more real, more intimate, more authentic."

Here is my personal and incomplete (especially since it barely touches on the rise of YouTube and viral video) list of some of the best, worst and most original ads of 2006:

Jon Tester is Montana, from his haircut to his boots.  And his early ad "Haircut" made that very clear.  Republicans hit back immediately, but the MDP's response to the response was definitive and effective.

Elliot Spitzer (up by dozens of points in the polls) made the obvious choice to run a positive campaign.

Bill Richardson also faces token opposition, but he went in a little zanier direction

I really enjoyed Arkansas Gubernatorial candidate Mike Beebe's first two campaign ads, and anyone who thinks Democrats can't win in the South should watch them.  The first has Beebe talking into the camera about growing up in a single parent home.  The connection between his mom waiting tables and the need for a raise in the minimum wage is heartfelt, convincing and puts him on the side of the little guy.  He follows that by calling for the elimination of the highly regressive grocery tax, which is both good policy and a way to insulate himself against charges of being a high-tax DemocratThe second Beebe ad has the best soundtrack of finger-pickin' bluegrass guitar this cycle.  Maybe it's the only ad with bluegrass music this cycle, but it works, with Beebe again looking straight into the camera and talking about his support for gun rights. 

In Massachusetts, independent candidate Christy Mihos briefly ran an ad that provided a unique explanation for the many problems with the Big Dig.  Watch it and you'll see why it only ran after 10:00pm. 

Republican Kerry Healy in MA took a page from the Lee Atwater handbook and ran a really despicable ad intended to scare Bay Staters into not voting for Deval Patrick.  Maybe her team didn't realize that while the "Willie Horton" ads may have contributed to Michael Dukakis' defeat in 1988, he still won Massachusetts. 

In Tennessee, Harold Ford defined himself before his opponent could with an ad on faith.  The RNC responded with the now infamous "Call Me" ad.  Watch it and decide if the obvious race-baiting was even the most effective part of the ad.  If nothing else, "Call Me" further tarred Ken Mehlman's reputation, since just a year ago he apologized for the Republican Southern strategy and promised an end to racial politics.  He also told Tim Russert that as RNC chair he had no control over the ad and could not pull it.  That gives Ken Mehlman the trifecta of lying, being hypocritical and straining credulity.  His reward: a hilarious spoof on the “Call Me” ad, referencing the rumors about his sexuality.

Michael Steele's "Puppy" ad in Maryland was one of the most creative of the year and helped him reinvent himself as an independent candidate.  We'll know how effective the Democratic response was sometime tonight.

Desperate Republicans like Colorado Congressional candidate Rick O’Donnell tried to make illegal immigration a campaign issue.  For more on how demonizing Hispanics worked out, visit www.immigration2006.org.

The Republican Party made one final attempt to use the scare tactics of '02 and '04 in this election with their ticking time bomb ad.

But the most powerful ads didn't come from party committees or candidates; they came form people whose lives are directly affected by the actions of our leaders in Washington.  Michael J. Fox did filmed moving ads in support of candidates who support stem cell research.  And there were responses in MO and MD.  And a new group called Vote Vets filmed ads calling our members or Congress for not providing our soldiers in Iraq with life saving body armor

Democratic Leaders ask Administration to intervene to stop disturbing robocalls

TPMmuckraker has a copy of a letter sent by John Conyers and John Dingell to Justice, the FCC and FEC:

Dear Chairmen Martin, Toner and Attorney General Gonzales:

We write to demand an immediate investigation concerning allegations of unethical and possibly illegal prerecorded phone calls designed to confuse voters in Tuesday’s election. These misleading calls are made late in the evening, or during the night, in an effort to generate anger at the Democratic candidate, who is in no way associated with this harassment. In fact, the calls are being funded by the National Republican Campaign Committee, which has reportedly provided $600,000 to fund this deception.

There have been numerous media reports about these calls, which appear to be occurring in dozens of districts. It is also our understanding that the Republican Party has been forced to stop the calls in New Hampshire.

According to the Associated Press, one individual “received three prerecorded messages in four hours. Each began, ‘Hello, I’m calling with information about [Democratic candidate] Lois Murphy [in the Philadelphia area].’” The Philadelphia Daily News reported that “[t]he calls, which begin by offering ‘important information about Lois Murphy,’ are designed to mislead voters into thinking the message is from her.”

The New Hampshire Union Leader reported that a “national Republican group yesterday scuttled a pre-recorded phone call effort the state Attorney General’s Office said may have violated New Hampshire law by contacting residents listed on the federal Do Not Call registry.”

In Illinois, The Barrington Courier-Review reported that a resident received the following phone call – “Hi. I’m calling with information about [Democratic Candidate] Melissa Bean.” She received the same call a total of 21 times since October 24. Others reported receiving the same calls, none of which were paid for by Ms. Bean or any Democratic group.

If true, these allegations could violate a number of federal laws and legal requirements. Among other things, 47 CFR 1200 (b)(1) provides that prerecorded telephone messages must “[a]t the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call.” Section 441h of the Federal Election Campaign Act provides that no agent of a federal candidate shall “fraudulently misrepresent himself or any committee or organization under his control as speaking or otherwise writing or acting for or behalf of any other candidate or political party.” Section 441d(d)(2) specifies that communications must provide a statement as to the party responsible for it, and the campaign finance laws generally prohibit fraudulent and deceptive activities. A number of state laws also appear to be applicable, such as New Hampshire’s which prohibits calls to individuals on the federal Do Not Call registry.

Given the magnitude and seriousness of these charges, we ask that you immediately investigate and take action to protect the integrity of our electoral process and hold the culpable parties responsible.

GOP group uses cutting edge technology in a disturbing way

The blogs this weekend have been full of talk of over-the-top phone calls coming from Republican groups.  Josh Marshall at talkingpoints memo has done a particularly good job collecting the stories, including how the NRCC had to stop their calls in NH.  And the Times details how an outside Republican group is taking what are often called robocalls to a new level:

"New Telemarketing Ploy Steers Voters on Republican Path


An automated voice at the other end of the telephone line asks whether you believe that judges who “push homosexual marriage and create new rights like abortion and sodomy” should be controlled. If your reply is “yes,” the voice lets you know that the Democratic candidate in the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, is not your man.

In Maryland, a similar question-and-answer sequence suggests that only the Republican Senate candidate would keep the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In Tennessee, another paints the Democrat as wanting to give foreign terrorists “the same legal rights and privileges” as Americans.

Using a telemarketing tactic that is best known for steering consumers to buy products, the organizers of the political telephone calls say they have reached hundreds of thousands of homes in five states over the last several weeks in a push to win votes for Republicans. Democrats say the calls present a distorted picture.

The Ohio-based conservatives behind the new campaign, who include current and former Procter & Gamble managers, say the automated system can reach vast numbers of people at a fraction of the cost of traditional volunteer phone banks and is the most ambitious political use of the telemarketing technology ever undertaken.

But critics say the automated calls are a twist on push polls — a campaign tactic that is often criticized as deceptive because it involves calling potential voters under the guise of measuring public opinion, while the real intent is to change opinions with questions that push people in one direction or the other.

The calls have set off a furor in the closing days of a campaign in which control of Congress hinges on a handful of races...."

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