Political Technology

New Tools Update: A Ball for All

According to a release today from the Presidential Inaugural Committee,

In keeping with his commitment to make this inaugural celebration open and accessible to all Americans, President-elect Barack Obama will host the first-ever "Neighborhood Inaugural Ball" during this year's inaugural celebration. The ball will be the premier event of inauguration evening on January 20th and will take place at the Washington Convention Center.

With tickets available free or at an affordable price, it is the first official inaugural ball of its kind to be held during a presidential inauguration. A portion of tickets for this event will be set aside for District of Columbia residents. The ball will also feature a robust interactive component, including webcasting and text messaging, to link neighborhoods across the country with the new President and this premier event. The PIC will release more details soon about using technology to allow Americans who are attending neighborhood balls across the country to participate actively in this celebration.

This is a great move on President-elect Obama's part. Symbolically, it reinforces his message of creating a more open, "bottom-up" Washington; inaugural balls are usually highly exclusive and/or prohibitively expensive, and making this experience available to everyone is a great gesture. At the same time, it is also a great way to maintain and expand his technological presence and keep the momentum he built up during the campaign. Like the text-message VP announcement, this will surely help Obama down the road as he tries to build broad-based public support for his initiatives.  

Thursday New Tools Feature: The Multi Media

According to a new Deloitte survey on the state of the media, we are now living in a diverse media ecosystem where no one type of media is dominant. Unsurprisingly,

The millennial generation — ages 14 to 25 — is leading this charge now as it accesses content on all sorts of new devices and distribution platforms using a variety of pricing schemes and advertising models. The millennials consume the most media and are more likely to get entertainment from multiple media sources and applications. That’s in contrast to a few decades ago, when media was more expensive and so was consumed most often by older generations with more disposable income...

Millennials are less likely to watch TV or use conventional news sources, and "their preferred way of absorbing content is watching video on the web and handheld devices or listening to music on mobile phones and MP3 music players." The survey also found that "the iPhone has had a big impact on how users communicate, get their news, and entertain themselves. Many young people are using it as a replacement for a laptop." Within the next few years, many more affordable phones will have functionality comparable with the high-end iPhone. 

Along with the Deloitte survey, another just-released study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that 18% of households are now cell-phone only, with migration being accelerated by the recession. 

These two studies reinforce NDN's message that understanding and adapting to this new media environment is essential for survival in this political day and age. President-elect Obama's media team understood this, and its "any and all" approach to media, advertising and outreach was in tune with Americans' media consumption. To learn more about how to use these tools effectively, check out our New Politics Institute New Tools campaign, featuring great papers like Go Mobile Now, Buy Cable, Advertise Online, Leverage Social Networks, and Reimagine Video.

The Reinvention Of Television, Continued

From today's NY Times, some rather remarkable words about the profound change coming to television, what had been the dominant media of politics for the last 50 years:

With one sweeping shift this week, the ailing NBC network reordered the playing field of prime-time television. The introduction of a five-night-a-week program starring Mr. Leno, beginning next fall, was a concession that TV norms cannot continue, at least not at fourth-place NBC.

The programming and viewing habits of the last 50 years - exemplified by the checkerboard of competing programs on the broadcast networks - are being replaced by an Internet-influenced time-shifting model of scheduling. As a result, the very definition of prime time may be changing.

"We do have to continue to rethink what a broadcast network is," Jeffrey Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric, said at an industry conference Monday, hours before the news of Mr. Leno's new assignment emerged. He warned that if changes were not undertaken, "the broadcast networks will end up like the newspaper business or, worse, like the car companies." Maybe Mr. Zucker has seen the future; after all, his network has lost 50 percent of its 10 p.m. audience in the last three years.

For the past several years we've written and discussed how the old model of a campaign - large donors, lots of TV - was being replaced by a new bottom up always on model.  For anyone in the advocacy business these trends are ones that need to be closely followed, as a whole new era of political communications is dawning.

For more on this visit our affiliate, the New Politics Institute, or check out the video and transcripts from our April event, "The End of Broadcast."

Thursday New Tools Feature: "Open for Questions" Now Open for Business

Back in October, I discussed the possibility of President-elect Obama embracing or recreating tools like WhiteHouse2.org as a way to make government more interactive and participatory. This week, Obama's transition site, Change.gov, did just that by introducing its newest feature, a section called "Open for Questions." Built using the Google Moderator platform, Open for Questions allows users to sign in, submit their own questions, and vote on other people's questions. The top-rated ones will be answered by the transition team.

A few kinks remain to be worked out. After being up for only a couple of days, there are already more than 600,000 votes on more than 7,000 questions. However, the front page displays only the top-rated questions, except for one randomly-selected question at the top. This means that navigation of the questions is difficult, and it's easy for new questions to get quickly buried.  

Even so, this is a very promising system, and a lot of the top-rated entries are really excellent -- big, important questions that don't often get addressed on the campaign trail or in televised debates. Of course, the first thing on everyone's mind is the economy, and the first-rated question is

"What will you do to establish transparency and safeguards against waste with the rest of the Wall Street bailout money?"

But there are a lot of other interesting questions, too. A few examples from the top 20 questions that you might not have heard from George Stephanopoulos:

"What will you do to end the use of mercenary forces (ie Blackwater) by our military?"

"Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?"

"Why are we rebuilding our national highway system instead of building high-speed passenger rail and revitalizing our cities and towns through the development of mass transit? Is this not key to our long-term economic and environmental well being?"

"Our agricultural policy, formed by Pres. Nixon, has resulted in our being both overfed and undernourished. Will you appoint a Secretary of Agriculture who understands that we have been operating using unsustainable/unhealthy farming practices?"

If they can get the navigation issues worked out, I think this feature has the potential to really shake up the debate and breathe some new life into the American political process. Of course, part of being a leader is prioritizing and making decisions, but I really hope that the Obama Administration works hard not just to ask for our input, but to thoughtfully answer the important questions that the American people are asking. 

Neilson Mobile: Mobile Use by Political Party

Neilson mobile offers new statistics on mobile media use in the US and specifically breaks down the users by Party affiliation. First it begins with ovarall national numbers on mobile media use in general:

  • 43 million US mobile subscribers use mobile Internet
  • 33 million recieve text alerts
  • 32 million use instant messaging
  • 4 million subscribe to and view mobile video 

Neilson then goes on to list out that in general Democrats are more active mobile media users than Republicans. This makes sense given that the demographics for mobile media users tend to skew younger, and more Hispanic and African American. But this is the first time I'd seen hard numbers broken down by party affiliation:

  • Overall, 62% of Democrats are data users who use one or more data service on their mobile phone (compared to 55% of Republicans)
  • Democrats are more likely than Republicans to use text messaging (53% compared to 46%)
  • Democrats are more likely to use picture messaging and MMS (27% compared to 21%)
  • Democrats are more likely to use mobile Internet, as well (17% compared to 13%)

As political progressives seek to continue to evolve the use of this new media as tools for influencing both elections and public policy, it is good to get new numbers that confirm that these are tools that Democrats do resonate with. 

Thursday New Tools Feature: Change.gov *(Remix!)*

Today,  the Washington Post ran an excellent piece by Ceci Connolly about how President-elect Obama's incoming administration has "begun to draw on the high-tech organizational tools that helped get him elected to lay the groundwork for an attempt to restructure the U.S. health-care system." From the article: 

The Obama team, which recruited about 13 million online supporters during the presidential campaign and announced its vice presidential selection via text message, is now moving to apply those tools to the earliest stages of governing.

"This is the beginning of the reinvention of what the presidency in the 21st century could be," said Simon Rosenberg, president of the center-left think tank NDN. "This will reinvent the relationship of the president to the American people in a way we probably haven't seen since FDR's use of radio in the 1930s."

This is something that NDN has been talking about for some time: indeed, healthcare was the specific example used at our October 28, 2008 forum with Simon and Joe Trippi (for the C-SPAN footage, click here). It is good to see that the Obama administration is working to live up to its promise of a more open, bottom-up government. As the Washington Post article reports,

The Obama team chose to begin its high-tech grass-roots experiment on the issue of health care because "every American is feeling the pressure of high health costs and lack of quality care, and we feel it's important to engage them in the process of reform," said spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.

It started with a simple 63-second video posted on Change.gov, in which health advisers Dora Hughes and Lauren Aronson posed the question "What worries you most about the health-care system in our country?"

That triggered 3,700 responses, from personal tales of medical hardship to complaints about "socialized medicine." The cyber-conversation was interactive, allowing individuals to reply to one another and rate responses with a thumbs up or down. The top-scoring comment, a pitch for a "paradigm shift" toward prevention, had 82 thumbs up.

This is not the only good sign for open-source government coming from the Obama camp. This week, the transition site Change.gov eliminated its old, traditional copyright policy and implemented "an Attribution 3.0 Unported License which allows anyone to use and even 'remix' whatever's found on the site, just as long as they tip their hat to the transition project as the original source of the material," according to TechPresident.

This approach of letting anyone use the content in creative ways has already paid dividends; separate versions of Change.gov have been created for the iPhone and for other mobile devices, as well as an embeddable Change.gov widget (below).

For more on how Obama will reinvent the Presidency as we know it, please see:

Monday Buzz: "The Wired Whitehouse," Millennials' and Hispanics' Growing Electoral Clout, and More

In tandem with our enlightening event last week on the New Politics of the Obama Age, NDN also appeared in several stories over the past several days talking about how Obama is using technology to reinvent the presidency, including a front-page story on MSNBC, as well as stories in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Future Majority, News24, and Fox. The MSNBC article, which also embedded Simon's recent video blog on how Obama will Reinvent the Presidency and quoted our Obama Age forum panelist Scott Goodstein, began like this:

After a historic presidential election, the tech-savvy campaigners who helped put Barack Obama in the White House say the nation is in for an equally historic four years of tech-savvy governance.

The way the Obama campaign used blogs, texting, social networking and other Web 2.0 tools to win this month's election is just "the tip of the iceberg," said Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of the political advocacy group NDN.

Rob was quoted on subjects ranging from the proposed auto industry bailout to the impending economic stimulus in the Telegraph, CNN Money, The Age, the Daily Mail, and the Independent. From the Independent article:

Robert Shapiro, an economic adviser to Barack Obama's campaign and former US under-secretary of commerce for economic affairs, was particularly helpful to the Prime Minister. When Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, asked him what was the risk of a big stimulus package, he said there was "no risk, there is a cost – but there is a very large risk if we choose not to do it".

Our work  on building a durable 21st century majority coalition also made its way into the media narrative this week, with New York Magazine wondering, "Can Obama Hang On to His Youth Coalition?" and Crooks and Liars asking, "The Latino Vote: Can Democrats Lock It Up for a Generation?" Morley and Mike's work on Millennials also got play from DailyKos and the Jackson Free Press; NDN's work on immigration and Hispanic issues was featured in the Guardian, the Chicago Tribune, the Denver Post, the Reporter, Hispanic Trending, the Latino Journal, and Immigration Daily.

From the New York Magazine article:

this particular generation of young people are aligned with Obama on social issues. As a group, the "Millennial Generation" — those who will make up the under-30 crowd in the next several elections — are reliably more liberal on issues like gay marriage and stem-cell research than any other generation — and that's not likely to change, said Michael D. Hais and Morley Winograd, authors of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics. They predict that young people will continue to vote Democratic, catalyzing a "political realignment" in this country that will play out in the next thirty years.

And from the Denver Post article, "Texas as a Swing State?":

Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, a veteran of the Clinton administration, said that Republicans have alienated Latinos largely because of the immigration issue. Rosenberg is the founder and president of NDN, a Democratic think tank that studies immigration and other issues.

He said that Republican rhetoric surrounding recent immigration bills in Congress offended all Hispanics. A major measure that would have given illegal immigrants a path to citizenship failed last year after a revolt from conservatives, who denounced it as an amnesty for lawbreakers.

"If they do that again, it’s going to be catastrophic for the Republican Party," he said.

Rosenberg said that Texas could become a swing state as early as 2012 depending on the level of Latino participation and whether the Democratic Party will continue to make investments in the community.

Finally, Simon's recent essay, The Long Road Back, was featured on DailyKos in Kos's Midday Open Thread, and our report on computer training for American workers was featured in Progressive States.

Obama Pledges to Pass Economic Stimulus in Weekly YouTube Address

In his weekly YouTube address today, President-elect Obama addressed the worsening state of the economy, and vowed to pass a sweeping economic recovery bill as one of his first acts in office. Listen to his full statement here:

NDN has been a strong advocate for a stimulus package that invests in our long-term economic future as well as focusing on short-term recovery. To read some of our recent writing on the topic, check out Simon and Rob's essay, A Stimulus for the Long Run, and Michael's essay, Accelerating the Development of a 21st Century Economy.

Aside from the policy Obama is proposing, one interesting thing about this Web video is that Obama is now using the medium to build support for his initiative, using the internet as a powerful tool to advance his agenda by employing and expanding the base of supporters he built through the election.

More Amazing Numbers from Obama's Online Operations

Earlier today, we noted that President-elect Obama had gathered one million subscribers to his mobile service by the end of the campaign. In an excellent piece in the Washington Post, Jose Antonio Vargas reports some more amazing figures that show concretely just how effective the Obama team's tech-saavy approach really was. From the article:

3 million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations online adding up to more than $500 million. Of those 6.5 million donations, 6 million were in increments of $100 or less. The average online donation was $80, and the average Obama donor gave more than once...

...In September, his single biggest month of fundraising, Obama amassed more than 65 percent of his record-shattering haul -- $100 million of the $150 million -- from online donations, aides said.

...Obama's e-mail list contains upwards of 13 million addresses...Four years ago, Sen. John F. Kerry had 3 million e-addresses on his list; former Vermont governor Howard Dean had 600,000.

...On MyBarackObama.com, or MyBO, Obama's own socnet, 2 million profiles were created. In addition, 200,000 offline events were planned, about 400,000 blog posts were written and more than 35,000 volunteer groups were created...On their own MyBO fundraising pages, 70,000 people raised $30 million...Obama has 5 million supporters in other socnets. He maintained a profile in more than 15 online communities, including BlackPlanet, a MySpace for African Americans, and Eons, a Facebook for baby boomers.

Before this election, there were many people who saw these new tools as gimmicky and essentially unimportant; skeptics pointed to examples like the ultimate failure of the Dean campaign as proof that the internet could not win elections.

Those skeptics may be reconsidering that position right about now. 

Obama Campaign Had One Million Mobile Subscribers

Tonight the Obama Camp brought out their mobile numbers: 1 million mobile subscribers.

A million people signed up for Obama's text-messaging program. On the night Obama accepted the Democratic nomination at Invesco Field in Denver, more than 30,000 phones among the crowd of 75,000 were used to text in to join the program. On Election Day, every voter who'd signed up for alerts in battleground states got at least three text messages. Supporters on average received five to 20 text messages per month, depending on where they lived -- the program was divided by states, regions, zip codes and colleges -- and what kind of messages they had opted to receive.

And for grins, see this snippet predicting this from our 2006 white paper, Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics:

Imagine this very realistic scenario: In the heat of the 2008 election, 1 million activists – all of them connected in a collaborative web both on their PC's and their mobiles – conspire in a collective act of mobile democracy.

...let's say a candidate has emerged that "gets" the power of the Internet and its mobile cousin. All their traditional media and Internet action combines with a call to mobile action. No speech ends without a call for those listening to join the campaign on their mobile phones – then and there. And this candidate has inspired a small portion of his base - 1 million people - to each devote ten minutes of their time to mobile action for the Presidential campaign.

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