New Tools


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.


Mark Udall's Internet Ads

Any one else notice the now ubiquitous Mark Udall banner ads on the big progressive blogs?  They are among the best I've seen this year.  Attractive, message-based, animated, about "joining," not about "giving."  They are setting a new standard for ads below the presidential level, and are clearly inspired by the success of Obama's deep success on the Internet. 

For more on how to best use the Internet in your advocacy work, visit our affiliate, the New Politics Institute, where you can find papers on to buy ads on the Internet, how to buy search and how to optimize your site for search engines, how to engage the blogs and the role of "influentials" in all marketing.  It is a powerful package and very much worth reviewing. 

In Africa, Banking Goes Mobile

Mobile phones have made the headlines this year due their role in political organizing the world over, from the aftermath earthquake and environmental protests in China to political campaigns here in the United States. Now, what many have recognized as the true power of mobile technology is being realized in Africa. In Tuesday's Guardian, Richard Wray writes that "the dramatic spread of the handset is revolutionising the way money circulates."

For consumers in developed markets, using a mobile phone for banking services is a smart add-on to a bank's branch network. But to people in the developing world, the arrival of mobile banking - or m-banking - is potentially revolutionary.

If money is an economy's lifeblood, improving its circulation plays a critical role. Many Africans living in rural areas, for instance, rely on money sent home by members of their family who work in towns and cities. But getting that cash to a village that could be hundreds of miles away is a tricky business. In Kenya, for example, workers in urban areas hand wages over to bus drivers, who promise to stop off at the worker's home village en route to their destination.

Even those who do have a bank account - and they make up only a few per cent of Africa's 950 million population - are restricted in what they can do with their money because of the dearth of branches in rural areas.

But the dramatic growth in mobile phone use in Africa - phones now outnumber cash machines by several thousand to one - is paving the way for a new set of services that turn the humble handset into a banking tool with the potential to transform Africa's economy.

Services have sprung up that let people transfer cash by text message to other mobile phone users and give Africa's vast number of "unbanked" their first access to financial products. Instead of using a bank branch, these services rely on local retailers who already sell mobile top-up cards.

"We wanted to offer something that would work," explained Mung Ki Woo, who heads Orange's m-payments division. "Instead of giving people a plastic card, why not use something many people already have: a mobile phone? And instead of doing transactions at a bank branch, why not let people go to their local retailer to deposit and withdraw cash?"

The article goes on to discuss the proposed creation of m-banking systems that allow access by all users, regardless of cell phone carrier. It also discusses the expansion of this technology to microfinance, which would potentially allow these small loans that have changed the lives of millions for the better to be expanded to many times more people.

M-banking is truly revolutionary, and a broad-based implementation that allows mobile technology to substitute for visits to banks will have dramatic economic development impacts. The emergence of technology that enables bottom-up politics and banking may yet be the beginning of a new era of prosperity and engagement that will be felt globally.

GOP Tries, Fails to Keep Up Online

The hallmark of this election cycle, at least on the Democratic side, has been the emergence of bottom-up politics, much of the time focused around the internet and social networking sites. On, a supporter created Barack Obama group has over 500,000 members, and he currently has over 900,000 supporters.

The Republicans have been a little slower to get the message on the value of bottom-up politics. Their most recent group epitomizes their top-down approach. Entitled “Republican National Committee - Official Group,” it was created by the Director of RNC eCampaigns, and the results are not promising. As of this posting, the group boasted 13,186 members, 11 videos, all posted by the same administrator, and this ambitious group graphic:

Official RNC is only one example of the facility with which each party uses new political tools, but it is safe to say that the GOP has a lot of catch-up to do if they really value their online presence.
Update: The printed a story today by Ben Adler entitled "Can McCain compete with Obama online?"
"It's the difference between a horse and buggy and a NASA space ship," said Phil Noble, a veteran of Democratic campaigns and the founder of the nonpartisan political news site PoliticsOnline, comparing the campaigns’ respective approaches to technology. "Obama has given people the tools to create and run their own campaigns," Noble continued. "McCain is still a command-and-control, top-down candidate. Part of it is the difference in age."
For more on the candidates and technology, check out Maggie Barker's recent post on John McCain's computer literacy (or lack thereof). 
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