New Tools

McCain employs new tools to reach out

This post is a follow-up to a prior post from April covering online advertisements in the 2008 campaign.

To show how new technologies are playing a role in the political process, Nielsen recently analyzed the web traffic of the presidential campaigns. A noteworthy part of its analysis is the McCain campaign's impressive online advertising campaign. From PC World:

While he only pulled in 58,000 unique Web visitors in August, Sen. John McCain's (R.-Ariz.) online advertising effort topped all other candidates. McCain had 4.3 million sponsored link impressions in August, followed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio) with 1.8 million sponsored links, Romney with 1.7 million and Clinton with 522,000, Nielsen/NetRatings reported.

4.3 million sponsored links?! That just goes to show the power of technology in maximizing your reach for a reasonable price. Of course, this is something we at the New Politics Institute have been discussing for quite some time.

NPI New Tools Spotlight: Engage the Blogs and the Netroots

The blogs were one of the first new internet-based tools that really impacted politics way back in 2003. If anything, their power and influence have only increased year by year since then. More than ever, progressives need to be engaging the blogs and the larger community of the netroots.

Jerome Armstrong, known as “the Blog-Father” for founding one of the earliest political blogs at, wrote the first new tools memo for the New Politics Institute when we launched our New Tools Campaign in 2006. This year he has updated his “Engage the Blogs” memo to broaden his call to “Engage the Netroots.”

His updated memo introduces key data-points about the blogosphere and makes the case about why progressives need to engage bloggers, as well as how to engage them. Among other points, he shows how local blogs are becoming increasingly useful and influential. He also shows how the blogs are harnessing newer Web 2.0 developments such as video, and how social networks can be used to harness the full power of the netroots.

Armstrong gives some big-picture strategic advice on how progressives should evolve to take full advantage of the netroots' potential. Yet he ends with six very concrete, practical things that any progressive campaign or organization can do.

Watch Jerome give a 10-minute talk version of his memo at a kick-off event this summer in Washington DC. He was joined by other experts from other new tool fields who you also can watch off the NPI website.

For those who feel they deeply understand the blogs and netroots, dig into your address book and find some people who could benefit from a memo like this. Send this viral message along. Thanks.

Peter Leyden

TV ratings system tries to track impact of DVRs

One of our recurring areas we look at here is how TV, the dominant medium of politics, is being re-invented.  This year the Nielsen ratings system has implemented a new system to better track the impact of DVRs on tv viewing.  The Times has a story this morning on Nielsen's progress, well worth reading in its entirety. 

An excerpt:

Two weeks into the fall television season, broadcast networks are ensnared in familiar fights over ratings points and demographics. But this year, two new developments have removed much of the meaning from overnight ratings.

One, the increasing use of the digital video recorder, has led to the other: ratings for commercials.

DVR owners like Sara Morrison, a 26-year-old from Los Angeles, are making audience measurement harder for Nielsen Media Research, the company that calculates audiences for networks and advertisers.

“I normally don’t even pay attention to the time slots shows are on,” Ms. Morrison said last week. She almost always fast-forwards through commercials, and because she can record all her favorite comedies and dramas, she hardly ever stumbles upon new shows.

Ms. Morrison’s habits are not commonplace, at least not yet. Most television viewing still occurs live, even in DVR-equipped households, according to Nielsen. But the striking rise in DVR ownership — to 20 percent last month from 9 percent in September 2006 — is permanently altering the television playing field....

Might DVR ownership be at 35-40 percent by next year's election? and what does this mean for politics?  Will half of all voters next year have the ability to skip through TV commercials? It sure looks like thats where we headed.....

Campaigns Must Do More Than Use MySpace and MTV to Capture Young Voters

Jane Fleming Kleeb is the Executive Director of the Young Voter Pac which helps Democratic candidates and State Parties win with the 18-35 year old vote through endorsements, on-the-ground support, training, strategy and money.

The 2008 Presidential cycle is here and candidates are increasingly competing for the youth vote. Rightfully so, young people voted in record numbers in the 2004 and 2006 elections and all signs point to 2008 being even bigger for the youth vote. It is not just hype or hope that young voters can swing an election; young people have proved they are voting at higher numbers and are now voting overwhelmingly for Democrats.

The question is what is it going to take to continue to get young people to the polls?

Recently, MTV and MySpace launched a new type of online discussion with candidates which will in theory reach young people in order to get them motivated to vote. Edwards is up first and his campaign thus far is doing exactly what they need to in order to capture the youth vote. They have a separate website for young voters, created an action arm with their One America and even John Edwards himself is on message when it comes to young voters when he said today "You hear all the time from political pundits that young people don’t care about politics – but it’s a lie. Young people all over the country care about America and are engaged in bringing change to their communities."

Too many campaigns get sidetracked and think there is a magic tactic or umbrella issue for capturing the youth vote. Right now that magic tactic seems to be new media tools including Facebook, MySpace, blog posts, text messages and online debates. None of these new media tools alone will get young people to the polls. Rather, what it takes to secure the youth vote is, interestingly enough, to treat them as serious constituents and target them as voters. It is not who is the most hip with the coolest MySpace page.

Young people are a sophisticated voting bloc and we now have the experience, research and best practices to know what works to turn them out to the polls. Most encouraging for Democratic campaigns, young people are now voting in record numbers, and favoring Democratic candidates by wide margins. In 2004, for example, young people preferred Democrats by a 10% point margin; by 2006 that margin had grown to an impressive 22% points.

Even better news, young people are not only voting for Democrats, for the first time in several years they are also identifying as Democrats. Just a few years ago, young people were split evenly among Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Now, 43% of young people as saying they are Democrats, only 31% Republican and a shrinking 26% of young people are saying they are Independents.

Now, while it is true that young people, ages 18-35, do not yet vote at the same levels as older voters, we have found that it is not because they are lazy or apathetic. The real reason is much simpler—for years, most campaigns have ignored them as voters and in turn young people ignored voting. Instead, most young people turned to community service as a way to be involved in their communities and nation. The voting booth was simply not seen as a place to effect change and campaigns were not doing anything to change that mindset.

As with any constituency group, campaigns must contact young people at their doors and where they hangout if they want to engage them as voters. Campaigns should continue to use new media approaches such as participating in the MTV online dialogue. However, research and recent history both tell us that these tools alone will not actually get young people to the polls. Such techniques may excite or inform them about a given candidate but they will not, by themselves, secure the youth voting bloc necessary to win unless campaigns also engage them personally at their homes and hangouts.

In 2006 some successful youth voting outreach examples included Representative Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, Representative Harry Mitchell of Arizona and Senator John Tester of Montana. These campaigns had field plans that included young people, utilized new media outreach to broadcast their message, and partnered with youth groups who had experience in turning out young voters. And, as those campaigns testify, that increased voter turnout among young people was the margin in their victories.

While capturing the youth vote is not easy, it is doable if candidates target young voters, listen to them, talk with them about issues they care about and treat them like any other constituency group they are trying to secure in order to help them win. When campaigns do this, when they treat young people as voters in messaging and outreach both, young people reward their effort with their time, money and votes.

This is cross posted at

NPI New Tools Spotlight: Start Re-imagining Video, by trying Web Video

Web video quickly has become a staple feature of the Democratic presidential campaigns, but it’s easy enough for all progressive campaigns and organizations to use. You just need to get past the threshold and try it.

To help you get there, the New Politics Institute is releasing a new practical memo that takes progressives through the process of creating web videos, from what you need to buy to how best to use video in politics.

The memo was written by Dan Manatt, the founder and executive producer of, who has been immersed in the world of web video since the late 1990s. He starts by listing the 10 top ways that your campaign or organization should use web video in campaigns, based on proven methods that others have pioneered.

Manatt then walks through the basic steps to get you to venture into this web video world. These include a sidebar on 5 different packages of equipment that range from the low-end “Volunteer Package” that costs a total of $25 to the top-shelf “Senate Package” that will run you about $10,000.

If reading is not your thing, you can watch a web video of a 10-minute talk that Manatt gave on this topic at last summer’s kick-off event for the 2007 New Tools Campaign.

If you feel that you do know a lot about web video, then forward this to someone who does not. The more progressives creating and sending viral videos this cycle, the better. Help spread the word. Thanks.

Peter Leyden

The Verizon Case as an Example of Shifting from Old Politics to New

The New York Times broke a front page story this morning about Verizon blocking the progressive group NARAL from sending “controversial” text messages. Within hours, Verizon has reversed its decision, calling it “an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy.” (The NYT online version has the updated reversal on top of the bulk of the original story.)

The whole episode is a good example of how the new tools of politics, like texting through mobile phones, are challenging the old norms and “dusty” policies and regulations. We’re in that exciting but confusing period when the changeover is happening and many old patterns and habits have to be re-thought and adjusted.

This story has another interesting twist for the New Politics Institute. Just yesterday, we released a major new study on mobile media and politics, authored by Jed Alpert, the CEO of Mobile Commons, which is the company hired by NARAL to get its text messages onto Verizon. Alpert is in the middle of this shifting story, and his NPI Memo on Mobile Media is now available on the NPI website, as well as video of a recent talk he gave on the subject at an NPI event in Washington DC. Alpert also posted on the NPI blog about mobile media this week before this firestorm broke out.

The Alpert memo follows on a major report about the coming power of mobile media released by NPI last year, by NPI fellow Tim Chambers, co-founder of Media 50 Group, a company helping people in politics use mobile media.

This mobile media space is one that NPI has been tracking closely and will continue to do as it gets increasingly important to politics over time. Stay tuned.

Peter Leyden

NPI author Jed Alpert quoted in Times story on Verizon and text messaging

NPI author Jed Alpert is quoted in the Times this morning on Verizon's decision to allow the disputed NARAL text message to proceed. 

To read Jed's paper on mobile media and politics, click here.  

NPI New Tools Spotlight: Go Mobile Now

Almost everyone you want to reach in politics now has a mobile phone that they carry with them at all times. You can’t say that about computers connected to the internet let alone TVs at home. Yet political people are only just beginning to use this critical new tool that holds so much potential.

Read the New Politics Institute’s “Go Mobile Now” memo that introduces people in politics to how this tool is already being used in politics and will increasingly be used soon. The memo was developed by Jed Alpert and Chris Muscarella, the founders of Mobile Commons, a company with experience bridging the gap between what’s possible in the mobile field and what needs to be done in politics.

Watch Jed, the CEO of the company, give the talk version of the memo at the kickoff event of the 2007 New Tools Campaign in Washington DC late this summer. He explains how mobile media is different from other media and why it is so good at getting people to take action, from signing petitions, to calling representatives, to fundraising.

Also this week on the NPI website, Jed will make some blog posts that will point out current references to some of the ideas he laid out it the memo. You can view these blog posts off the NPI front page or the blog itself.

We encourage you to send this email around to those you know who might best use it. And next week we will tee up another of the 8 New Tools that progressives can immediately use this cycle. Thanks.

Peter Leyden

NPI New Tools Spotlight: Buy Cable Smart, A Checklist

The big push of the New Politics Institute’s 2006 New Tools Campaign was to shift ad spending from broadcast TV to cable. This controversial political advice followed a trend firmly established in the private sector – to follow the audience’s migration to the more targeted medium. Many politicos did adapt last cycle by following our argument about why to buy cable.

This year we focus on how to buy cable, and how to buy it smart. Cable is more difficult to buy than broadcast, and so we developed a practical checklist that walks you through a step-by-step process that literally tells you what questions to ask. This memo is useful for anyone in the business of advocating for progressive values.

Read this new “Buy Cable Smart, A Checklist” memo, written by Ali Weise, NDN Executive Director. Ali was the Campaign Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Deputy Director of the DCCC’s Independent Expenditure Campaign in 2006, which spent over $55 million in television advertising last cycle to help Democrats win the House of Representatives.

Watch Weise (below) give a short talk that summarizes the recommendations at the kick-off event for this year’s tools campaign in Washington DC late this summer.

Finally, the memo ends with some thoughts on how the whole progressive movement might adapt to the shift to more cable advertising, including gearing up to produce more ads (that hit narrower targets), and reevaluating the financial incentives for media consultants who get paid the same for cable as they do for the easier broadcast. Something has to give.

As always, please send this memo around to whoever might benefit, and stay connected to our evolving body of work at the New Politics Institute.


Peter Leyden

NPI New Tools Spotlight: Advertise Online

Online advertising has many advantages over print and broadcast advertising, including super precise targeting and interaction with the audience. No wonder the sector is booming, with 25 percent growth in just the last year. So the New Politics Institute is focusing its first New Tools spotlight of the fall on this huge opportunity for progressives, with a call to “Advertise Online.”

Read “The Huge Opportunity for Online Political Ads,”  a terrific practical memo that introduces those in politics to online advertising, with a focus on the most popular forms, search ads, and display ads like banners and blogads. Even those who already are buying online will learn some great tips.

Or watch video of Henry Copeland, the founder of the pioneering company Blogads and a coauthor of the piece, as he gives an entertaining and informative 10-minute talk on the subject at the kick off event of this year’s New Tools campaign in late summer.

Copeland, whose Blogads connects about 1300 blogs to a wide range of private sector advertisers as well as some political early adopters, will make some blog posts on this topic this week. Check out his first post on the New Politics Institute website’s front page.

While there, check out other memos and video of the 8 New Tools that progressives can immediately take advantage of in this campaign. They range from "Go Mobile" to “Buy Cable,” and each week this fall we will spotlight one of them.

We hope you will spread the word through your networks and help everyone make the shift from the old politics to the new. And stay connected to our work at the New Politics Institute. Thanks.

Peter Leyden

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