New Tools

Partners in our fight

Our good friend Jerome Armstrong offers up lots of interesting thoughts about the Democratic Primary in a new post on mydd.  I strongly recommend it without offering any comment on whether I believe it is accurate or not. 

We at NDN and NPI believe we are in the midst of a profound media and technology transformation, one that is ushering in a whole new era of communications that we call "post-broadcast."  Yesterday I wrote about the most important change in this media revolution, the way television is changing.  My piece reflected on how people are swiftly leaving the old 20th century media platforms, and looks at how the Romney campaign is experimenting with a very new 21st century television model.  In his essay Jerome intelligently reflects on the 2nd great change, the arrival of the internet in politics. 

To me what the internet has done more than anything else is lowered the barrier to entry for average people in politics.  A whole new set of cheap and easy to use tools is allowing politics to come to people in more personal, intimate ways.  These new tools allows campaigns and organizations much greater ease in managing relationships with literally millions of people, something not really easy to see or understand until the Dean campaign came along. 

If the broadcast age was about passive consumption, this new age of communications and politics is about participation.  People want to be partners in our fight, not donors to a cause or passive consumers of a candidate's message.  Remember that what is now perhaps the most powerful show on television is one that allows active and sustained and meaningful citizen participation - American Idol.  Success in this new era of politics requires groups or candidates to treat folks as partners and participants, not "couch potatoes."

This is a big change.  It is a cultural change, an operational change, a fundamental change in the way politics and society at large operate.  How one manages this change and this new reality is becoming one of the most important measures of political or advocacy success in this emerging century. 

On the progressive side the organization that has best embodied this "new politics" is Moveon.  Moveon really is only the sum of all the small actions of its individual members, working together towards a common cause and as true and valued partners in the fight.  This model has allowed Moveon to gather more email addresses than the DNC, and to blossom into perhaps the most influential progressive organization in the nation today.  And yes this is an organization without a real office, a dozen or so folks scattered across the country and headed up by a couple brand-new to politics. 

Another way to think of this transformation is to think of a Presidential campaign.  In the 20th century, the age of broadcast, when one thought of a Presidential campaign one thought of a 30 second spot, a tarmac hit and 200 kids in a headquarters.  That was the campaign.  Today, when one thinks of a 21st century Presidential campaign one needs to see millions of people - perhaps in 2008 tens of millions of people - going to work every day as true partners in the fight to elect the candidate.  They can get daily emails or text messages or perhaps even this cycle more complicated intergrated multimedia; they can read blogs and other sites to stay connected; they can share their passion through blogs, their own blog or a variety of social networking sites; they can give money and encourage others to do so; they can email, text, post, link or phone others to take action including giving.  But the key here is that a campaign now has the ability to harness the energy of so many now - as advocates, bloggers, contributors, doorknockers, signholders, etc - as true partners in the fight. 

This is a radically different model, and of course, a much better model than the old. It brings people back into the core of politics in a way they simply haven't been in the broadcast era.  It took Dean 6 months to get 160,000 people signed up on his site in 2003.  My guess is that Obama is close to a million already through his site, facebook, myspace and other means.  We are four years further into this new age of politics, and thankfully, more and more people are asking to become meaningfully involved in the future of their country.

The question that this begs is - what do we want all those people to do other than give money? If folks are true partners does that mean relinquishing control? How much control? What role do they really have in the campaign and how does it stay real?  The answer to all this is the secret sauce now, perhaps the most important key to 21st century politics. 

But figuring this out is worth the struggle, the experimentation, the letting go for the upside is so extraordinary.  Wouldn't you want 10 million people on your team, fighting it out each day, as valued and trusted partners, rather than than relying on the support of a few hundred kids scattered throughout the nation?  I know I would.  And this new age Jerome discusses in his essay allows that.  The question he raises is do the campaigns in this cycle understand all this? We all know Dean and Trippi did.  Do the folks running today's campaigns do too?

CNN's YouTube Debates Highlight Importance of New Media

In a New York Times piece entitled "YouTube Passes Debates to a New Generation," Katharine Seelye summarizes the traditional format for presidential debates:

"A guy in a suit asks mostly predictable questions of other suits. The voter is a fixture in the audience, motionless until he or she gets to address the candidate, briefly and respectfully. Everything is choreographed."

The YouTube debates may help to expediate the evolution of that format. Some are skeptical that the move will shake things up enough to get regular, everyday people more involved in the debates. And of course, everything still depends on what questions CNN decides to air. It does seem clear, though, that this is a good first step towards democratizing the debate process, and will hopefully get more millennials involved.

What is also clear is how important the mastery of new tools is for candidates to be successful in a digital age. NDN has long advocated a proactive approach to tackling new, cutting-edge media techniques. Check out some of the exciting work our affiliates at the New Politics Institute are doing to move progressive politics into the 21st century.

Romney and the re-invention of our politics

The Times has a fascinating look at how the Romney campaign is modernizing the way advocacy and political campaigns use television, the most important medium in politics today. 

The piece reinforces a basic point we've been making here at NDN and through our affiliate, the New Politics Institute - that given the increasing velocity of change of the media and technology landscape, those looking to succeed in this new battleground of 21st century politics will need to adopt a culture of learning and experimentation.  Doing politics the way one did 4-6-8 years ago is no longer an option, as this "new politics" is literally being invented in front of our eyes.

Consider that in 1985 90% of anyone watching a TV was watching live broadcast television.  In this election cycle, with the rise of cable, satellite and DVRs, only about a third of anyone watching a TV will be watching live broadcast TV.   What a transformation of the most important medium of politics! One would expect a great deal of experimentation in our politics around this tremendous change.  Romney is now leading the way. 

It is only June and Romney has already bought national cable, done Spanish-language ads and executed a variety of more targeted buys - in addition to the traditional broadcast buys in the early states.  There has never been anything like this before in a Presidential, and largely through this strategy Romney now leads in both Iowa and New Hampshire.  Will this lead hold? Not clear, but John Weaver's tortured effort to explain away the significance of what has happened here should make it clear the McCain folks are worried. 

The most interesting part of the piece (including some quotes from me):

It is also unclear just how effective television advertisements continue to be in today’s rapidly changing media environment, with audiences segmented over a kaleidoscopic array of cable channels and with the competing din of the Internet and other information sources.

“There is no model anymore,” said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, which instructs liberal activists on how to take advantage of media advances. “Everything is made up as we go, because audiences are leaving the old platforms. We are hurtling into a post-broadcast media age.”

Members of Mr. Romney’s media team say they are able to reach those who are already watching the presidential contenders closely by sophisticated microtargeting techniques, pioneered by the Bush campaign in 2004, that crunch through mountains of market research data.

“That’s why early media makes more sense now than it would have even made even four years ago, because we can find our targets in a fragmented media market,” said Will Feltus, another member of Mr. Romney’s media team.

The data helps the campaign’s media buyers, he said, isolate specific programs and schedule their advertisements for times of the day when Republican primary-goers are more likely to be watching. The television show “24,” for example, has been a favorite of the campaign’s.

In another unusual move, Mr. Romney has also been running advertisements on national cable networks, focusing mostly on Fox News, a favorite among conservatives. The goal is to establish him among national party activists, fund-raisers and leaders, as well as among early primary voters.

Lots to think about here.....

To iPhone or not to iPhone

The Times has a good piece this morning on the iPhone. Compares it to other current devices, and has an honest discussion about the one thing we are all wondering about - will this new keyboard they've come up with work?

Nielsen rates DVR usage

AdAge highlights new Nielsen ratings on DVR usage. From the article:

  • Nielsen estimates that about 17% of U.S. households have DVRs, and that 42% of broadcast viewing within those homes occurs through some sort of DVR playback.
  • Nielsen also noted that among all U.S. households, including those without DVRs, 90% of all broadcast prime-time viewing among viewers 18 to 49 occurs live, meaning that 10% is seen via DVR playback. The impact of DVRs on cable and syndicated programming is lower, with 97% of all prime-time viewing on cable seen live and 98% of all syndicated programming seen live.

NPI Director Peter Leyden in the Washington Post

Jose Antonio Vargas has a piece in the Washington Post today that picks up on an idea that the New Politics Network has been talking about for some time, that Democrats and progressives more generally are opening up a digital gap over Republicans:

Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank that in recent months has been advising Democratic members of Congress and their staffs on how to take full advantage of the Web, argues that the culture of Democrats is a much better fit in the Internet world.

"What was once seen as a liability for Democrats and progressives in the past -- they couldn't get 20 people to agree to the same thing, they could never finish anything, they couldn't stay on message -- is now an asset," Leyden said. "All this talking and discussing and fighting energizes everyone, involves everyone, and gets people totally into it."

AOL buys Mobile Media Network

AOL expanded its network with the purchase of Third Screen Media, a marketing company that "enables advertising for mobile phones and wireless devices." According to AdAge, Third Screen primarily sells mobile banner ads and is likely well-positioned for video, although it says it can also manage and deliver ads in downloadable applications, SMS/text messaging and MMS/multimedia messaging.

The CEO of AOL, Randy Falco, announced the acquisition which comes two weeks after Microsoft acquired Screen Talk, a European mobile advertising firm.

This isn't shocking to our New Politics Institute, and NPI Fellow Tim Chambers, both of which have long understood the benefits of mobile media.

Social Networking's role in 2008

CNN takes a glimpse at the role of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace could play in 2008. As the article suggests:'s not just about broadcasting to a hard-to-reach demographic. In order to recruit voters online, candidates must appear to engage with potential supporters on a far more personal level, on their terms, in their environment.

These sites tear down the traditional barriers between those in power -- be they celebrities or politicians -- and their fanbase or supporters, providing the semblance -- if not the reality -- of personal involvement and a forum for discussion.


And that's where the real power in the Internet lies. Far from being a one-way broadcast, the medium allows people to engage with each other, get involved and focus on the issues they care about most. Most of all, it allows people to take a campaign and evolve it themselves.

While this will terrify traditional campaign managers and PRs, who can see quality assurance flying out of the window along with their approved, on-message briefing sheets, is it really a bad thing that the Internet gives regular Joes the chance to broadcast alongside the big guns -- and the potential to beat them at their own game?

New Tools Campaign on

The media firm Macwilliams, Kirchner and Sanders is blogging this week on MyDD about cable and politics, and we're prominently mentioned.  If you haven't seen it before, make sure to check out the Buy Cable paper, part of the New Politics Institute's New Tools series.

Read the MyDD post here...

Text Hillary!

Want to stay in touch with Hillary Clinton's campaign? If you've got a cell phone, you can do so via text messaging. In a press statement, Clinton described the technology, which our New Politics Institute has discussed many times, as a way to "engage voters in the political process using the latest technology." She continued: "This is an exciting step forward that I hope will continue our conversation with voters in a new format."

She described the new initiative in a statement after receiving the endorsement of NY Governor Eliot Spitzer. Watch it courtesy of CNN here.

Unrelated, yet interesting Hillary news: J.B. Pritzker became the national chairman of Citizens for Hillary, "a new campaign initiative that will be charged with grass-roots outreach, fundraising and policy matters." His sister is Penny Pritzker, the national finance chairwoman for Barack Obama. More from the Chicago Tribune here.

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

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