In Sunday's NY Times, a front-page article titled Internet Injects Sweeping Change into US Politics, gave what I believe is a really one-sided view on how politicians are going to use the Internet in the future...
No, I'm not talking about left versus right views or Democrat versus Republican, although there are differences in their usage of the internet. I'm talking about the viewpoint of the author of candidates focusing on blogs and Web sites only, rather than what I see as an increased use of the Internet for branding and direct marketing.
The author points out the use by candidates of podcasts, blogs, and peer-to-peer attack videos distributed via email. Plus, it mentions that candidates are looking at Friendster and Facebook as a way to reach voters; looking and buying are two different issues and I think that candidates will have the same issue with these networks as private sector advertisers .... mixing of ads with uncontrollable content.
President Bush's media consultant Marc McKinnon is quoted in the article as saying he "feels like a woolly mammoth" and that TV advertising is less influential than it was two years ago. Other factoids in the article include a reference to a Pew Study that shows that 50 million Americans go to the Internet every day for news. However, I think my favorite quote in the article which sums up the growing debate is: "It's very easy to look at something and just click delete. At least if you are taking out a piece of mail, you know they are taking it out and looking at it on the way to the garbage can."
Blogs, podcasts, streaming videos, getting the message out, raising money, and direct marketing, issues that all advertisers wrestle with especially if you are a direct marketing focused advertiser ... which pretty much includes everyone on the Internet today. Politicians have the same issues, albeit with a slightly different twist, that advertisers on the Internet and all the blogging and attack videos can't change that. You see, they need to find their voters on the Internet to efficiently raise donations, get the message out, refer friends, and mobilize. Hmmm... sounds vaguely familiar to me from my Telecom and Finserve days. And, what do you do about the voters who are either independent or unsure of where their votes are going .... sounds like prospecting to me.
The Internet is changing how politicians go to market. It is more than just blogs and fun (yes, fun) attack videos. Candidates will use the Internet for efficient media buying, raising donations via search and banners ads, building email lists, and branding messages .... the same way the private sector uses it today. I guarantee you that all those search campaigns are being measured on an ROI basis and banner ads that you see are being tracked for email sign-ups, traffic, and donations. Well, at least they should be. The future is now for candidates using the Internet as the direct marketing channel that brands too.
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