Monday, December 7, 2009

Bob McDonnell's Online Advertising

Last month, just prior to election day, TechPresident ran a short story about New York City mayoral candidate Mike Bloomberg and VA Gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell running large Google advertising blasts in the runup to their respective elections.

The story discussed the strategy behind McDonnell's buy:
"...a Google Ad blast is running on behalf of the candidate today, targeted at both voters spending the day in Virginia and those many Virginians who spend their days working in DC. McDonnell's Google Ad buy started up at 9am, and will run through 5pm. McDonnell's buy seems to be partial to tech-focused sites. That's not the craziest approach given Virginia's vibrant tech industry and venture capitalist community."
Online ads can be an effective way to spread your political message to specific audiences and in spite of how much politicians are able to make online, they have not spent as much money on online advertisting as most companies.

According to Colin Delaney in his Online Politics 101, however, there are some cultural and technical barriers to online advertising becoming more widespread:
Running display ads is much more difficult than it should be, in part because different publications can have vastly different standards (I can remember one time doing three different versions each of four online ads, one set for the NY Times site, one set for Washington Post properties and one at standard 468x60 banner size for National Journal) and in part because ads can't be ordered from a single central broker.

professional campaign consultants in the U.S. have generally taken a cut of their clients' TV spending as a commission for placing their ads, and the industry hasn't worked out a similarly profitable business model for online political advertising.
As some of these hurdles are met, I think it will be interesting to see what percentage of advertising dollars on a political campaign goes to traditional vs. online media.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Google v. Murdoch

Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.
-Joseph Pulitzer

I recently listened to a WBUR On Point podcast called Google vs. Murdoch.

While Murdoch and Google's back and forth was discussed (Murdoch recently said he was going to erect a pay wall around his content and disallow Google to index it), the majority of the conversation was about journalism's failing business model in the face of Internet technologies.

It was an interesting conversation to consider against the conceptual backdrops of thinkers like Clay Shirky and the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto.

The issues discussed got to the heart of the issue: human behavior is shifting and so are the business models that were previously supported by those behaviors.

An interesting glimpse into just how destructive the Internet has been to the dacades-old business model of newspapers, the podcast was a good glimpse into the range of ideas about journalism after the collapse of newspapers.

In the face of newspaper's financial hardships, Schumpeter's Creative Destruction is a useful conceptual framework.

Schumpeter saw Creative Destruction as "process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one."

In the case of journalism, it appears that newspapers and the means of production that supported them aer being destroyed as a new means of production is being created.

It will be interesting to see what comes of attempts to imprint the same content-driven industrial business model onto the networked, information economy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

READING: The Cluetrain Manifesto

Markets are conversations...
Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers...
Hypertext is inherently nonhierarchical and antibureaucratic...
Reading The Cluetrain Manifesto, it is hard to believe that the book was written ten years ago.

A book of 95 theses for business thinkers to transition into the post-industrial information economy, The Cluetrain Manifesto is mandatory reading for anyone trying to stay ahead of changes in the marketplace of ideas and the marketplace of goods.

Driven by the logic and distributed, conversational architecture of the Internet, the information economy has different rules and The Cluetrain Manifesto does a good job of mapping the new ruleset.

A major subtext to the information economy that the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto speak to is the transition from supply side control of the market (held by large companies) to demand side control of the market (held by comsumers with more choices).

Customers will increasingly make new things on businesses: more transparency, more humanness, more listening, less broadcast.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

READING: Millenial Makeover

According to Winograd and Hais in their book Millenial Makeover, every four decades America experiences a major political upheaval as a new and dynamic generation of Americans gains political power and new communications technologies emerge that allow that generation to mobilize.

As the Millenial generation (b. 1982 - 2003) - the most racially diverse generation in the history of the country - becomes more politically powerful, Winograd and Hais predict America will undergo a 'civic political realignment.'

Characterized by 'cooperative efforts to resolve societal problems and build institutions,' civic realignments are marked by an increasing desire for the government to deal with economic and social welfare issues.

Given the Millenial generation's community-mindedness, more positive view of the government, and literacy with Internet technologies, the book effectively argues that there are large changes afoot in American Politics and that we are entering a period of renewal and expansion of government institutions.


In the book's Afterword, the authors assert Obama's success with the Millenial vote was one of the main factors that put him in front of Clinton in the primary and McCain in the general election.

By leveraging technologies widely used by Millenials and crafting a political platform that spoke to their political values, Obama was able to win the popular vote by the percentage received by a Democrat since 1964.

The Authors assert that Obama's victory was the beginning of a political realignment driven by generational and technological change.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

READING: Best Practices for Political Advertising Online

A blueprint for online political advertising strategy, IPDI's publication "Best Practices for Political Advertising Online" gives a solid overview of recent changes in the media landscape and new trends emerging in reaching online audiences with advertising.

Charting changes in online behavior and increases in online activity, the publication effectively lays out the argument that political campaigns need to embrace the Internet as advertising platform to supplement conventional ad campaigns on broadcast media.

There is cultural pushback against the Internet however...

While research is showing more individuals are using the Internet to get information about political candidates, some political strategists still resist embracing the Internet.

Matt Bai explains their reluctance to embrace new ways of doing things:
"...for decades, presidential campaigns have been the exclusive province of a small bevy of ad makers and strategists who profited from the illusion that they, and only they, could foresee the electorate’s every reaction to everything."
There is a cultural inertia in the establishment for campaign strategists to follow the same formulas from previous campaigns:
"Conventional wisdom for campaign management is to run a textbook replica of the last campaign. If you lose it will be because of the candidate, not because you took a risk and lost. There is a slow-to-change philosophy engrained in the profession as a whole because nobody wants to be accused of doing anything that will cause the campaign harm."
As the Internet gains popularity and market share on people's attention, political campaigns will need to take it seriously as an advertising and organizing platform.

The fact that some of the more experienced, old-school strategists are resistant to embracing new technologies represents a great opportunity for political campaigns who are more nimble and open to Internet technologies to innovate with potentially less resources and take down slow moving Goliaths.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Started by Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry (the co-founders of the Personal Democracy Forum), is a great resource for up-to-date information about politics and technology.

Covering a range of topics from diplomacy projects undertaken by the State Department to technology used on advocacy and political campaigns to recent studies on social media, techPresident offers a very useful glimpse into what tools and technology are being deployed both inside and outside the political arena.

Taking a look at the stories most read, commented and emailed techPresident reads as an eclectic outpost for a number of topics and themes.

High on all three is a story about the White House's decision to redo their web site in Drupal.

While Slate ran a piece that was pretty critical of this decision, techPresident's piece was more measured:
The ideal new platform would be one where dynamic features like question-and-answer forums, live video streaming, and collaborative tools could work more fluidly together with the site's infrastructure. The solution, says the White House, turned out to be Drupal. That's something of a victory for the Drupal (not to mention open-source) community.
On the whole, the site is very useful for keeping up with new trends in technology and politics.

Friday, November 6, 2009

READING: Paul Greenberg

In his blog post "Time to Put a Stake in the Ground on Social CRM," CRM guru Paul Greenberg outlines the changes taking place as new social media technologies allow for more robust conversations between companies and their customers.

Greenberg makes an appeal to move beyond existing language differences in describing customer relations management: specifically, Greenberg dismisses CRM 2.0 and opts for Social CRM:
"CRM 2.0 has been a placeholder at best and obscuring at worst - it doesn't reflect the customer's control of the business ecosystem all that well. Social CRM is a better, though not great, reflection of what we're talking about."
An interesting point Greenberg makes is the move from a transaction based relationship to a interaction based realtionship with customers. Value creation is now a collaborative process based on customer engagement:
The lesson for business, in terms of Social CRM is that we are now at a point that the customers' expectations are so great and their demands so empowered that our SCRM business strategy needs to be built around collaboration and customer engagement, not traditional operational customer management.
Greenberg has really put his finger on the changing flow of value allowed by new communication technology tools. Customer input can now create feedback loops that offer new value to companies that are ready to respond to customer needs.

As what Greenberg describes as Social CRM becomes the mode of operation for companies, it will be increasingly imortant for companies to invest time and resources into listening to the conversation about their brand and services.

I would suggest that listening and responding creatively is the future of customer service.

Monday, October 12, 2009

READING: The Argument

Reading Matt Bai's book, The Argument, I couldn't help but think of how many times political campaigns or advocacy movements struggle under the collective weight of the egos of those 'in charge'.

Reading about the behind the scenes back and forth and power struggles in Bai's book, you get a visceral sense for the painful dialectic between vision and execution that haunts human activities across the board.

While the circulated powerpoint laid out a compelling and coherent vision of what needed to happen and rallied economic and social capital, the constellation of people that embarked on executing (e.g. managing) that vision fell short.

Their egos and personal interests quickly mired them in the type of political game which they arguably were trying to transcend.


Reading this book, I couldn't help but think of a Shirky quote in the last reading from the IDPI.
Instead of unlimited growth, membership, and freedom, many of the communities that have one well have bounded size or strong limits to growth, non-trivial barriers to joining or becoming a member in good standing, and enforceable community norms that constrain individual freedoms. Forums that lack any mechanism for ejecting or controlling hostile users, especially those convened around contentious topics, have often broken down under the weight of users hostile to the conversation. Thoughtful regulations can actually help, not hinder the growth of your community.
In online communities, regulations can be imposed externally through platform architecture.


I think there is a lesson to be learned from online communities that reach a point of self-sustainability: they are hard-coded w/ the logic of self restraint.

The behavior that leads to tragedy-of-the-commons type of outcomes is avoided by making sure individual egos are kept in check through technical architecture.

I think we are still trying to figure out how to soft-code self restraint when it comes to off-line systems to avoid tragedy of the commons (shared bike programs still don't work).

But as we move into a period of effective cybernetic human organizing - like the Obama Campaign - I think we will be able to intelligently apply technical systems to impose limitations on the activities in ways to promote the public good...and potentially give the dems a better chance at executing their vision.


I did really enjoy Bai's thorough job explaining the rise of internet-based political activists and how they transformed the party. In terms of speaking to the potential for the internet to change politics, I thought this book was very interesting.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Unconferences, Twitter, and @SocJustCampDC

After campaigning for Obama in rural Iowa just before the 2008 election, I came back to DC and heard about a conference called Rootscamp 2008.

I forget where I heard about it.

My first unconference, Rootscamp was amazing. I found myself in an extremely talented people cloud: Chris Hughes of Facebook, Marshall Ganz out of Harvard, and Micah Sifry of Personal Democracy Forum, and were all in the orbit.

Since Rootscamp, I've been averaging roughly an unconference a month: EDemocacyCamp, Participation Camp, Gov 2.0 Camp, Social Change Camp, Crisis Camp, Accessibility Camp, Congress Camp.

(I've been thinking about what a unconference rehab program might look light).

Along with a number of friends, including Greg Bloom of Bread for the City, I am now helping plan Social Justice Camp: "A participant-driven conference in Washington, DC convened for the creative pursuit of social justice through technology and collaboration."


So far, I have used Twitter to help publicize and pull people into the fold and it seems to be having some traction.

I wanted to post about how easy Twitter makes it to penetrate existing communities and simultaneously build rapport with people while pushing message.

I think the main thing twitter allows you to do is let people know that you're listening to them...and that you are interested in their interests.

It's been really useful mining twitter feeds to examine folks social graphs, interests, and geographies.

@SocJustCampDC is currently up to 125 followers on Twitter.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Public Media Camp

Since going to Rootscamp in 2008 just after Obama won the presidential election, I have been addicted to unconferences.

Since Rootscamp I have averaged practically an unconference a month for the last 10 months and I am extremely excited to work for an organization that is planning an unconference next month - Public Media Camp.

I was fortunate enough to get to here Andy Carvin talk about Public Media camp this past week at DC Media Makers.

Andy Carvin - NPR's senior social media strategist - gave a short presentation on Public Media Camp, a quickly approaching unconference based at American University (October 17-18th).

Along with PBS’ social media guy Jonathan Coffman and Peter Corbett of iStrategyLabs (who helped run DC’s Apps for Democracy), Carvin hopes to fundamentally redefine the relationship between the public and public media organizations.

Andy suggested that folks at public media organizations are great at asking for financial support but not extremely good at harnessing human support (e.g. time, technical expertise, excitement).

Public Media Camp is an unconference designed to harness these other resources (e.g. social capital).

According to Carvin, well over 200 folks have registered and some are coming in from as far away as Alaska.

If anyone is interested in watching Andy Carvin's talk, Alex Howard, a local tech journalist and amazing guy, archived his livestream video here.

READINGS: IPDI, Rosenblatt

Reading @JulieG's report "Person-to-Person-to-Person: Harnessing the Political Power of Online Social Networks and User Generated Content," (link to pdf) some of the concepts I found interesting were:

-The importance of leveraging offline networks to reinforce online networks (Repubs and Churches, Obama & Farmers Markets)
-The need to let go of control of message so online communities and tell stories in their own voice
-The ostensible paradox individual restraints and of network growth (Shirky quote)


In @drdigipol's blog post and embedded essay on how the Aryan Resistance could use the net to push their message, I couldn't help but think of Shirky's explanation of how lowered transaction costs have given created new groups of people who were not groups before.

Diasporic groups of people, who previously could not find each other, now have the tools to amplify their message, rally an online community, and create a sense of normalcy inside their collective social space (e.g. the Pro Ana girls who leveraged YM's web site to share tips about being anorexic).


Both readings speak to the new opportunities digital communication tools represent and the shift from broadcast to conversation media.

The dark matter I see emerging in the social media landscape is the cultural piece. The tools are demanding new things from organizations, political candidates, and possibly even hate groups.

I recently saw a tweet that said any enterprise change is 20% technological and 80% cultural.

I think it's possible that while larger organizations have more resources, they are not as nimble as smaller networks of people.

The Goliaths of the day are now on the same playing field of many Davids, who are now wired.

(I think the above image of the liliputians restraining Gulliver seems pretty illustrative of media landscape being ushered in by the internet and social media...)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

READING: Here Comes Everybody

Shirky's Here Comes Everbody is a sophisticated glimpse into the social and economic changes taking place as the internet helps drive us from an industrial paradigm into a digital, information economy.

Referencing numerous anecdotes and an impressive range of social science concepts, Shirky explores the subtleties of how evolving electronic communication tools have facilitated radically new group behavior.

Shirky maps out how the internet challenges the logic of conventional institutions.

As much the internet has dropped transaction costs, it has reshaped the marketplace that made institutions as we know them necessary.

Now that the landscape of transaction costs has been fundamentally altered, the stability of institutions is very much problematized.


Charting changes from mass amateurization to the ability of ephemeral groups of people to spontaneously create campaigns with political significance to collaborative production of software and other products, the internet is giving groups of people new ways to create.

It is shifting some of the longstanding social bargains behind modern society.

On very emblematic example from Shirky's book is the industrial (railroad era) relic that is the top-down org chart. As much as the org chart represents a command and control management paradigm, the internet allows for a new paradigm...a new org chart for the 21st century.

If Shirky is right, the 21st century version of an org chart will be a work in progress for a while to come.

The logic of group management during the industrial era - and the institutional infrastructure it gave birth to - has been derailed.


Shirky's book actually catalyzed my decision to go back to school for communications.

Throughout Shirky's book, McLuhan’s words resonate deeply, ‘we shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.’

As much as railroads and industrial machines shaped organizational logic, I believe the internet has potential to reshape that same logic and drive new kinds of human endeavor.

In my statement of purpose, I tried to explain why I think it's so important to study communication:
Considering our evolutionary track record, mankind’s ability to develop increasingly complex technologies – iron smelting and agricultural methods, written language, moveable type, industrial machinery – has consistently set the stage for the punctuated development of increasingly complex human culture. I believe digital communication technologies are an important enunciation of this larger historical arc and will accelerate the ongoing evolution of man, his tools, and his social order.
In short, Shirky's Here Comes Everybody pulls back the curtain on a cultural shift that is ushering in a new era of human collaboration and participation.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

READING: Mobilizing Generation 2.0 (steal this strategy)

Ben Rigby's Mobilizing Generation 2.0 is a comprehensive how-to written for a new kind of organization and a new kind of a citizen.

The book covers pushing messages and narratives online, organizing and convening publics in virtual space, and wielding an integrated set of communication tools in the name of social change.

As I read the book, it registered like a 21st century version of Abbie Hoffman's Steal this Book for geeks (minus the illegality & political radicalism): a practical handbook focused on changing society and democratizing discourse.

Hoffman, an activist and organizer of sorts, understood the limitations of the media landscape of his generation:
To talk of true freedom of the press, we must talk of the availability of the channels of communication that are designed to reach the entire population, or at least that segment of the population that might participate in such a dialogue. Freedom of the press belongs to those that own the distribution system. Perhaps that has always been the case, but in a mass society where nearly everyone is instantaneously plugged into a variety of national communications systems, wide-spread dissemination of the information is the crux of the matter.
Mobilizing Generation 2.0 effectively maps a communications landscape that Hoffman didn't live to see.

We now have 'channels of communication' with the potential of reaching the entire population...

Rigby charts the shifting ground between a paradigm of broadcast and control and the emerging paradigm of conversation and engagement.

He also speaks to some of the old psychologies still at work and the difficulties of dealing with busy people and organizations with tight budgets.

So while the tools have changed and we're living in a dramatically different world, it is still unwritten how exactly the tools will change us and how they will change society.

Reading Rigby's book however, it makes you realize the extent a small group of people can really make a difference if they're organized, strategic, and understand both the logic of tools and what motivates people to participate.


Notable quotes:

"Blogging purists will say that operating a successful blog necessitates shifting the very structure of your organization - making it more open" (Rigby, p. 43)

"Sustainable advantage in Web 2.0 is not about maintaining control; it's about delivering value to a community over time" (Rigby, p. 45).

"To be effective in this environment, you have to behave more like an organizer and less like a marketer" (Rigby, p. 83).

The demographics of social networks (specifically Myspace)

While the above video may be one of the most articulate demographic mappings of the social networks that I've ever seen (even though it's a bit dated), there is some very good academic research being conducted on social networks.

danah boyd (@zephoria) is well know for her work researching social media and the activities of youth online; at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York this past summer, she gave this talk which created a ton of buzz.

"The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online" discussed how online networks are subject to the same logic of homophily as offline networks and communities (homophily = tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others).

boyd touched on the social divisions that occurred as Myspace experienced a major exodus of its wealthier, more educated white users who left for the land of Facebook:
What happened was modern day "white flight." Whites were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. The educated were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those from the suburbs were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those who deserted MySpace did so by "choice" but their decision to do so was wrapped up in their connections to others, in their belief that a more peaceful, quiet, less-public space would be more idyllic.
Researchers out of Harvard recently looked at a dataset of 100,000 Myspace users and mirror Boyd's "white flight" findings; they reported that Myspace users...
...populate smaller cities and communities in the south and central parts of the country. Piskorski rattles off some MySpace hotspots: "Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Florida."

They aren't in Dallas but they are in Fort Worth. Not in Miami but in Tampa. They're in California, but in cities like Fresno. In other words, not anywhere near the media hubs (except Atlanta) and far away from those elite opinion-makers in coastal urban areas.

Exploring the web site, I'm realizing how important it is to understand that Myspace is a non-random collection of voters and constituents who may have fundamentally different political sensibilities - as well as aesthetic sensibilities - as the people who spend their time in Facebook (or any other social network for that matter).

It seems like it would be useful keeping this in mind for organizational interests attempting to brand and execute their respective campaigns online.


The other thing that came to mind was @planetmoney's recent podcast MySpace Was Born Of Total Ignorance, which is pretty awesome.

They talk about how creators of Myspace - who came out of the Hollywood/internet porn scene - wanted to create a nightclub atmosphere online.

Hearing about the thinking and experiences of the sites founders, the podcast helps make sense of why Myspace would attract different kinds of folks than the Ivy-League-generated Facebook.


Related stuff:
-Short interview w/ Global Voices' Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) on homophily
-Stealing Myspace (Book by author interviewed on mentioned Planet Money podcast)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Digital Political Strategy

This blog is for the JHU class Digital Political strategy with Alan Rosenblatt of the Center for American Progress.