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Conversations Still Win Campaigns

» NY Times: The New Progressive Movement (Jeffrey Sachs)

I only stuck around long enough to read this because I generally like to see what Jeffrey Sachs has to say. Nevermind the triumphal OWS blather made all the more confusing when you try figure out exactly what they've done that warrants triumphalism. But I read on. And then this came along ...

Finally, the new progressive era will need a fresh and gutsy generation of candidates to seek election victories not through wealthy campaign financiers but through free social media. A new generation of politicians will prove that they can win on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and blog sites, rather than with corporate-financed TV ads. By lowering the cost of political campaigning, the free social media can liberate Washington from the current state of endemic corruption. And the candidates that turn down large campaign checks, political action committees, Super PACs and bundlers will be well positioned to call out their opponents who are on the corporate take.

Candidates running, trying new things, finding ways to maximize the less-expensive aspects of campaigning ... good. But thinking that it will be a pure substitute for mail and TV? Not realistic. Social media, online advertising, online video, web, etc ... is an add-on, not a substitute.

I'd love nothing more than to see the cost of campaigning come down. But if it's to happen, it'll happen because of market forces. When facebook and online ad costs stay even as they grow and TV and cable goes down due to an increasingly-splintered market developing. And I don't even see that happen.

Case in point ... try buying ads on Hulu. The costs I saw them throw at us for the Bill White campaign immediately put it out of the realm of possibility as being part of our online strategy. But it might have made sense as part of the cable or TV budget (minus the nice commissions that the latter typically generate). Hulu doesn't offer an apples-to-apples comparison for eyeball counts that get made up generated for TV buys. But, to the best extent possible to compare the two, Hulu rates are higher. The net result is that the "new toy" is more expensive than the previous one.

Not all new toys suffer from this problem. But to the extent that they remain cheap (facebook/Google ads, for instance), it's because you're buying a very microscopic slice of the eyeball market. That can be beneficial as part of a layered approach to sending out mail or putting a spot on TV, but it's generally not a stand-alone cow-bell to base your campaign around.

So its hard to take the advice that creating more free facebook events is the wave of the future. Or even generating more campaign blog fodder will push you closer to the finish line. Those are all helpful components. Use them. But use a lot of things. Whatever you do, though, remember that tools don't win campaigns ... conversations do. Focus on the conversation you're having, be relevant, and choose the right tools for conducting that conversation. That'll get you further along than daydreams ever will.

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  1. Not sure whether Sachs has noticed, but the Internet has been in common use for 2 decades now, and the result, if anything, has been to accelerate the cost of campaigning.

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