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Politics, Technology & Elections, Oh My!

Gotham Media Ventures recently hosted a panel discussion in New York at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz on Madison Ave., titled “Politics, Tech & Decision 2012.” About 100 people attended and the audience was a mix of women and men, all ages. Now before you glaze over, it is an election year and we are about to elect the next President of the United States…Don’t you want the inside scoop?
Some of the highlights I think you and I should pay attention to from this type of discussion:
1. The panel was made up of all men. Was it because they were talking about money, politics, and technology, and Arianna Huffington wasn’t available, that there were no women on the panel?
Okay, I digress. The men did make some compelling points:
Barack O’Bama’s use of the Internet four years ago in the U.S. Presidential election was a significant “disruptive” milestone in politics. Just as John F. Kennedy utilized TV, a relatively new technology, to get his message out to the masses, the O’Bama campaign used the Internet. Panelist Taegan Goddard, founder of Political Wire, made the point that Mitt Romney has raised only 9% of his money online (where donations typically under $200 are made). Conversely, O’Bama has raised the majority of his funds online. Interesting to note: Republican candidate Ron Paul DOES use the Internet to build his base and raise funds, and it also keeps him in the race at the top of the polls.
2. Eason Jordan, co-founder of Poll Position, stated “In 2008, the Internet was the disrupter and in 2012 the Super Pacs are the disrupters.”
I first learned about Super Pacs by watching the Colbert Report on Comedy Central (seriously!). Stephen Colbert was not on the panel, but his brilliance in focusing on the issue of Super Pacs forced the media to talk about and educate us on what these legal candidate/issue-endorsing pacs do. Here’s a clip from Stephen Colbert if you haven’t seen it.

Back to the subject of polls, Jordan made the point that there are flaws w/all polling, and that we should as a whole, be skeptical of them – recommending that we always read several polls from various sources, and remembering that one can word a question in a poll to get the answer(s) one is looking for….Keep in mind that there is no perfect polling.
One statistic quoted was….”4 out of 5 Americans are fed up with American politics”….and it’s only going to get worse. Also stated was “American people are fed up with the media’s role in politics.” What do you think?
3. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but here goes… Polling over two weeks is too long, according to all on the panel. Too much change occurs over two weeks. Therefore, 2 days (or two hours!) is a more accurate measurement. Jordan made the point that it is illegal to poll people by calling their cell phones, and with fewer people (especially younger ones) doing away with their land lines, then, the polling skews older (I suppose). As commedianne Paula Poundstone said on NPR’s “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” recently, “I’d be concerned about the results of a poll that caught people at home who had time to answer a suvey anyway….” Robo-calling was made illegal for companies, but Congress has not restricted it for political calls. Note to self: “Interesting.”
4. Goddard, who threw out several statistics, most of them relevant, said, “those who use Google+, spend an average of 6 to 7 minutes a month engaged in it. Those who use Facebook, spend 7 hours a month on Facebook.” His point I think was that you can’t make people engage in a product, no matter how powerful you are, and Google is powerful. However, Facebook weilds the power when it comes to engagement, and politicians and brands want what Facebook’s clientele can provide. It’s how to insert themselves in our conversations, be relevant and motivate us to donate to a campaign or buy a product(s). That’s where the gold lies….
5. Eli Pariser, Board President of MoveOn.org (who I received the invitation from via the Internet) said that even though we are all sick of the TV ads (already!) that the number of ads will just increase between now and the election in November (w/key networks in key cities ad time already sold out). Pariser made a salient point in that we are more likely to hear and see the two party system in action on TV vs. the Internet. Television ads, although annoying, probably provide a more democratized delivery. Whether we like it or not, we will be hearing/seeing (over and over!) both sides or all sides of the arguments and issues from all candidates on TV. Because the Internet is more interactive, advertisers know us psychographically and socially vs. just demographically. We are being categorized, followed and “cookied”, based on our likes, dislikes and through algorithim formulas, calculating what we will likely do or believe in the future.
Campaigns and products are getting better and better at matching the message to what we think we want to hear. As one panelist said, we begin to listen to our own echo chamber. All panelists agreed that we should actually make ourselves listen/read opposing views. Watch Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and Public Television. Don’t just limit yourself to one news outlet. It’s kind of like the polling point above, it’s all in how the question is asked….
The Internet has increased the volatility and the speed of issues, so crisis communications planning is now about anticipating what could happen or how a candidate or brand can respond w/in 15 minutes.
Lastly, Pariser, also author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, added that it is possible for a candidate to saturate the television mainstream airwaves, and believes new channels will continue to open up, like YouTube.
Richard Hofstetter, moderated the panel. He is a law partner with the firm FKR&Selz PC, full name mentioned above. Michael Bassik was also on the panel. He is CEO of Proof Integrated Communications and U.S. Digital Practice Chair of Burson-Marsteller

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