Politcs 2012

By Eleanor Haas

That the Internet has changed everything is a truism.   Some stunning – and sometimes alarming – take-aways from “Politics, Tech & Decision 2012,” the most recent Gotham Media Ventures panel discussion, bring this home with a bang.

  • Online presence is everything.  The first hire in today’s political campaigns is the website team, not the campaign manager.
  • Privacy has become a quaint illusion.  Database techniques now make it possible to serve and measure advertising and other messages to increasingly specific market segments.  The next step in targeting will be knowing what you think right now. Target is already trying to understand and sell to pregnant women specifically in the 3rd trimester.  Credit cards companies can predict divorce rates two years before they happen with 95 percent accuracy. They see changes in consumer patterns.
  • “We all live in a yellow submarine.”  Personalization and digital targeting surround each of us in a membrane of filters so that there is less and less discursive conversation.  We each tend to be always talking with like-minded individuals and to be less and less exposed to opposing views.
  • More money buys more influence than ever before.  Super PACS in 2012 are dirtier and more powerful than ever before.  They are funded by huge donations – $20 million – from really big donors.  They often support shadow campaigns of tweets and viral videos that are user generated but paid for by PACs.
  • Polls no longer speak truth.  Online polls are now skewed because of technological flaws.  They’re all misleading. We each live in our own echo chamber (see the bullet before last).  Automated polling has under 10 percent response; it’s illegal to call cell phones for research and 35 percent of people have no land lines.
  • One thing hasn’t changed.  TV is still the most effective election all for all demographics, while social media are the most persuasive tools on issues.
  • Speed counts.  The Internet has increased volatility to an unbelievable extent.  Being nimble has become more important than planning.  How can you anticipate a potential crisis?  How can you respond in Internet time?
  • Two kinds of power.  It’s become a bimodal world, where you either have to have the big donors locked up or have huge online broad-based support from celebrities and/or grassroots.  That at least provides a ray of hope for the masses! 

To give credit where credit is due:  Richard Hofstetter, partner, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz was moderator. Panelists were:  Michael Bassik, managing director and US digital practice chair, Burson Marsteller; Taegan Goddard, founder and publisher, Political Wire; Eason Jordan, former chief news executive, CNN founder and CEO, Poll Position, and Eli Pariser, board president and former executive director, Moveon.org.  Frankfurt Kurnit hosted the event.

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