Online Campaigns Echo and Differ from Race
LIANE HANSEN, host:
Yesterday Republican presidential candidate John McCain held a virtual town hall meeting. Reaching out to voters through the Internet has become standard practice in this year's campaign, and that's where the e-campaign director steps in - using the Internet to get the message out, to mobilize voters and to raise money.
At a recent forum sponsored by Google, e-campaign directors met to discuss what it's like to run Internet strategy for a major presidential campaign. Mindy Finn, our WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY blogger was among them. She was the e-campaign director for former Republican candidate Mitt Romney. She joins us now in the studio. Good to see you again.
MINDY FINN: Thanks for having me.
HANSEN: Just how important has Internet strategy become in running a campaign on all levels?
FINN: It's become crucial to campaigns, especially at a presidential campaign level. I think it's evidenced by the fact that several of the major presidential candidates - Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton included - announced their campaigns online with a video on their Web site.
This cycle, there have been presidential debates sponsored by YouTube where individuals submit their videos via YouTube and they're the questioners for the candidates rather than just a news moderator.
HANSEN: What contributes to a candidate's success on the Internet? How do you measure a candidate's success on the Internet?
FINN: There's several ways you measure it; there's not just one metric. You can look at things such as the number of people they have signed up for their email list, the number of volunteers who signed up online, the amount of people who are taking action online, whether that's sending emails to friends or writing letters to their editors or registering to vote or registering their friends, the number of friends on third-party social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
It's really a series of factors such as that, and then also if what they're doing online is making its way into the traditional media, then it's clearly an effective means for getting our message because it's permeating into all media, not just the Web.
HANSEN: So, what does this mean for the role of the traditional media?
FINN: You know, there's a lot of talk out there with people calling this the first Internet campaign that traditional media is, its power is diffused. And I think there is some truth to that. Any time there's more options for getting media, individual media sources are going to have less power potentially.
However, Peter Dowd, who is Hillary Clinton's Internet director, mentioned at the forum, he refers to it as a parasitic relationship between traditional and new media. And that all forms of media are feeding off each other.
HANSEN: Do you think that future presidents will use the Internet as a way to communicate with the public?
FINN: You see what the candidates are doing on the Internet this cycle, and it's more than candidates have ever done before. So, when it comes time for the White House it's only natural that they would be using things like email lists or blogs, podcasts, Web video to communicate with voters. There'd be no reason not to. The majority of Americans - a very strong majority - going to the Web to get information nowadays about news, politics, they'd be foolish not to reach out to the American people via the Web. That's where the American people are and that's where we hope our leadership communicate with us.
HANSEN: Mindy Finn is a blogger for WEEKEND EDITION. You can check out her entire audio post at NPR.org/SundaySoapbox. Mindy, thanks for coming in.
FINN: Thanks for having me. It's a lot of fun.
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