FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
Political campaigns are blowing up on the Web in all kinds of ways right now, so how do you flip the appeal of a Web site, MySpace page or text message blast into actual votes? And hey, what's a few billion between friends. Microsoft bids $44.6 billion for the struggling Yahoo.
NEWS & NOTES tech contributor Mario Armstrong has the latest. Hey, Mario.
MARIO ARMSTRONG: Hey, Farai. How are you?
CHIDEYA: I'm great. I'm not as good as if somebody was offering me $44 billion, but hey…
ARMSTRONG: $44.6 billion, a lot of money.
CHIDEYA: I know. We're going to talk about that in a second.
But first, presidential elections, what sort of content are people creating online around the candidates?
ARMSTRONG: You know what, it's - everything you can think of, and then, some. We're just seeing this explosion, this - through this particular candidacy - of really seeing the Internet become this factor of everyone from the candidates themselves utilizing, you know, typical Web sites that - Facebook, MySpace and others - and just their own - building their own Web presence as well as consumers or concerned citizens creating their own spinoffs, their own blogs.
And just the ease of access of creating whether it's a blog or a video-sharing Web site, we're seeing new things like the recent ones, it's like YouBama. It's a Y-O-U Bama.com. It's a spinoff off of YouTube. It's actually a page on YouTube, but it was created by two Stanford students, who basically said, we wanted to create an online video aggregator for undecided voters that would want to watch some of Barack Obama's supporters' videos. And you're seeing this for other candidates as well.
ou're also seeing some extreme moves by companies like Advantage Consultants who basically say, hey, we can supply you, Mr. and Ms. Candidate, with an army-full of bloggers ready to get your campaign out on the blogosphere 24/7. It's just - it's like the wild, wild West right now on the Internet.
CHIDEYA: Is that - I mean, of course, all fair - all is fair in love, war and politics. But is that cheating in a way, you know, blogs were created initially as if, like, I'm just going to express what's in my heart. And now, it sounds as if what you're saying is that there is a lot of people who are saying, I'm going to create the appearance that people are speaking from their heart.
ARMSTRONG: Yeah, and, you know - and this is - gets into astroturfing and a whole bunch of other terminology behind what's the real message of these types of Web sites. You're right. The organic nature of a blog was to be something that was transparent, that wasn't agenda-driven. And obviously, when you start looking at politics and campaigns, it's agenda-driven. So now, they're looking at these tools being PR machines, more than this transparent, here-is-a-look-into-my-life type of outlet that it used to be.
CHIDEYA: Speaking of transparency, there is some information that campaigns don't always give out, like where their money is coming from. And tell me about OpenSecrets.
ARMSTRONG: Yes, so OpenSecrets is this Web site; OpenSecrets.org is the Web address. But they have been tracking online campaigns for quite some time. It's just not online, I should say. It's really just a money trail behind campaigns and candidates, whether it's your local candidate or state representatives, or, in this case, the presidential candidates. You can really get access to what is already publicly accessible information, but very hard to find through today's means.
OpenSecrets has been able to aggregate all of that data: who the personal interests are, who the donors are, where they're coming from - and really give you a picture as to how the money may be impacting policy or impacting who is doing what and where.
CHIDEYA: Now, if you're someone who is working at a company, running a company, running a little nonprofit, what can you learn from all these technological approaches that the candidates are using?
ARMSTRONG: Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, there are a lot of lessons to be learned as you really look at the campaigns. I mean, number one, if you are a nonprofit, you obviously need fundraising. Well, we're seeing this model now. Well, you can go back to Howard Dean and come up to now, where we're seeing what donations online can do. And it's easier than ever to try to create that on your Web site. You have to create that presence.
Number two, using online video to get your message out, to generate more activisms and to get volunteers and people engaged in your mission. And then, number three, really understanding things like Facebook and MySpace and CollectiveX(ph) - that's a type of social network for nonprofit organizations. And then, lastly, using cell phones - a lot of people are carrying cell phones.
I'll say, in this country, we carry three things: a wallet, keys, and a cell phone. And now, there is a new technology. It's been around for a while, but now being utilized in political landscape and nonprofit landscape is Twittering - and we can explain that later. But it's a type of text messaging.
And so, all of these things are proven effective in the presidential candidacy. It should also bode well for nonprofit organizations.
CHIDEYA: All right. We're not going to have time to Twitter right now. We can Twitter later. All we got time for is one quick question: Why does Bill Gates want to buy Yahoo?
ARMSTRONG: Because they need to. They need to become the number two search-engine in the world. Google is number one. Microsoft's MSN's portal is a lame duck in the number three position. This would give them a better search-engine opportunity, which would increase the amount of online advertising dollars, which is where everyone is going and why this would make a lot of sense to do.
CHIDEYA: So are they going to take the offer, you think?
ARMSTRONG: You know, I hope so. It would be nice to see. You know, I would like to see Yahoo stay independent, but I don't know. I mean, they're talking about a thousand layoffs, Farai. So if it can stop people from losing their job, I'm all for it.
CHIDEYA: All right. Well, Mario, thanks a lot.
ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Farai.
CHIDEYA: Mario Armstrong is our NEWS & NOTES tech contributor.
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