Wired: Media beat Obama to the punch

Best-laid plans: Media beat Obama to the punch


from Wired News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Barack Obama’s pledge to supporters that they would be the “first to know” his running mate turned out to be a savvy but unworkable communications strategy.

The Democratic presidential candidate got scooped by the media on his own announcement, done in by dogged reporting, loose-lipped party insiders and the limits of technology.

But all was not lost. He amassed a huge database of cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses for the fall campaign.

Obama’s plan to use text messaging to announce his choice was a first in politics. He had promised supporters that by providing cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses they would be “part of this important moment” – the revelation of his choice for vice president.

The text message announcing Biden as Obama’s pick began filtering across the U.S. at 3:02 a.m. EDT Saturday, when most people were asleep. By then, it was old news, by today’s standards. The media had reported the pick more than two hours earlier.

Michael Silberman, a partner at online communications firm EchoDitto, said the campaign gambled when they made such a high-stakes promise and find themselves in a precarious situation where they could risk a great deal of trust with supporters.

“For Obama supporters, this is like finding out from your neighbor instead of your sister that she’s engaged – not how you want or expect the news to be delivered,” Silberman said.

The campaign won’t say how many people signed up to receive the text message, nor will the small Washington, D.C., company that handled the imposing chore.

“It’s a big number,” said Kevin Bertram, the 37-year-old founder and CEO of Distributive Networks.

The 16-employee firm, which built the text messaging system, has higher-paying clients. According to Federal Election Commission records, it has received about $130,000 from the Obama campaign, not including August.

But no account has a higher profile, Bertram said.

“We have seen some text campaigns in the many hundreds of thousands of opt-in mobile users over the past couple years, all in the consumer products-services realm,” said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson. “This is the first massive effort in the political world.”

He said the scale appeared similar to Olympics updates, which occur several times a day.

CTIA, the wireless industry’s lobbying organization, says in the month of December alone, there were more than 48 billion text messages sent in the U.S.

The real test for Distributive Networks was speed.

“It’s a pretty big challenge, because we’re under a strict time constraint to get all those messages out,” Bertram said.

Simultaneous delivery of millions of text messages is impossible. The messages must be routed to the carriers, which themselves may have bottlenecks.

Bertram said it took about 15 minutes for the bulk of the messages to get through the system. Meanwhile, the campaign posted the veep choice on its Web site.

The Obama campaign has worked closely with Bertram’s company, asking for added features in the text messaging campaign – like the ability to text supporters based on their ZIP code, a capability that allows for targeted voter-turnout campaigns.

Once the Obama campaign composed and sent the message, it was largely an automated process. The instant the campaign pushed the button, the message text flashed on Bertram’s laptop.

The CEO said he was “nervous, confident, relieved and sleepy all at once” as he watched the text message move through the system.

“Mobile marketing” is a relatively new phenomenon in politics, but one the Obama campaign has capitalized on it like no other.

People can sign up for text and e-mail updates on specific issues. They can get news on campaign appearances, receive discounts for campaign merchandise and even download Obama speech sound bites as ring tones.

It’s also an effective fundraising tool. Anyone who signed up for the notification on the campaign Web site was taken to a page where they could make a contribution.

Overall traffic on Obama’s Web site hit an all-time high Saturday. The Obama campaign said more than 48,000 people watched the live stream of Obama and Biden’s first joint appearance from their Web site. By about mid-afternoon, more than $1.8 million had been contributed online.

Messages can also act as a call to action, encouraging people to call their friends and encourage them to vote or donate to the campaign. The list of cell numbers is similar to campaign snail-mailing lists, but more personal and more valuable.

Of course there is a potential for burnout. Recipients, who pay to receive texts, will not tolerate spam.

“We don’t send a message to anyone who hasn’t initiated contact with the campaign and opted in,” Bertram said. “You have to have a very light touch. If you send someone 10 messages a day, they are just going to say, ‘Stop.'”

—-

Associated Press Writer Nedra Pickler in Denver contributed to this report.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Barack Obama, Joe Biden, ObamaBiden08

One response to “Wired: Media beat Obama to the punch

  1. While CSS is a relatively simple technology to learn, it is a difficult one to master. When you first start developing sites using CSS, you will come across all kinds of infuriating browser bugs and inconsistencies. It sometimes feels like there are a million and one different techniques to master, spread across a bewildering array of websites. The range of possibilities seems endless and makes for a steep and daunting learning curve. By bringing all of the latest tips, tricks, and techniques together in one handy reference, this book demystifies the secrets of CSS and makes the journey to CSS mastery as simple and painless as possible. While most books concentrate on basic skills, this one is different, assuming that you already know the basics and why you should be using CSS in your work, and concentrating mainly on advanced techniques. It begins with a brief recap of CSS fundamentals such as the importance of meaningful markup, how to structure and maintain your code, and how the CSS layout model really works. With the basics out of the way, each subsequent chapter details a particular aspect of CSS-based design. Through a series of easy-to-follow tutorials, you will learn practical CSS techniques you can immediately start using in your daily work. Browser inconsistencies are the thorn in most CSS developers’ sides, so we have dedicated two whole chapters to CSS hacks, filters, and bug fixing, as well as looking at image replacement; professional link, form, and list styling; pure CSS layouts; and much more. All of these techniques are then put into practice in two beautifully designed case studies, written by two of the world’s best CSS designers, Simon Collison and Cameron Moll.

    http://www.muntho.com/2008/08/25/css-mastery-advanced-web-standards-solutions-paperback/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s