Dec 6, 2008

Mktg - One iPhone in Obama's tech arsenal(G.Read)

NEW YORK: The brains behind Barack Obama's Internet campaign revealed they had just one smartphone between them the day their unlikely high-tech
revolution began.

In a first public discussion since last month's historic election, new media director Joe Rospars, online director Scott Goodstein and blogging supremo Sam Graham-Felsen all referred to a "tidal wave" of online voter activism.

After the 2004 campaign of presidential hopeful Howard Dean pioneered the online political revolution, voters in this election cycle were ready to experiment.

Internet technology was rapidly developing, and with emerging tools such as networking site Twitter, Obama's long-shot bid for the presidency got underway.

"We were a very small organisation. It was just three of us," said Rospars -- who worked on Dean's influential Blog for America movement -- at the Alliance of Youth Movements conference in New York.

"Sam, I think, was the only one on the campaign that had an iPhone," Goodstein said. "I used to tease him."

From that humble start, the three whizzes went on to mastermind a campaign that put the first truly Internet-friendly president in the Oval Office.

They did this by embracing the gamut of new media tools, from YouTube to e-mail lists, from blogs to Facebook, and by putting an Obama platform on iPhones so that users could recruit contacts to the cause.

The result, says Micah Sifry, co-founder of politics blog TechPresident, was a "mass participation revolution" that appears set to continue after Obama is inaugurated on January 20.

The country was already ripe for putting politics online when Obama launched his fight for the Democratic nomination, then took on Republican J
ohn McCain.

Ninety per cent of people younger than 29 use the Internet, one in three Americans have posted a comment or rating, and one in five have posted something they created themselves, Sifry said.

The Obama team brilliantly exploited that culture, amassing 13 million email addresses, 3.95 million individual donors and 3.2 million friends on the Obama Facebook page.

Backers were encouraged to post photos, videos and opinions on mybarackobama.com, while armies of volunteers ensured that every message on the blog or on Facebook was answered.

High-tech innovations also allowed Obama's Web warriors to set new standards for the old political arts of tailoring messages and responding to attacks.

Mass emails were modified to reflect targets, depending on gender, age group, and location, right down to the neighborhood.

The rapid response unit blogged or posted YouTube videos "pretty much instantaneously" when an article or TV segment was deemed negative, Graham-Felsen said.

"If the McCain campaign put out an ad that had inaccuracies in it, say on tax policy, I'd run over to our deputy economic policy advisor, take my video or have him film himself, and we'd put it on YouTube and instantly rebut," he said.

Obama has made clear he wants to continue his e-connection to the people as president, using YouTube to broadcast addresses, allowing debate on his transition site change.org, and maintaining a steady flow of mass emails to supporters.

Goodstein said that new media is in politics to stay. "I think the cat's out of the bag."

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