Friday, January 04, 2008

The Morning After: Cigarettes and Coffee

It's cigarettes and coffee time following the Iowa primaries. So what happened?

Obama and Huckabee. Big upset for Clinton who came in 3rd (although she was within spitting distance of 2nd.) Ron Paul grabbed about 10% of the vote.

What does this have to do with what I discussed yesterday? Mark "Rizzn" Hopkins on Mashable has a good (albeit a little hyperbolic) summary of the evening's successes. Money quotes:

    Patrick Ruffini’s Twitter efforts once again proved that using Twitter for major event coverage will give you a substantial lead over anything the mainstream news can do with their efforts, and for substantially less money invested...

    Somehow, without even turning on any cable news networks, I was able to get minute by minute coverage of the caucus results from actual primary sources with a high degree of accuracy and interesting analysis. [Emphasis his]
While I don't agree with his overly-optimistic report of Ross Perot wannabe Ron Paul's less-than-impressive 10% turnout despite his fundraising record and the large volume of noise about him online. It seems there might be some snakes on Paul's plane after all.

But Obama's success is something else altogether. Obama has married an extremely diverse new media campaign with a traditional media campaign - and this seems to be the formula for success. Despite the heavy emphasis on new media by the Democrats in 2004 with efforts on Daily Kos, it was not enough to tackle the (then) dinosaur-like Republicans who relied almost exclusively on traditional media in that campaign. Contrast that with Paul, who has worked almost exclusively with new media in this campaign and reaped a surprisingly small reward for doing so.

While Mashable declared that traditional media was "on notice," clearly that's a little premature of a declaration to make. I wouldn't go as far as Drama 2.0 and say "so what?" but I will say that exclusive reliance on new media isn't going to win anything, at least not at the moment. Drama 2.0 makes a very good point:
    But on the whole, [traditional media] usually does a more-than-adequate job of providing an accurate who, what, where, when, why and how for major events. For the vast majority of average Americans, that’s good enough.
I recognize that he's referring to Hopkins' remark about the success of Twitter, and I'm extrapolating a little to associate that with the overall success of the various kinds of media, but my point is that you simply cannot - yet - have an exclusively new media campaign and expect to "win." We're still in a time of change, and although we'd like to imagine that our work in the fishbowl is the most important work, we're as reliant on our traditional counterparts as they are on us.

I don't want to seem like I'm coming down on new media relations because I'm not. I'm simply trying to be practical in my approach to what I do. This relates primarily to expectations: Ron Paul supporters were expecting his record-breaking fundraising to translate to a from-behind major win at the polls. People expected the buzz around Snakes on a Plane and Serenity online to translate into major ticket sales. Clients expect to be able to throw a "viral" video, the definition of which no one can ever agree upon, onto YouTube and get a million hits (and sell a million units) just because it's there. They expect that a "viral" video game they created will be loved by the online gaming community despite a shitty concept executed in a farty manner.

That, if anything, is the lesson here. Obama has one hell of a campaign staff and my guess is that if they can keep this up, it will take him all the way to the White House. He also has a very optimistic message of hope, and that always helps - you have to make sure the product you're selling isn't awful.

The rest of the primary season will be very interesting indeed!

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