Weekly #11: The 2012 Online Race

I can’t believe May is almost here. Where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday when I was on the National Mall witnessing the swearing in of the 44th President of the United States. With the fall elections close in sight and the 2012 presidential race around the corner, politicos across America are gearing up to battle it out in an effort to get their candidates elected.

So what steps should political strategists take to ensure they win the 2012 election online? To be effective, they will need to look to past case studies to see what worked and what didn’t. Luckily for them, one of the best case studies of online organizing lies within the political arena. President Barack Obama’s online grassroots organizing effort was without doubt the key ingredient to his victory.

In 2012, candidates will need to use a combination of social media and micro-targeting strategies to effectively engage and empower the electorate. According to Edelman’s The Social Pulpit: Barack Obama’s Social Media Toolkit, best practices learned from the Obama campaign include:

  • Start early
  • Build to scale
  • Innovate where necessary; do everything else incrementally better
  • Make it easy to find, forward and act
  • Pick where you want to play
  • Channel online enthusiasm into specific, targeted activities that further the campaign’s goals
  • Integrate online advocacy into every element of the campaign

Candidates will need to utilize today’s standard social media platforms, including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Meetup to engage their supporters as they did in the past, but will also have to look to newer Web 2.0 tools that have only recently come into play.

For example, one of the hot upcoming trends is location-based services as seen at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive. Foursquare and Gowalla are two such companies that are offering information and entertainment services through mobile devices via geographical positioning. With the mobile phone industry expected to climb to $30 billion by 2013, it’s clear candidates should seek to engage voters through similar tools. More innovative technologies will certainly be here by 2012.  Just think – YouTube didn’t even exist during George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.


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Response #3: Smarter Phones, Smarter Kids

There has been a lot of discussion lately surrounding smart phones and their potential to be used as valuable teaching devices. This is even happening at the highest levels of government. In March of this year, First Lady Michelle Obama endorsed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Apps for Healthy Kids Challenge as part of her Let’s Move campaign. The competition is calling on game developers to create innovative, fun and engaging games that encourage children and teens to eat healthier and be more active.

That same week, Mashable covered the launch of Fisher Price’s new iPhone app for 2-year-olds. The games are designed to teach kids and keep them distracted. By the time April’s Fast Company arrived in my mailbox, I wasn’t at all surprised to see two young twin girls on the cover both holding smart phones with this text: The Real Smart Phone Revolution: How Tech Is Making Kids Smarter Everywhere.

I attended a forum earlier this year at the Kaiser Family Foundation that featured the chairman of the FCC, media executives and child development experts. The discussion surrounded the release of the organization’s national survey of media usage among children and teens. According to the findings, daily media use among young kids and teens is up dramatically from five years ago. The average American child aged 8 to 18 now spends seven hours and 38 minutes each day plugged in. Nearly 20 percent of media consumption occurs on mobile device, including cell phones, iPods or handheld video game players.

Today’s children are a part of a generation that has never known a world without ubiquitous handheld and networked technology. It will be fascinating to see how different our world will become when they  graduate college and enter the workforce. E-mail viewed as “old school” is only the start of it all.

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Weekly #10: Warfare in the Digital Age

I’m a big fan of The Kalb Report. Now in its 16th season, the program is focusing on the relationship between a free press and a free society. I attended the taping of Play by Play with Bob Costas, What Makes 60 Minutes Tick? and, most recently in March, War Reporting:  The New Rules of Engagement.

Four of America’s top correspondents joined Marvin Kalb to discuss the changing nature of war reporting and warfare in the digital age. They included Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post; Cami McCormick of CBS News; Laura King of the Los Angeles Times and Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

It was a wonderful opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how journalists cover wars, the difficulties they face and the many reasons why they’re drawn to such a dangerous profession. In the discussion, I learned that McCormick was seriously injured in Afghanistan in August 2009 when the vehicle she was riding in was hit by an explosive device. She is still recovering from her injuries, but wants to return to the battlefield as soon as she can.

War reporters have a strong, insatiable desire to tell a story that so often goes untold. That is also the case for many military members who have turned to blogging to share their own experiences. I believe that seeing and reading about war is very good thing. It is important that we know and understand the complexities of war and what our military members do day in a day out to defend our borders and protect our freedoms. Just as we thank our military members for their service, we also must remember to thank the many journalists and military bloggers who have courageously risked their lives in order to share their experiences with us.


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Response #2: Making Connections With Social Media

The volcanic ash over European air space is putting quite a strain on airline travelers this week. An interactive map on the New York Times website tracks cancellations in real-time. Many travelers are turning to technology and social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter for support, taking advantage of their many offerings in order to share information and build communities.

A couple stranded in London had quite a tale and decided to spread their story through a Facebook group titled When Volcanoes Erupt: A Survival Guide for Stranded Travelers. The group enables stranded passengers to share stories and offer advice. It currently has more than 1,600 members. The most popular hashtags among stranded passengers include #ridesharing, #getmehome and #putmeup.

Major airliners including United Airlines and British Airways are also turning to social media channels in order to reach their customers and keep them up-to-date on the latest information. Customers are very helpful in sharing this information by retweeting, enabling news to spread more rapidly.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg traveled to Washington, DC last week for the Nuclear Summit. According to Mashable, he is still stuck in the nation’s capital. Stoltenberg’s press secretary said he is “running the Norwegian government from the U.S. on his new iPad.”

For a couple stuck in Dubai on the day of their London wedding, modern technology enabled them to carry on with their nuptials while their family observed the event from London via webcam.

From the Haiti and Chinese earthquakes to the Iceland volcanic eruption, we are learning just how valuable social media and innovative technology can truly be.

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Weekly #9: Kenya’s Voices

Global Voices is a wonderful community of nearly 200 bloggers that work to translate and share social media commentary from around the world. Its mission is to “aggregate, curate and amplify the global conversation online – shining a light on places and people other media often ignore.” The community abides by a manifesto, which outlines its belief in free speech: the right to speak and the right to listen. The site provides online training, tutorials and open source tools for people around the world to use safely to express their views.

Site visitors can search for content by geographic location (country or region) as well as by topic area. I specifically studied the various blog postings related to Kenya. Two particular stories are featured on the top of the page that have completely different topics. The first discusses a massive flash flood, which hit the northern part of the country and destroyed tourist lodges and wildlife research camps. The second story focused on transparency in technology. Approximately three blog posts related to Kenya are added each month. The community is incredibly  active in commenting and expressing their viewpoints.

The site is a great way for people to stay updated on interesting news from around the globe. Users can sign up to receive weekly summaries of news articles via e-mail. Global Voices also manages a Twitter feed @globalvoices, a Facebook page and a YouTube channel to further engage the community.

According to Quantcast, the site has 58,800 unique monthly visitors. Twenty four percent of which are located within the United States. The site predominantly attracts a male audience that is highly educated and of Asian descent.

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Response #1: Facebook Invades South Park

I absolutely adore South Park. The only other show that makes me laugh just as hard is Curb Your Enthusiasm. I always say that if I could spend the day with anyone, I would choose to be in the company of Larry David.

I read a few days ago on Mashable that the South Park creators wrote an episode on Facebook entitled, “You Have 0 Friends.” Naturally, I had to check it out. I just finished watching the episode online and must say it was absolutely brilliant. The writers did a fantastic job mocking the social networking site and shedding a light on just how superficial it truly is. They also ridiculed FarmVille players effectively, featuring a boy complaining that he did not have enough friends to fertilize his crops.

Gawker created a list of the top annoyances of Facebook that the episode covered:

  • The moment your friends annoyingly pressured you into joining
  • The moment your parents join, become obsessed, and take your ignorance of their profiles seriously
  • The moment your significant other starts trolling your profile and realizes that you haven’t changed your relationship status
  • The moment you realize that you have a friend who cares more about FarmVille than life itself
  • The moment people who don’t actually know you in real life think that they do and take online interactions—or a lack of them—personally

I highly encourage you to watch the episode for a good laugh. You can view it here. I’m going to sign in to Facebook now and add Kip, Stan, Kyle and Kenny as friends. I gotta keep my friend count up.

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Weekly #8: The Credibility of News

Seated on a stool, propped up at the perfect height behind an ironing board, which was used as her pretend news desk, the young girl cleared her throat and spoke into her hand-held microphone,  “We are on in three, two, one.  Live from K-L Studios this is Katie reporting today’s latest news.”

You guessed it. That young girl was me – imitating my favorite newscaster, repeating what I heard or creating my own version of what was happening in the world. Those carefree hours, spent in what my mom would call “unceasing chatter,” eventually led me to where I am today.

After getting into the journalism school at the University of Wisconsin, I interned on the assignment desk at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis and later as a reporter intern at NBC 15 in Madison, where I wrote stories for nightly newscasts. I quickly learned that the broadcast world wasn’t for me. I had seen enough community fundraisers, rummage sales and car accidents. I also didn’t want to start my career in Podunk, USA and spend years waiting for a big break. That’s what eventually convinced me to jump the fence and pursue a career in public relations. After five years in the field, I’m confident to say I made the right choice.

In last week’s class, I learned that being a certified journalist is no easy endeavor. In order to be considered a “journalist,” a person must:

  • Earn more than half of their income through journalistic enterprises
  • Be independent, non-partisan and not lobby Congress
  • Be supported by advertising or subscriptions
  • Have published work dating back more than 18 months

In light of this definition, never let anyone tell you that a blogger is a journalist. Bloggers after all, are bloggers, unless they meet the requirements outlined above. If they don’t, they are simply just another man on the street about to be targeted for an interview by a local news crew.

The same goes for Wikipedia. There is no way for an encyclopedia junkie to have more facts about a story than an on-the-ground news team. While Wikipedia can be a great aggregate of reported information, I think it’s more valuable after the fact as a research tool. I’d never think to log on to Wikipedia for breaking news. That’s what CNN and all the other news outlets are for. Perhaps that’s just the news junkie in me.

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