Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,

Obama's grassroots internet advantage

It looks like my research on how Obama's website was doing relative to Hillary's was correct. Obama definitely has had the edge thus far as the internet is concerned, and the latest fundraising information confirms that.

Obama raised almost the same amount as Hillary so far in 2007... at least $25 million. Obama's campaign said it had more than 100,000 donors and raised $6.9 million over the Internet while Clinton had half as many donors and drew in $4.2 million via the Internet.

So, if Clinton had 50,000 donors and raised $26 million, that means that her donors gave an average of $520 so far... with the likelihood of more to come... whereas Obama raised about half as much per person from twice as many people.

Compare these fundraising totals to Howard Dean, who ranked first in total funds raised ($25.4 million as of Sept. 30, 2003) and first in cash-on-hand ($12.4 million) of the Democratic candidates in the last election. These fundraising totals are much larger and earlier than in the last election, and are roughly on par with to that of George W. Bush, who by that date had raised $84.6 million.

To me, the question is whether Obama will be able to capitalize on his larger base of grassroots support to clearly surpass Hillary's efforts. I hope/think he can, but we'll have to see. 

Meanwhile, looking at the latest trends on site traffic, it appears that Hillary's website has picked up in the race, pulling even with Obama's. Curious about how this is happening, I did a bit of searching to see what is behind this. Turns out that it's primarily her use of online petitions and polls. She has one encouraging the president not to veto Congress' latest Iraq budget, which contains a timeline for withdrawl, for example, and she also has one encouraging Alberto Gonzales to step down. What many visitors probabaly aren't expecting when they sign these petitions is that they're also signing up to be targeted with campaign spam for the next 19 months.

Indeed, Hillary's website seems to be all about getting people's contact information. Visiting the site for the first time brings up a splash screen whose sole function is to get people to sign up as a supporter, whereas a visit to Obama's website brings you straight to the main page.

As much as I, as a user, prefer the experience of not being so aggressively targeted, I, as a person with a more-than-passing interest in usability and design, suspect that this technique will be helpful to her campaign, though it is likely to result in more people "signed up", but who are, on average, less motivated to support her campaign.

Looking at the traffic ratings for both sites, I see a kind of lowlevel buzz on each site, indicative of regular daily traffic and of volunteers doing their thing, interspersed with some big peaks in visitors, driven by things like videos, petitions, etc. To me, this seems to be the new point of campaign websites. They should ALWAYS have a new, active, populist campaign, urging people to do something, because the goal is to keep the surges as constant as possible, in the hope that the overall buzz -- the day-to-day work of the volunteers -- will respond and pick up accordingly.

The question is, at what point is this overkill? How many times can you beat a dead horse? If the track record for politics in general is any indicator, you have to assume that's a pretty high number...

So, basically the future of political campaigns appears to be what we've already seen on LJ for years. An emphasis on user polls, petitions, memes, online quizzes, music, and things you can stick on your website, at the price of having a lesser focus on actual, useful content. If you want to compete in the future, you're going to have to be dragged -- sometimes kicking and screaming -- to play by the new rules.

I've seen the future of presidential elections, and it looks a lot like MySpace.
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