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Candidates, New Media and Supporting the Blogsphere

by Stuart ONeill

Today’s candidates, for the most part we’ll use the Presidential candidates as an example, are aware of the powerful presence of the Blogsphere and, for lack of a better term, The Social Networking Sphere.

Each campaign has hired Online Coordinators, Bloggers and Strategists. We see the candidates themselves make posts from time to time. Their Campaign Bloggers we see in print more often.

The Campaign’s understand that the Campaign Blogger, (CB), isn’t a vehicle for releasing media advisories or news releases. The CB must be far more effective than simply another channel for news releases or event announcements. Most campaigns understand that the primary task of the CB is to create two way communication with the blog reader. This two way communication, far more effectively than in the past, gives the reader a greater sense of involvement in the campaign. It can, and does, become a very emotional attachment to the Candidate.

By and large, they’ve done a fair job of implementing that concept. Fair. Not great Fair.

So if they understand the importance of the Blogsphere and The Social Networking Sphere why aren’t they supporting, in return, the very medium that gives them, essentially, a free unlimited forum?

Well, first the reality of Blog Advertising:

Based on the last two cycles, we see that the candidates, Congressional and Presidential, will come to the blogs for ads in that last 6 weeks of the campaign. It is the time they need the most cash and the time they must drum up each and every voter.

They have not seen, yet, that their continuing advertising on affordable blogs is the best investment they can make for the dollar. Regardless of any other reason to invest money in the Blogs, simple effective self-interest should drive their involvement. While this can be detailed down to the Congressional, State and Local races, the Presidential elections must hit a balance between National advertising and Regional advertising. So let’s use their budgets for an example.

By Arbitron survey, here are some of the break downs for cost per thousand impressions:

* Radio (: 60 morning drive slot) $5.92
* Prime time network TV $11.31
* Newspaper (1/4 page BW) $11.66
* Prime time TV spot $20.54

The most expensive of blogs, excepting DKos, are over a $1.50 per thousand less than the radio spot above. Many cost less than $2.50 per thousand. Some are less than $1 per thousand.

With these numbers, campaigns can use their cash very effectively. They can target the inexpensive national blogs, the really cheap local blogs and the middle run blogs that cover the races both nationally and locally.

Using small amounts of cash, (small in the world of presidential races), can have a huge impact on the number of people that see the ads. More importantly from the blog owners point of view, it will help support the very platform of free media that the campaigns need to create the two way communication so important to any effort.

Using the Political Insiders Ad Network and picking 12 blogs, both large and small, as examples:
allocating $18,000 per month they would create 13,602,000 impressions over a 3 month period. With an advertising package of $4 per thousand impressions that have substantial geographic and demographic reach that is a good deal. Dig beneath the surface and it gets even better.

On a radio station or in a newspaper, the advertisement will occupy a specific time and place. On the radio it’s a specific time during the day. In a newspaper the advertisement occupies a specific placement on a specific day. Each advertisement’s effectiveness is constrained by the number of people that happen to be listening at that specific time or reading that specific page of the newspaper.

What are the primary differences in Blog ad placement that make the Blog ad more effective? The ad on the blog, with rare exceptions, appears on every page of the site. Wherever the visitor goes the advertisement is always creating a new impression. Regardless of the time or number of pages, the advertisement is in the readers eye.

Secondly, the Blog ad is always interactive and can lead the interested viewer to take another action. It is a communications funnel. It can, properly created, create a stickiness that leads the reader greater Candidate awareness and, perhaps, campaign involvement.

So again…Why Don’t the Candidates Consistently Support the Blogs?

It seems that the changing world of the Blogsphere has caught even the most talented Online Coordinators flat-footed. While they adapt to every technological change, social networking, on-demand video and the rest, they haven’t yet realized that their basic platform, the blogsphere, can’t always exist as a non-profit, volunteer enterprise.

Blog owners, who spend substantial time, effort and lost income to create and promote their blogs, are becoming weary of constantly fighting the good fight and not getting paid for it. For most their personal accounts shrink each month. There is talk of a substantial shrinking in well run Blog sites. Many of us simply have run through all our savings and must return to the ‘real world’. The political candidate loses a potential platform each time one of us shuts the door.

Online Coordinators are then going to realize that the Blogsphere must be financially supported. Once they accept that reality they will then have to convince the Communication offices. The Communications office will have to convince the Finance manager of the effectiveness of the expenditure. And the Strategist will have to brought on-board. They are used to spending money on TV and Radio. This will be a new constant tactic.

So why aren’t they supporting the Blogsphere with more advertising?

Because we, the owners of the Blogsphere, have been too willing to give it away for free. The reality of the publisher’s personal situation is hitting home for many owners. We have realized that we’ve created an entirely new platform that is helping elect politicians.

Secondly, we have never united and created a sales force that proactively sells our ads. BlogAds, the only well-known ad placement site, is a passive organization. Perhaps we need an aggressive ‘agency’.

Now that the campaigns understand the Blogsphere’s importance, this conversation about Blogsphere support is beginning to reach the campaigns. When Tim Tagaris, Eric Carbone, Peter Daou and Tracy Joan begin to reach up into their respective organizations perhaps one of them will find a receptive audience. [Truthfully, the second tier of Dodd and Biden should the be first campaigns to use their meager funds to make an impact that would be widely felt.]

If one….just one campaign took this concept to heart next week and made a widespread purchase of 3 month blog ad campaigns, the rest would follow within 30 days.

It’s just that simple. We have to sell one campaign and the rest will follow. It’s in their own best interest. That reality, their own rational self-interest, is the key factor in the sales campaign we must launch into the campaigns themselves.

(Many who read this article are involved in campaigns. Take it on yourselves to start the conversation. Don’t wait for someone else to do something…go for it.)

2 Responses to “Candidates, New Media and Supporting the Blogsphere”

  1. Stuart, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I can’t think of a word to add.

  2. Stuart

    Great post…I would like to see a wider conversation on this. Hopefully the campaign folks will get a clue.