The Democratic National Convention was full of phenomenal events geared toward delegates, staffers, activists, volunteers, supporters, traditional media and bloggers. Seeing everyone in one place together, moving from venue to venue, and sitting in on a wide range of panels that referenced the role of technology and new media in campaigns, it became apparent that people are getting on board. Perhaps it’s slower progress than we would like, but it is probably the most realistic pace we can expect.
Bloggers still came across as a novelty to TV media. As Mary Rickles of Netroots Nation put it, the mainstream media is still “in awe” of the blogosphere. and some convention goers and The Big Tent gained a lot of attention. One person pointed-out to Raven Brooks that as Dan Rather was upstairs on the DIGG stage speaking about how traditional media isn’t covering as much real news, Katie Couric was downstairs doing a story about the Google smoothies (which were, by the way, quite excellent and a great idea after all of the running around we were doing). It seemed that getting into The Big Tent had become almost as big a deal as snagging coveted Hall passes at the convention center. The Big Tent was a great respite for technology, nonprofit and new media crowd and we loved it.
Inside the Pepsi Center and the Invesco Center, bloggers had special access and were provided the same resources as other reporters. Everyone was on laptops with cameras – it was difficult to tell who was writing for what. Still, it’s understandable why some bloggers were upset they couldn’t get in – national blogs had an easier time with the credential process, but statewide blogs had a smaller chance of being accepted. In terms of total media representation, bloggers still represent a larger piece of the pie than they received. Regarding the DNCC approving more bloggers in the future, Brooks said, “they have a long way to go, but that’s why things like The Big Tent exist.”
Outside the official DNCC events, both The Big Tent and the New Democrats Network put on some great panels. Not everyone in the audience was part of the usual netroots and tech politics crowd, which was good – it means more people are there to learn. However, some of the questions showed that they still have a learning curve to travel.
Youth-oriented organizations, Rock the Vote and Mtv Street Team, clearly get it – they have been employing a blend of technology, music and media to reach out to voters aged 18 to 35 in GOTV (Get Out The Vote) efforts. Rock the Vote is partnering with a mobile program to engage younger voters more actively in politics via cell phones. WomenCount.org launched this week, using the adage that they are “the Moveon.Org for women” in order to drive home that they are pushing platform issues as well as candidates strongly based on online tactics.
More candidates seem to understand the power of the Internet as well. Scott Kleeb’s campaign for Senate looks to be doing a good job translating online to field efforts, as more national candidates are doing each election. Talking with people at various events or in line to events, the average person understood blogging technology and how blogs work; however, most people still aren’t on board with social networking software like Facebook or Twitter – at least not to a level that might provide a competitive advantage and most people don’t yet even grasp how powerful email can be as a campaign tool.
Given generational issues, the digital divide and traditional technology learning curves, it could easily take another ten to twenty years before the maverick strategies employed by the Obama campaign online become standard fare in local and statewide elections, but on the national level, the movement that caught fire with Dean for America now has some serious traction. The next four years will show us how much.
Originally published on the FutureCampaigns blog.