Obama, Ron Paul and the Long Tail of Web Campaigning

(From Espen's department)My friend Malte directed my attention me to a piece on ReadWriteWeb regarding an article on TechPresident titled Barack Obama and the Long Tail of Politics.

In it Central Desktop CEO Isaac Garcia applies Chris Anderson's famous Long Tail theory to the campaign of US presidential hopeful Barack Obama He argues that Barack Obama, and to a lesser extent Ron Paul, have built campaigns on the back of the Long Tail of political interest in the US.

Both Barack Obama and Ron Paul managed to raise an impressive amount of money over the Internet - out of the record $32 million that Obama raised in January, $28 million was via the Internet, and 90% from small donations under $100 each.

Says ReadWriteWeb:

"That's a whole new paradigm for fundraising," we wrote. "Rather than chase $2,300 checks from a few hundred rich people at lavish fundraisers (okay, they still do that), campaigns can more easily focus on collecting thousands of smaller donations from regular people that add up to the same amount (or more)."

"The rise of the Obama Campaign tells us that Scale Matters. It means that The Long Tail is validated (in politics at least)," says Garcia. "It also means that size doesn't matter after all; rather, it is the quantity that matters. Scale Matters."

That's an important point, and echoes what we said earlier this month about the paradigm shift in political fundraising. The Internet has allowed campaigns to tap into the Long Tail of politics for fundraising and organizing. Obama and Paul are attracting people to the political process who have never participated before, and while their message and rhetoric has a lot to do with that, it is the web tools that have enabled it and allowed it to happen.

They trace the origin of these efforts to Howard Dean's 2004 project Meetup.com which served to stimulate a grassroots movement; something that has developed furhter in the age of Web 2.0 with the use of services like Facebook, Myspace, Youtube or Reddit and is advanced by Obama's spearheads being tech-savvy high school and college students, and recent grads, who are for the first time in recent history being drawn into the active political process

Continues ReadWriteWeb

"It is technology that is driving the grassroots effort in such a fast and scalable fashion for these new campaigns," writes Garcia. "By enabling users and donors to contribute their dollars, content and time through online tools the speed and efficiency in which these efforts grows takes on a network effect that accelerates campaigns quicker than ever. In many ways, its the network effect of user participation and user empowerment that is driving the Obama campaign."

New software has created a political landscape where voters feel more connected to candidates and each other than every before. Citizens are able to participate in the political process on a personal level more easily as a result of web 2.0.

Because of that development, political campaigns in 2008 are able to tap a previously unreachable Long Tail of voters (or potential voters). What Obama and Paul are tapping into also echoes the commentary Alex Iskold made about the Long Tail of the blogosphere last November. "You can make money on the Long Tail but not in the Long Tail. The precise point of Anderson's argument is that it is a collective of the Long Tail amounts to substantial dollars because the volume is there," he wrote.