Ron Paul

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 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.


What if the Primary Candidates were Consoles?

Gigaom posted witty a piece comparing the Primary Candidates of the Democrats to game consoles:

Barack Obama is the Nintendo Wii: The multi-racial candidate who was first dismissed by Washington insiders for not having enough power or third-party backers — but has gone on to draw immense popularity, not just from hardcore party faithful, but from the young and old, independents and Republicans alike. Instantly appealing like the Wii, Obama is popular not because of his library of policies, but because he is changing the way the game is played.

Hillary Clinton is the Microsoft Xbox 360: Backed by the most money, seen as a reliable and established brand, Hillary appeals most to the Democratic base, much the same way the 360 is most popular with hardcore gamers. Transitioning from her husband’s Xbox era, she offers not revolutionary change but steady, reliable content.

John Edwards is the Playstation 3: Formerly the Democratic frontrunner of the previous generation, Edwards now offers a greatly enhanced library of positions with far more ideological power — which few except Edwards’ die-hard fanboys seem to be buying. Unsurprisingly, the candidates are now polling about the same as their next-gen analogs are currently selling, with the Wii capturing 44 percent of the vote, the 360 pulling in 36 percent, and the PS3 trailing far behind with 20 percent.

Of course one might want to add some qualifications here and there, e.g. the public eventually realising that only changing the way the game is played might not be enough – just like Wii might face a difficult 2008 once everybody has one and the content comes to the foreground. Nevertheless: Both cases, Wii and Obama, show the public's tremendous desire for change from the status quo. Also Hillary 360 Clinton is actually more revolutionary than her Wii counterpart on a couple of issues, especially socialised medicine. Still funny and though provoking stuff though.

One commentator of the piece linked Ron Paul to old school Nintendo games. I'd rather like to think of him as early 80s Atari: old school and half visionary, half crazy.


The Ron Paul WoW March: Preaching to the Converted

What I find most interesting about Ron Paul is how massive internet support does not translate into mainstream success. And I doubt that stunts like the recent World of Warcraft rally will change anything about this interesting imbalance. One of the reasons being that despite its apparent popularity, WoW is simply anything but mainstream – as a game based on a subscription service with its own codes and vocabulary it certainly isn't accessible to a large part of the population (= the ones on the other side of the digital divide, people not interested in MMORPGs etc.). Even if the rationale behind the march was to receive mainstream media coverage, it is likely that it would have been too cryptic for the people beyond the constituency that is going to vote for him in any event.

As a commentator on gamepolitics remarks:

… I think this was the wrong venue, and a badly misguided idea, if for no other reason than Ron Paul is already regarded as the crazy candidate, and having a bunch of warlocks and mages and gnomes marching in support doesn’t make him look any more sane to the mainstream.

What's left is a unique, self-congratulatory stunt, that would have been more interesting if the march would have been raided (to the confined group of WoW-adherents anyway) – and certainly did not pushed the envelope in utilizing a game space for political means since it didn't take advantage of the unique qualities of games (namely their simulational nature). Had Paul's supporters created a Facebook application that explained his agenda in the form of a game all the while being as accessible as Scrabulous (according to Level Up the most important game of 2007 – "a game that most people know with a well-populated community of people with whom users have a real-world connection") we'd be talking.