[In progress]After discussing their new jobs, Dennis Haarsager, interim CEO of National Public Radio, asked members of the opening panel at ContentNext's EconSM conference the way social media has influenced the participation of the electorate in this year's national political campaigns.
-- Betsy Morgan, CEO, The Huffington Post: "It's not unusal to have 1,000 comments on a campaign story, so people are much more engaged with online politics than four years ago."
-- Leonard Brody, Co-founder and CEO, NowPublic: News used to be something that was reported, now there's a feedback loop - it's reported, it's commented upon and then reported on again.
-- Micah Sifry, Co-founder and Editor, Personal Democracy Forum/TechPresident: Voter-generated content is the wild card of electon '08. Campaigns have lost control - some are more aware and better at dealing with this reality than others. What hasn't changed: the horse-race aspect. Although the internet creates more room for substantive discussions, it doesn't happen as much as focusing on the trivial aspects of a political campaigning. The Obama campaign is 37-minutes long - his speech on race - that makes me hopeful that there will room for real content over soundbites.
-- Chuck DeFeo, VP and GM, Townhall.com and Salem News/Talk Online: YouTube didn't exist in 2004. When we created a web video, it was designed to have the TV networks play it over and over again. The Swift Boat Veterans spent a few hundred thousand dollars four years ago. They wouldn't have to spend as much today. It's now about the power to communicate and being creative.
-- New tools: Sifry: The lesson is that it pays to invest in building a network instead of building a list. Clinton campaign has learned that lesson hard. But not much organic social media being built for the McCain campaign. You need to allow your supporters to fundraise for you and get the word out. That's become an essential part of campaigning. Morgan adds: Every place a candidate speaks is a forum for blogging. You can't step out your door and not expect that what you say and do will not be talked about. DeFeo, who worked on the 2004 Bush re-election campaign, noted that the ultimate currency is not dollars, it's votes. There's no PayPal for votes, you have to do that offline. We didn't want you congregating on Bush.com, we wanted you to do it offline. The last thing we wanted you to do was to create a blog. We would have rather someone spent their limited time manning a phone bank.
By David Kaplan