A winner in last night’s primary

Posted September 15th, 2010 in Uncategorized by Jeff Bentoff

With all the chatter about new media overtaking old, the primary election for Wisconsin’s 7th Senate District demonstrated that print and other forms of old media are still holding office.

In fact, my house received a record number – in the dozens – of flyers and postcards, large and small, fancy and funny, caustic and colorful, mostly from front groups for or against the candidates.  The Photoshopping was typically done in a campy style that made the candidates look variously like a criminal, the author of a self-help book, even a king.  I had to laugh. I also got tons of autodial calls. These weren’t funny because by nature such calls are just so annoying. And TV ads ran in the race.

But there wasn’t much Senate primary chatter in my social media world, almost none. Nothing like I saw from the traditional media and communication methods.

If new media is king, what gives?

The prevalence of mailed lit and robocalls stemmed from the need of campaigns to target voters in a primary. I vote every election, even in obscure primaries. So candidates in this primary knew I’d vote, and they made sure, over and over, to get their message to me. They’re willing to spend money on me since I’m going to the polls either way. And some of my neighbors based on history weren’t voting, so dollars weren’t wasted on them. (In multiple ways, targeting is much harder on TV, where statewide and national electoral fights mainly take place, but the districts in this race were big enough to make some TV ads useful.)

Why less influence of new media? The candidates couldn’t rely just on my Facebook friends, the tweeters I follow or the bloggers I read to get their message to me on a local race that’s not of general interest – a state Senate primary. There was no way they could generate a chorus of genuine friends to influence me. My friends didn’t seem to care, at least I didn’t hear much about the race in my social media circles, and frankly, I wasn’t looking for their input.

So one of the winners last night was the traditional means of communicating. Though I’m betting that just like with a state Senate seat, this incumbent can’t hang on forever.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Paul Holley says:

    Jeff: I think there was more political social media activity than you realize. It was selectively aimed at campaign volunteers, supporters, donors, etc.
    For example, the Walker campaign was Tweeting a lot. You could see it pop up on Wis Politics from time to time. In my community, a first-time legislative candidate established an email database and emailed alerts about upcoming campaign events, volunteer opps, etc. Candidates are also using Facebook fan pages to connect w-supporters.
    As you correctly pointed out, none of this shows up to the casual observer.
    But give it time (probably another cycle or so.) Social media will eventually become the new lit drop.


  2. uwmryan says:

    Good post. I actually thought Barrett did a great job with his YouTube advertising campaign. Though I find that type of advertising extreemly annoying, I couldn’t escape them from popping up for 10-20 seconds before every video I wanted to watch.

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