District 32 Online debate. Why?
Instead of trying to make a ripple, it’s better to catch a wave.

District 32 House Candidate Susan Nolan had a bite of earned press today in the Rapid City Journal from her proposal that the Republican and Democratic candidates in that District have an on-line “blog-like” debate forum in which candidates could answer questions.

You know, just like in a real forum:
"I think it's an exciting way to get us all involved, get us talking about issues. It's not just a sound bite. People can check in any time," Nolan said.

She her idea for the virtual debate involves a Web site where moderators and other people could pose questions that each of the candidates would answer.

Nolan said she will have a Web site, www.district32debate.com, set up Friday for the debate, if any of the other candidates accept her offer.

Hemmingsen said she would probably would.

"I will likely participate in it. I think it's a really unique idea and the only forum that I know of where we could have a sustained dialogue with all four candidates," she said. "I think it would be really interesting to voters."

Hanks and Dreyer were less inclined to accept the debate, although they said they hadn't discussed it in detail with Nolan, who left them phone messages about the issue.


Nolan said that even if only one of the candidates decides to participate, she will still have the virtual debate. She said she hasn't heard of any other virtual debates ever being held.
Read it all here.

While the website designed by DakotaQ design (affiliated with Dan Flynn, Frankenfeld Associates technical designer), is nice looking, I think there’s a good reason that no one is doing it.

Here you have a forum in which you’re going to have to make considerable promotional effort to gain participation for a short hour or so. And that’s effort in terms of volunteer time and promotional expense diverted from your campaign for a bunch of people who may or may not be your voters.

While it’s a noble idea to try to involve the sedentary and computer bound, I’d rather spend the time and money on polling or a lit drop or going door to door. In other words, I’d go with something that’s known to be effective, rather than a gimmick.

And one flaw which they identified in the article – there’s no sure way to know if a person is from your district. I’d also point out that the relative anonymity provided to participants almost guarantees that someone will probably misbehave or throw things off track.

You don’t think if I logged in representing myself as a member of the voting district, that if there’s true interactivity, I couldn’t have the discussion thrown off track in moments? After the first hundred “fart jokes” I can guarantee the whole thing would fall apart as the mildly interested would become the completely disinterested. You could even do that with legitimate questions if they weren’t answered to your liking. Just keep asking them. Over. And over, And over.

Ugh. At this point, let’s stick a stake in the heart of an “on-line state legislative candidate debate” and hope the idea stays dead. To me, this idea to make money off of candidates is a dud.

Which brings up a more important point. As people try to explore new ways to exploit the internet for campaigns, I think it’s more important to watch the trends in regular internet use than to try to come up with something new.

Candidate consultants need to spend less time trying to create a fad as much as trying to catch one as it whizzes by. And regardless of what the latest fad is, you still have to consider it in terms of time, expense, and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Campaign blogs vlogs, and parody sites are hot right now in campaigns because they’re designed primarily to convey a campaign message – and more importantly they reinforce the same message being put out in other media – brochures, broadcast, newspapers, press ops, direct mail, etc.

If I had a ridiculous amount of money, and wanted to do “something different” in order to prostitute the ‘net for my own campaign purposes, I’d try an on-line streaming broadcast for a candidate where a single candidate forum was being broadcast live in front of an audience (and I’d film it at the same time for commercials). Even then, I’m the first to call that idea marginal at best because it’s arguably of more utility for a statewide candidate to utilize than a legislative candidate because of the exposure and the expense.

Where am I placing my bets on the Internet for coming campaign use? In places such as SD where we’re just barely starting to scratch the surface, Websites and Blogs will continue to flourish, but watch for an emphasis to shift slightly from the written word to increased use of video.

Right now in South Dakota, we don’t get any farther than commercials being posted on-line. That’s going to continue, but with the advent of you-tube and other third party hosts, watch for campaign video segments produced strictly for the web.

You’ll also see increased interactivity for the web user. More flash animation and less HTML on the websites. When you click on the shoe in a candidate’s picture, it may come up with information on how many houses he’s walked, accompanied by video of it.

I haven’t seen a serious example in SD yet, but watch for websites devoted to negative campaigning against a single candidate. I’m not talking SD blogs which might have a candidate they like or dislike - I’m talking strictly "campaign against campaign" staying on message as a sole focus.

In the years ahead, for a well run statewide campaign, a technical team on top of things will become important. Of course, they’ll also being double duty as press assistants and database managers, but getting the message on-line quickly will be key.

I’ve looked in my crystal ball – what do you predict?


Anonymous said…
I predict this story is too long, and no one will read it.
Brad S said…

Did you see the Zucker-produced ad on Drudge that "GOP Strategists" stated would not be "seen" on TV? Rather hard hitting, if I do say so myself. And that ad is the future you describe: it doesn't even need to be on TV in order to spread its message.

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