Barack “Web 2.0” Obama will win the 2008 U.S. presidential elections by a landslide.
A week ago, after writing an article on why Catholics could vote for Obama, I was intrigued at the wealth of information I found on the topic on the Web. Then after watching the endorsement of Colin Powell of Obama, I was further intrigued. I Googled keywords one wouldn’t expect to be related such as “Republicans supporting Obama,” “conservatives for Obama,” “Joe the Plumber supports Obama,” or “Joe Six-packer for Obama,” and so on. The Google results were overwhelming. The articles were likewise witty and humorous. I thought there was something going on here. The blizzard of favorable endorsements of Obama and Obama’s sticky presence online seemed to point to what Malcolm Gladwell has famously labeled as the tipping point. The other phenomena that seemed to be jumping out was Chris Anderson’s long tail, wherein, to stretch his definition further, many people were writing about different aspects of Obama. Importantly, Obama supporters were doing the research on issues and counterpunching for him.
Notwithstanding the tsunami of polls indicating a surge for Obama, Web 2.0 analyses also indicate this observation. In fact, one internet marketing website predicted as early as June 2008 that Obama would win. An Irish bookie has even started paying out bets on an Obama win to the tune of $1.5M.
Web 2.0, coined by Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle, generally refers to how we think of and use the worldwide web and the internet as a platform of activities such as communications, information generation and dissemination, education, social networking, social media, and marketing, among others. Web 2.0 harnesses community and collective intelligence and enables a “richer user-experience.” It encourages the user to innovate. It is powerfully egalitarian because diversity and uniqueness are appreciated and valued
It becomes even more powerful when online activity translates into real world action in creative ways.
The Obama campaign has achieved this.
Here are some crude numbers and observations.
Obama has a significant online presence. Google his name and you will get 79M page results. Google John McCain and you have 18.9M page results only or 4x less. Obama’s slogan “Change we can believe in” resulted in an even larger 97.4M page results. “Sarah Palin” returned 43.7M page results compared to “Joe Biden” with 20M. However, the first two pages summarizing the results had websites that weren’t favorable to her.
Obama has a significant online community. In the rapidly expanding social networking site Facebook, Obama has nearly 4x more supporters at 2.24M compared to McCain’s 595,167 supporters. In the older MySpace, Obama again has 4x more friends at 771,493 compared to McCain’s 195,017. In comparing what goes on in their respective Facebook pages, Obama’s page again is more active with 463,890 wall posts and 1,664 notes compared to 118,199 wall posts and 125 notes for McCain. McCain though has a discussion section containing 6,108 discussion topics, while Obama has no such section.
However, there is a parallel Facebook group and website called Barack Obama (One Million Million Strong for Barack) with 835,271 members, 54,783 discussion topics, and even 4,221 pictures posted.
Obama is sticky online. By sticky, we mean content online either gets us to return to the website or it gets our attention. Obama is not only sticky but his online reputation is positive. On the widely successful video sharing website YouTube for example Obama video results numbered 571,000 to McCain’s 176,000. Palin video results numbered 90,700 compared to Joe Biden’s 32,100. If one takes the negative aspect, anti-Obama videos have 410 compared to McCain’s 229. Anti-Palin resulted in 95, while anti-Biden resulted in two videos. However, there are anti -Republican groups that consistently upload informative and critical GOP videos. One active group is Brave New Films which has 880 video results. “Joe the plumber” had video results 3,430 of various slants. “Joe six pack” had video results 740, again of various slants.
The Tech President website, which provides some of the most useful Web 2.0 analyses of the election campaign notes that Obama has a whopping 85,082,123 YouTube views compared to McCain’s 22,598,936. In addition, Obama racked up a humongous 14,548,809.05 viewing hours compared to McCain’s 488,093.01 hours. PCWorld has noted that YouTube videos are ‘kinder’ to Obama .
Obama’s website according to Hitwise, an internet research company, has a 67.19% market share compared to McCain’s 32.81%.
Obama is even the "Brand of the Year" awardee as declared by Advertising Age/Ad age.
In what online cave is McCain living in these days?
Online to real line
Obama has better leveraged Web 2.0 in myriad ways.
The Obama movement. Obama supporters from Facebook to Myspace to those who registered at MyObama have demonstrated their support with the best indicator, money. David Plouffer, the Obama campaign manager reported that 632,000 new donors donated quite a big part of the $150M raised during the month of September 2008, bringing the total number of those who have donated to more than 3.1 million. According to him, the average amount of the donations is $86. Two significant observations are; many are repeat donors and many are probably doing more than just donating. Take a look at the MyObama website . Not only does it ask for donations, it provides the online tools to do other campaign related actions in the real world including networking through its Neighbor-to-Neighbor initiative . Thus, unlike McCain’s or even earlier, Clinton’s, Obama’s campaign is highly interactive, not only online, but offline as well. The creativity is astounding. Can someone email this Obama tax-calculator to Joe the plumber and Republican supporters to see how much taxes they’ll be paying? Community organizing, derided by Giuliani and Palin, is coming back to haunt the GOP. Obama directly has at least 1.5 million active volunteers that generate 400,000 voter contacts a day.
Obama the counterpuncher movement. The movement that the Obama campaign has spawned is engaged in a variety of activities. One overlooked activity is counterpunching . By counterpunching, I refer to how Obama supporters are responding to and proactively strategizing in quad-media (radio, TV, press, Web) the Rovian sleaze, smear, scare tactics.
Obama leaning websites have documented and MAPPED interactively the hows, whys, and number of McCain's negative attacks. They’ve deconstructed and showed what’s wrong with this tactic and have generated an increasingly negative view of the McCain strategy. The 4.2M member political movement MoveOn.org has played a tremendous, creative, fundraising, networking and so important part in the get-the-vote out and organizing for Obama. For its final push it has at least 100,000 volunteers organizing parties wherein the attendees will do campaign calls and other related actions. Peter Daou has documented the rise of what is popularly called netroots and how the sector has influenced the narratives of the traditional media, especially in painting a favorable image of Obama.
Go for the heart and the wallet will follow. Reminiscent of Gawad Kalinga’s message of hope, faith-based, heroic, and servant action, the fundraising power of Obama reflects the resonance that Americans have for the message of hope and change that Obama espouses. As David Brooks noted, the fundamentals are there for Obama. The debacle of the Bush administration, the indiscretions of Republicans, the rising wealth gap, the slide into poverty of many Americans, and the environmental crisis are realities that need to be addressed. Obama’s campaign seeks to address these issues. McCain insists on fighting and continuing a destructive economic program with environmental consequences. Even his pro-life platform is contested. Fundamentally, Obama presents an even tempered, dedicated, and passionate president-to-be similar to the David Palmer character in the hugely successful 24 Fox tv series. McCain comes out as McNasty. The message of positive change and hope will most often resonate with people. That is how humans are wired. Lastly, favorable stories generate favorable stories. All these has resulted in Obama raising $600M.
Mobilize-organize, organize-mobilize. The Obama rallies from the primaries, overseas, to the Democratic convention, to the massive, massive rallies in red states are very impressive. It reminds me of much earlier political mobilizations. The Cory Aquino campaign, People Power I, and People II, which I witnessed all had the same energy, mobilization, and level of organization ultimately led to the ousting of Marcos first and Erap Estrada second. The same dynamics are unfolding and I am confident that McCain will lose this elections. People resonate with Obama and his campaign messages. Everyday people are getting more comfortable with him. His big ears and his awk-awful-ward dance steps are endearing him to people. He is surrounded with a bevy of competent and articulate campaign workers and backstopped by decentralized, but passionate and skillful netroots.
Plus, what social scientists call elite cleavages have transformed into a gushing rush to the Obama campaign. Big donors and bigwigs in a number of sectors have publicly supported him. Google, Buffet, Oprah, the onslaught of newspaper endorsements, the Clinton power couple, the Kennedy clan, George Soros, and the Republican defections, signal wide top societal support of Obama.
Numbers in. The online world has given us the opportunity to look at trends and polling on the election. All reflect a rout of McCain. The polling blog FiveThirtyEight.com which simulates the election 10,000 times a day using different polls asserts an Obama win. Website owner Nate Silver says that early voting is trending Obama. New registrants will most like vote and will vote Obama. Enthusiasm levels are higher for Democrats then Republicans. Minority groups of various stripes-remember the immigrant scapegoating and gay-bashing?- are turning up for Obama. Heck, even kids mock-voted for Obama.
Another website, 3BlueDudes, albeit leaning Democrat, lists and presents the various polls and projections on the election . Again, most are favoring Obama.
Since the 2004 campaigns and elections, the internet and Web have played an increasingly critical role. Obama, following Dean’s lead, has fully embraced it. McCain’s campaign hasn’t and it reflects the wide gulf separating them, not only on the power of the internet, but on fundamental issues of character, temperament, economic and social policies, as well as foreign policies.
Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the United States on November 5, 2008.
As Dr. Noel Flores of Chicago noted; "IT will be historic."