I found this story to be interesting, but also frustrating. Why would 60% of Capitol Hill’s “twitterverse” be composed of Republican members? Why would House Republicans send 5 times as many Tweets as their Democratic counterparts, and 35% more in the Senate? Why would 89% of of Congressional Republicans have their own YouTube channels, compared to just 74% for Democrats? Also, 8 of the top 10 most viewed and most subscribed channels are from the Republicans?
Part of this GOP dominance is that, as Dave Weigel says, the party out of power has more to protest. Thus, when George W. Bush was in office, the Democratic netroots grew by leaps and bounds. Today, with Republicans out of power, the “rightosphere” also appears to be growing fast, while the “leftosphere” appears to be falling behind. Part of it is also money: Newt Gingrich says that campaigns should spend as much money on new media as for radio and television. Instead, what we saw in 2009 was striking; according to techPresident:
…Deeds was simply outmatched online by McDonnell and the web of consultants he reached out to — and funded — throughout the course of the campaign. It’s a disparity that grew worse as the Deeds campaign struggled to the finish line, and advisors with the Democratic campaign poured more money into the more traditional mediums of television and radio. In the first three weeks of October, for example, Deeds poured more than $3 million into television and radio ads. According to Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) filings, Deeds dedicated just over $117,000 or so to online politicking through late October.
In other words, Deeds spent on TV in the campaign’s closing weeks alone more than twenty five times what he dropped on the Internet and other digital efforts over the course of his entire bid for the governor’s mansion.
The point of this isn’t to pick on the Deeds campaign, per se. Instead, this seems to be a major, and common, failing among Democratic candidates, state party organizations, and many others. The Republicans simply appear to “get it” online far better than Democrats, and also to be willing to put their money where their mouths are. Unfortunately, despite the fact that new media – blogs, social networking, YouTube, etc. – provides tremendous “bang for the buck,” many Democratic political consultants appear to remain mired in old ways of thinking, where raising money to spend much of it on broadcast TV and radio in the last couple weeks was the way to go. With advances in technology of all kinds, it’s not the way to go anymore, yet the model remains strikingly stagnant on the Democratic side. That needs to change, or no matter how much stronger Democrats’ message is, they’re not going to be able to translate that into victories at the polls.
P.S. As I wrote last November, a reasonable share for a campaign’s new media budget is around 10% of the campaign’s overall ad budget. The Deeds campaign spent about 1/10th or 1/20th of that (0.5%-1.0%). Part of this disparity results from political campaigns being run by the same people who’ve been running them for years, and these people tend do what they’ve always done – TV, direct mail, and not much else. In fact, from what I hear, these people don’t even understand cable TV, let alone “new media.” But hey, as long as those consultants are fat and happy, who cares if we actually win elections, right?