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Setting The Record Straight

At the Politics Online conference yesterday, a number of people questioned some of my comments on this site as well as The general theme was “You seem to spend a lot of time beating up on McCain”. I was asked why I don’t give equal criticism to Romney, Giuliani, and the other GOP candidates.

To set the record straight, I would love to treat all of them equally, but the simple fact is the others simply aren’t doing anything. Other than MittTV, which I have beat up on for it’s reliance on a sender/receiver model of communication, the other GOP Presidential hopefuls are doing very little online that even attempts to innovate.

Mitt’s team is entirely driven by money right now (which I expect to change with the hiring of my former deputy Mindy Finn). Giuliani’s campaign is apparently still building a website (and frankly I’m not sure how much longer they can get by with brochureware.) Brownback (digging into the lower tier) has a remarkably unremarkable website that seems to be designed for no other purpose than the distribution of press releases.

I’d love to assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of the campaigns and their online operations. Unfortunately, only McCain is attempting new things.

The fact that I think those things fall short should not be taken as a disparaging view of what McCain’s doing. To the contrary, I think he is engaging in some interesting tactics, but they seem to be technology for technology’s sake. They should rely less on technology and more on marketing. The “Brackets” contest is a great example.

Someone commenting on TechPresident made the point that visitors should be allowed to compete not only against the candidate, but also against each other. That’s exactly right.

A successful website typically includes some mix of three things – community, competition, and personality. To be interesting, you really need two of the three. To be very successful, you really need some measure of all three. YouTube is a perfect example. The videos provide personality, the “most viewed” provides the competition, and the comments and user generated nature of it provide the community.

Look at any destination site and you will see some measure of all three facets.

McCain is a personality. The brackets idea is interactive. What is missing is the competition.

All across America, office pools for March Madness are heating up. Would anyone join a bracket pool if it consisted of them and one other person? No. It would be stupid. The trash talk among colleagues and intense rivalry of it is what makes it fun. It’s not fun if it’s just one guy telling another guy he’s a loser.

As I have said, I don’t believe that “beat John McCain” is the best message for a campaign to send when they are behind in the polls. It’s demoralizing. However, if McCain is merely one participant in a much greater “bracket pool” for his supporters, that message is diluted.

Are any of the other GOP candidates doing anything as compelling to attract supporters? No. Should McCain be applauded for providing something more than an expensive brochure online? Yes. Is he getting it right? I don’t believe he is. Could he be? Yes, with little effort.

Until someone else does something, a critique of McCain’s efforts is all I can offer… That and a stern rebuke to the other campaigns for doing so little…

Written by Michael Turk