How Campaign Communication Technology Works

By: Dave Roos

Campaigning as a Multimedia Experience

Candidates can send notifications directly to voters. Photo courtesy Dreamstime
Candidates can send notifications directly to voters.Photo courtesy Dreamstime

Besides blogging, candidates are also using online videos and electronic notifications to reach voters.


More than half of U.S. households are expected to have high-speed, broadband Internet access by the end of 2007 [source:]. Significant broadband penetration has turned the Web into a truly multimedia experience. As of February 2007, 21 million Americans say they've watched a political video clip online [source: Pew Internet & American Life Study].


All the 2008 presidential candidate Web sites include video clips of some kind, and many have regularly updated online “TV channels” devoted to behind-the-scenes footage of the candidate. The goal, once again, is to make the candidate feel accessible to the voter and to allow the candidate to broadcast his message without going through conventional media channels.

Two of the larger social networking sites have partnered with cable TV broadcasters to find new interactive ways to use online video. CNN and YouTube have sponsored a debate series (first Democrats, then Republicans) in which YouTube members can submit video questions that will be answered by the candidates. The debates were broadcast live on CNN and streamed live online. MySpace and MTV will host similar candidate dialogues that will be streamed live on MySpaceTV, as well as broadcast on MTV. Home viewers can submit questions through instant messaging, e-mail or text messaging.

Several presidential candidates have also held online town halls on their Web sites. In these events, the candidate might be in an actual town hall location like Ames, Iowa, but also answering questions via e-mail or online message board posts. The event is streamed live on the candidate’s Web site and archived for future viewing.

Electronic Notifications

When you visit the campaign Web sites of the 2008 presidential candidates, many of them first direct you to a splash page where you’re asked to enter your e-mail address. You can bypass this step by clicking on a link (usually much smaller) saying “Go directly to”

Clearly, the candidates and their communications directors believe that e-mail is an important campaign communications tool. By voluntarily entering your e-mail address into one of these candidate sites, you agree to receive newsletters, announcements, alerts, calls for donations and other messages from the campaign staff.

E-mail is a type of electronic notification. Electronic notifications are any type of automated communications sent by phone, e-mail, text message or fax.

A new feature of several campaign Web sites is the ability to sign up to receive text messages via cell phone from the campaign staff of your favorite candidate. The mobile section of presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign site allows you to sign up for specific text messages based on key issues such as health, education, Iraq, jobs and reform. Obama’s site also allows you to download wallpaper for your cell phone and even Obama ringtones.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan and Princeton University found that people who received a text message the day before an election were 4 to 5 percent  more likely to vote [source: New Voters Project]. Text messages are also incredibly cheap when compared with other “Get Out the Vote” techniques like door-to-door canvassing or direct mail. According to the report, text messaging costs $1.56 per vote generated compared with $67 for direct mail.

Now let’s move away from Web site campaign communications to talk about how the telephone is being used to get the word out to voters.