Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jim Had His Chance .ca

Parties use the Internet to troll for voters
Aimed At Youth

David Akin,
National Post
September 09, 2008

OTTAWA - With no small amount of glee, Conservative party operatives -- usually young and mostly male -- have spent months assembling video footage of just about every dumb thing ever said by Stephane Dion and other Liberals.

Early this morning, they unleashed most of that video at a new, often-nasty, anti-Dion site called www.notaleader.ca.The Liberals, too, are launching attack sites. One, aimed at voters in British Columbia, is at www.promisebreakers.caand went online yesterday. It compares the 2006 Conservative campaign platform with some of the government's actions on softwood lumber, Senate re-form and other issues. Another Liberal site was scheduled to go online as early as today. That as-yet-unnamed site was to attack some Conservative scandals.

Another site, found at www.jimhadhischance.ca,was set up before the campaign got started by Brent Fullard, who will be acclaimed today as the Liberal candidate in the Oshawa- Whitby riding, where Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is the incumbent. These Web site launches are not only the newest iterations in campaigns that, so far, have been characterized by a lot of name-calling between Tories and Liberals, but also a good example of how all parties are using the latest online services and technologies to reach past traditional methods of communications to find new pools of voters.

"This is an area we've spent a lot of time thinking about since the last campaign," said a Conservative official who previewed the new Web site for Canwest News Service on the condition he not be identified.

The challenge for political communicators is that a key demographic, young people, do not watch TV as much as they once did and are spending more time online. As a result, marketers are using new digital techniques to reach that online audience. Some of those techniques, such as a plain-vanilla Web site, have been around for a decade or more. But newer forms of reaching out to a digital audience are now also being harnessed by the campaigns.

These newer forms include services such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, a group of Internet-based applications often known as social-networking tools because they allow users to form ad hoc groups or small networks of friends based on a common interest.

"The thing that is amazing about all this stuff is that it enables your folks to help share our campaign effort and just what's going on with the campaign or around the campaign with their friends and neighbours," said Nammi Poorooshasb, who is co-ordinating the NDP's digital campaign.

The NDP online campaign is keyed off of www.ndp.cabut contains links to NDP content at Facebook and Twitter. The Conservative official said the type of person they aimed notaleader.caat tends to be a younger voter, between 18 and 30, who has not yet developed a particular loyalty to one political brand or another. "They are anti-establishment, libertarian, Web-and tech-savvy and politically incorrect," said the Conservative advisor. "We set out to build a Web site that appeals to them."

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