Saturday, April 01, 2006

Online Campaigning Matters

Over the months, there have been many people who have come to this blog in order to tell me that it doesn't matter in the 24th District congressional race. It's kind of ironic, that. They go online to get information about the race, find this blog as a source of information, and then say that it doesn't matter.

If this blog really didn't matter, of course, there wouldn't be so many people from so many political points of view getting nervous and upset about what I say about the various candidates.

Let's do a time check, readers. The year is 2006. Not 1986. The Internet matters.

In a district as sprawling as New York's 24th, a medium that reaches out beyond the signal of a single television station, or the circulation area of a local newspaper has a special power. Wise candidates will use that power effectively. Unwise candidates will use it neglectfully.

A reader once left a comment here that a web site is nothing more than a piece of advertising, an electronic billboard. That's the kind of web site that Michael Arcuri's campaign has set up, without much interactivity. There's no email to send messages to, the discussion board has been taken down, and there isn't a telephone number to call for more information.

The only way that you can use the Arcuri for Congress web site to communicate with the campaign is to send a letter to the post office box address listed there. The title at the top of the page listing that P.O. box reads, "Have a question? Contact Michael A. Arcuri to find answers!" Seriously, though - who these days writes a letter and puts it in a mailbox when they have a question? Hardly anyone. We pick up the telephone, or increasingly, get online.

No matter how many reasons I give for the importance of the Internet in political campaigning, some people just won't accept the idea. Many of these people have built up their political credibility through more traditional methods, which are still important, but which are weakened by the introduction of the Internet as a means of communications. The threshold of communication has been lowered, and it bothers some people that just anybody can get out there and put up a web site. As for me, I think it's great - it brings more of the power back to us little people.

What will it take to get the Old Guard to reconsider its conclusion that the Internet does not matter to political campaigns? Money.

It's a simple refutation of the claim that nobody visits candidates' web sites: In just the last week, $15,000 of people visited the Les Roberts for Congress web site, and made donations there. That's in addition to the donations made at fundraisers, and through the mail, and by people walking into the Les Roberts 2006 headquarters in downtown Cortland and opening up their checkbooks.

$15,000 in one week is how important the Internet is to campaigning. There are 25 weeks from now until the primary. Is Michael Arcuri doing so well that he can afford to throw away $375,000?

$15,000 a week is what the Arcuri for Congress campaign is giving up by neglecting to have any method for online donations. If I were Michael Arcuri, I'd be mighty pissed about that. Arcuri is being poorly served by his campaign committee's attitude about the Internet, and the entire Arcuri for Congress campaign is being poorly served by Quadsimia, the company that has created and manages its web site.

An online donation function is not hard to set up. Anyone with a little bit of patience can do it. Degrees in computer science are not required.

It's time for the Arcuri campaign to get serious about its web site. We shouldn't see a web site that has a page devoted to trading cards that have not yet materialized, but has no way for people to get in touch or make donations.

I've sent a $300.00 check to the Arcuri for Congress campaign, but I have no way of knowing that that money was received - until the FEC filings are released. That P.O. box that the Arcuri campaign is operating out of doesn't give me any confirmation, not to mention any thanks. There is no relationship with a post office box.

My recommendation to Michael Arcuri is to create a new full-time position within his campaign for Internet relations (if he's already got someone working in such a position, my recommendation is to find a replacement). Arcuri will find that his local sources of money will soon be tapped out, and he'll need to reach outside the the district. The Internet is the best way to do that. Heed my call to join the 21st century, Mr. Arcuri, and you'll thank me for it later, albeit under your breath.

1 comment:

Norway said...

Online campaigning matters, yes, but I'd also like to see some of the people who truly support their candidates writing letters to the editors of local papers and talking about their good points. There's no information out there beyond the Internet and too many voters for whom blogging has little appeal. I can't tell you how many of my neighbors have never heard of ANY of the candidates.