Weak Web Promotion Surrounding Dem and GOP Conventions

ClickZ_Campaign08_katefinal.jpgJohn McCain and Barack Obama each want supporters to throw convention viewing parties, and the National Committees are spending millions on their upcoming political schmooze-fests. But the parties and the two presidential hopefuls appear to be doing little to promote the events online.

“Seize the momentum from the convention to bring millions of new voices into the political process,” declares Senator Obama’s official campaign site, where a section aims to convince supporters to “Host an Organize for Change: Convention Watch Party.”

Senator McCain’s site also promotes watch parties for the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Yet, there’s not much else pushing the conventions, besides a new Web video mocking Obama’s prophet-like persona with a tongue-in-cheek tout of his appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. That video, “The One II: The Road to Denver,” is the second in a series from the campaign that includes clips from the classic Charlton Heston flick, “The Ten Commandments.”

The campaigns have also mentioned the conventions in recent e-mails sent to supporters.

The party’s official sites do little to promote their own conventions, both set to be held soon. The only content related to the DNC’s convention on its Web site on Friday — three days before today’s kick-off — was a photo of the main stage area. The Republicans, however, managed to feature a graphic linking to the section of McCain’s site promoting the convention watch events.

Each party does have specific sites dedicated to its convention, in addition to official Facebook profiles. Whether or not the “Female, 99 years old” who set up the Democratic National Convention MySpace page is actually affiliated with the organization, however, is unclear.

“It’s baffling that they’re not doing more,” said Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D. associate director of online advocacy for the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Referring to the two parties, he continued, “Maybe they figure that there’s enough earned media going on that they don’t have to pay for [anything].”

The campaigns and their parties are paying for some convention-specific ads on Google and other search engines, though. Sponsored links for both the DNC and the RNC have shown up in search results for “convention,” while the term “convention Obama” brings up ads from the Obama and McCain camps. “Obama For President? Why Not Learn More About John McCain for President,” reads one ad spotted in Google results for “convention Obama.”

“At a minimum, search engine ads make a lot of sense because this is the time when people are going online more than ever to find information about politics,” Rosenblatt told ClickZ News.

On his Facebook page Friday, Obama’s campaign posted about the convention, noting, “Thursday, August 28th will be the biggest night of the campaign so far. Even if you can’t be in Denver, you can be a part of this historic convention by attending a Convention Watch Party in your area.” That’s the day Obama plans to give his presidential nomination acceptance speech before thousands in the stadium that’s home to the Denver Broncos.

McCain’s Facebook page didn’t include much about the convention Friday, beyond linking to the Facebook GOP convention group.

Noting the parties’ limited use of YouTube, blogs, and Flickr, Personal Democracy Forum co-founder and Executive Editor Micah Sifry lamented the lack of interactive community engagement surrounding the conventions. “[I]n terms of making the actual events more engaging, they’re probably spending more time worrying about the timing of the balloon drop,” he wrote on the Personal Democracy Forum’s TechPresident site. “All they need to do is put up a big banner behind the speakers each night saying, ‘Join the conversation; go to www.democrats.org’ (or www.rnc.org) and set up an interface to involve people in live chats by state or zipcode,” he added.

“It’s about creating a big, national spectacle,” suggested Rosenblatt. “I would be trying to reach out to people who aren’t on my list, who aren’t coming to my Web site.”

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