Digital Divide & Conquer

In August, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism reported on the presidential campaigns’ use of digital to bypass traditional earned media. The broadest conclusion was that the president’s campaign posted almost four times the content as his challenger and was active on nearly twice the number of platforms.

The Pew study also revealed that the dominant national message of the campaigns dealing with jobs and the economy was not the dominant interest of voters on the digital hook. For both campaigns, issues like immigration, health and veterans generated two to four times the reaction.

The digital divergence didn’t matter to the campaigns. As Pew said, “neither candidate engages in much dialogue with voters,” referring to citizen content on the digital channels of the campaign.

No matter how much or little the campaigns want to encourage an open discussion of issues they have generally avoided in specifics like immigration and health care, no question that anyone touching the campaigns digitally is being touched back. Lack of interaction doesn’t mean lack of action.

For a fascinating look at the digital outreach of the campaigns, check out ProPublica’s Message Machine. The award-winning investigative newsroom has collected tens of thousands of campaign emails, listing and categorizing them by time, content and variation by theme: “For each email blast, the Machine creates a computer model using an artificial intelligence technique called a Decision Tree. These computer models provide hints about the ways that political campaigns microtarget their constituents to optimize donations or some other political activity.”

Have you gotten a few of these emails? Jon Stewart has also. Last Thursday he asked Obama how many emails he, the president, had sent to Stewart. Joked POTUS, “It depends on whether you’ve maxed out.”

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