Whereas last week’s readings demonstrated that Howard Dean’s campaigns seemed to have substance but lacked strategy and purpose, this week’s readings angle toward strategy in the use of social media by President Obama. YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and blogs like the DailyKos all figured into President Obama’s strategy of media use. But so, too, did traditional media – as Kreiss points out, the campaign plied a hybrid news system to both reach wide audiences and build and organize social networks on new social media platforms.
During the 2006 elections, Geuorguieva shows, YouTube and MySpace, then two of the most preeminent forms of social media, changed the landscape of campaign strategy. YouTube served as a tool for disseminating candidates’ views, especially for lesser known candidates who might not have been able to compete with better-funded incumbents or frontrunners. MySpace, like YouTube, was a free and accessible platform for candidates, but through partnerships with grassroots organizations it also encouraged voter registration and volunteering for campaigns among voters.
In the 2008 election, Obama again focused on social media like YouTube and Facebook, which Slotnick showed, but his strategy also involved traditional media. Recognizing that traditional journalists can offer a candidate a kind of legitimacy that most blogs cannot, Obama’s campaign sought interviews with major national news outlets, where it also knew it could reach large and diverse audiences. And recognizing the power of new media to organize and cement narrative, the campaign also played to blogs and social networking sites, which it knew could effect mobilization more than traditional journalism. This hybrid news system seemed to be essential to Obama’s rise as a candidate, particularly in raising his national profile (more with traditional outlets) and constructing a narrative of him as a post-partisan politician (more with social media).
Question: Does the popularity of social media , particularly with respect to Obama’s 2008 campaign, advance or hinder the political process in terms of voting forming opinions about a candidate. In other words, does potentially knowing more about a candidate due to, say, YouTube videos posted by John Doe help voters make more informed decisions, or does that merely obstruct the process by unnecessarily blurring the line between public and private?