Consider how the path to a voters consciousness has changed.
Online Americans now spend roughly 30 hours a month peering at their smartphones, more than double what they did in 2008. In recent years, television stations, newspapers and magazines have moved much of their content online because people are shifting their time from watching TV and reading publications to wandering the Internet. Even those watching TV dont watch as closely. Some 40 percent of electronic tablet and smartphone owners regularly use their gadgets while watching television.
And while the Twitter microblogging social network existed in recent campaign cycles, its gained a greater hold on the national attention span. The Pew Internet & American Life project reported last week that the number of online adults who use Twitter daily doubled in the last year to 8 percent. Among younger voters, whose voting patterns are least likely to have settled into a pattern, nearly a third use Twitter.
Overall, the number of Americans checking in with a social network doubled between 2008 and 2011, according to another Pew report. Now, about half the U.S. population has an identity on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or other social network.
The number of American adults who regularly use the Internet nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010. We now spend the equivalent of one work week a month using the Web.
When you go online, you reveal, often unwittingly, much about yourself. Through the past decade marketers have quickly learned that the news articles consumers like with a click or the friends they link with are hints about their spending habits. Now campaigns are tracing some of the same political footprints for signs of political tendencies.
The work can start by looking broadly at Internet conversations on news sites, blogs, social networks to take the electorates pulse.
An emerging class of businesses measure the volume of discussions on specific issues, whether a particular issue is generating positive or negative buzz, and identifying the words or phrases that pop up most frequently.
Tracy Panko, CEO of Spiral 16, a social media monitor in Overland Park, said some campaigns have begun to study Internet chatter and use that analysis to tailor their rhetoric. One U.S. Senate candidate was taking flack for what the campaign saw as inaccurate perceptions of personal spending habits. By getting a better idea of who was saying what about the candidate online, Panko said, the campaign was able to defend itself against a potential problem.
What were doing has not replaced what (campaigns) did in the past, she said. Its supplementing it.
Indeed, campaigns say television, radio and mail campaigns continue to dominate political spending.
People are watching TV with an iPhone or an iPad in their hands, said Martin Hamburger, a Washington, D.C.,-based Democratic political consultant. But theyre still watching TV.
If anything, he said, campaign video increasingly needs to mesh with online strategies. Those websites trumpeted in TV commercials go to www.ReadJoesRecord.com arent particularly designed to change your mind. The expectation is that most people looking at such sites are already supporters. Rather, sites grab more information about you to remind you to vote, to call your neighbor or, best yet, send money.