The Pew Project’s latest numbers show that 60 million Americans went to the web for political information in the 2006 election. Unfortunately, they didn’t find anything.
OK, that last part was a joke, based on my currently jaded view of American politics. I feel that this is one of the unique times in our political history when people on both sides, no matter how extreme, can look at each other, scratch their heads, and agree that everyone needs to go. Neither side is delivering. There is as much criticism within each party as there is towards the other party.
Off my soapbox, when are these guys going to figure this out? In 2004, Howard Dean was the only candidate to purchase paid ads for hot issues. The links took searchers directly to his position statement on those issues, which is a brilliant use of paid ads. However, the main source of political information seems to be blogs and opinion sites but not the candidate’s sites themselves. Why are we content to hear what someone else frames as the issue and not the candidates themselves?
Maybe the problem is content. Or lack of it. I recently heard a commentator say that Barak Obama was the favorite candidate because he hasn’t been in Washington long enough for us to consider him to be like everyone else. Essentially, we don’t know much about him, so he would be perfect. When did silence on issues become a selling point?
Gone are the days of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, when candidates would debate on issues of the day for hours. Not only that, the people would listen for hours and follow the entire argument, logic and conclusions. Today, we judge debates on hairstyles and puffy suits, certainly not on the content. The content is restrained to fit into neat little 30 second sound bytes. And where are the fact checkers? The post debate strategy is seems to be more confusing, as no one will call candidates on the actual facts, but rather their body language and any “zingers” that they provided.
Neil Postman prophesied in his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” that the political culture would be overtaken by entertainment, which would focus on the entertainment value of debate and the candidates, rather than the substance of the dialogue. We have seen this come to fruition, as candidates attempt to out-vanilla each other and be all things to all people, rather than focus on content and substance.
Where are the candidate blogs? The position statements with clear reasoning and investigation to support the conclusions? Who has an inspiring message for the American people?
It seems strange. In this business of website marketing, I am always challenging clients to provide valuable, educational content within a proper context in order to meet the needs of the user. Because ultimately, the customer is king.
Maybe if the politicians figured this out, we would have the return of the statesmen of old, who did things because they were right, not because they were politically expedient. How do you feel? Do you think that substance and content are political liabilities?