Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the 2008 presidential election today. With this announcement, a new Web site was launched on www.barackobama.com.
I first noticed the campaign logo in the top right corner. How very Web 2.0, I thought. Of course, Obama’s new site has a, by now obligatory, blog, but what I thought was most interesting was the my.barackobama.com section. You can make your own profile, a la FaceBook and MySpace, form groups, keep a calendar of events, and even arrange your own fundraising campaign, calling on your friends to donate. Fascinating as well is that each member can manage their own blog, which, as far as I can see, will not be censored.
From the surface, I can see that John Edwards’ and Hillary Clinton’s Web sites have similar new media features. Edwards’ site is very extensive, especially if you include his “One Corps.” Over at the Republican side, of the two most likely candidates, currently still in their exploratory phase, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, only McCain taps into Web 2.0.
Obama’s Web site is still very basic; understandably there is not a lot of content thus far. Surprisingly, there is no real obvious presence of RSS outside of a small XML button below the blog. Perhaps politics keep the “add to google, yahoo or bloglines” buttons away; even though Edward’s site has MySpace, FaceBook, Flickr and YouTube buttons.
Were blogs the major surprise of the 2004 elections; no one seems to underestimate the power of new media in the run up to the 2008 elections. Just like public relations agencies and practitioners are extending their reach into the world of social and new media by interacting with bloggers and responding to Internet content—Todd Defren’s social media release and Edelman’s adaptation and expansion of the concept being clear examples—political candidates are giving away the authoritarian control of their Web site editors to community members to gain a greater influence on the Internet (and consequently gaining more control over the overall message on the Internet).
It will be interesting to see how much control they are willing to cede. Will they allow damaging messages by followers of their opponents? If they’re smart, they should, and let the community handle it. Let’s also hope that people from Obama’s office interact with the bloggers on my.barackobama.com in thoughtful and appropriate comments to posts (that way they can engage in the debate and the community, giving them the benefit to gain control over the message).
Politics made blogging a force to be reckoned with and now politics might catapult new and social media into a far greater pool of users and a far greater influence.