November 03, 2008

How Campaigning in a Web 2.0 World Differs

This morning the New York Times explored "Campaigns in a Web 2.0 World"and while they captured the user-generated nature of Web 2.0 technology (YouTube, Facebook, Blogs, etc.), they neglected the role social networks play in increased the speed at which messages are spreading across the Internet.

Leveraging social networks has long been a staple of political campaigns. Historically, one of the first tests of a presidential campaign its ability to recruit the New Hampshire party activists with the largest number of personal contacts - something typically recorded on index cards from the last presidential race.

While the political social networks of the past allowed campaigns to spread targeted messages, the speed at which new messages spread via online social networks has shortened the media cycle.

Whereas contacts in traditional social networks are typically closely guarded, the advent of blogging and the practice of bloggers using hyperlinks has allowed for the measurement and mapping of these networks.

Through looking at the linking behavior between blogs and the particular sources of content bloggers focus attention on, social networks of bloggers can be identified and mapped.

Campaigns can then use this data both to target supporters for mobilization and to find opportunities for persuading new audiences.

As reported in the Columbia Journalism Review, Morningside Analytics recently produced a new map of political blogs for a study being conducted by Columbia University's Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Reporting and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.


Alongside equally large clusters of longstanding Conservative and Liberal Bloggers, our link analysis reveals new clusters formed specifically to drive election messages.  The value of this approach, setting up hundreds of like-minded new blogs, is questionable compared with finding savvy ways to engage the online public on its own terms.  As Morningside's John Kelly describes in the CJR piece:

"There are some groups of pro-McCain and anti-Obama blogs that are well connected to each other but not densely linked with bloggers in the longstanding political blogosphere, even those on the conservative side," said John Kelly, Morningside’s chief scientist and an affiliate of the Berkman Center. "If these were typical political bloggers, we would expect to see them better woven into the fabric of the network."

October 31, 2008

Obama’s American Stories Moving Fast


Despite having already been seen by over 33.55 million people on TV Wednesday night, Obama’s American Stories has been the most linked to video by bloggers in the last few days.

Of the 280 links that have been made by bloggers to American Stories almost half (138) have been made by liberal bloggers. 

With the speed at which new videos are being added and pushed by bloggers in the final weekend of the campaign, I would not be surprised if this video is overtaken at the next update of the Political Video Barometer (updates every six hours) by a video that has not even been posted to YouTube yet.

October 29, 2008

Conservative Bloggers Drive Surge of Obama Bombshell Video

Earlier this week, with the help of 180 liberal bloggers “Wassup 2008” broke through to non-political bloggers and rose to the top of the Political Video Barometer. 

On Tuesday, with the help of 382 conservative bloggers “Obama Bombshell” overtook “Wassup 2008” as the video with the most recent links from bloggers.

However, “Wassup 2008” is outpacing “Obama Bombshell” in both total views (2,430,515 vs. 2,057,031) and links from non-political bloggers (301 vs. 254).

While “Obama Bombshell” is clearly gaining most of it traction within its own base (conservative bloggers account for 57% of its links from bloggers), “Wassup 2008” is gaining most of its traction outside of its own base (non-political bloggers account for 60% of its links from bloggers).

October 27, 2008

Wassup 2008 – Breaking The Charts

Wassup2 Rarely a political web video finds a large enough non-political audience and becomes part of the national conversation.  

Wassup 2008 is on a trajectory to be such a crossover.

Over the last few weeks, only a handful of the videos recently linked to by a large numbers of conservative and/or liberal bloggers had more then 100 recent links from other bloggers.

Posted just a few days ago, Wassup 2008 has already been linked by bloggers 393 times, of which 230 were neither liberal nor conservative blogs.

This dramatic rise on the Political Video Barometer is despite the fact that we calculate “recent” links as those made within the last 14 days.  Based on the current growth patterns of all the top videos, the gap between Wassup 2008 and the others will likely expand in the next few days.

Could it be that the best spokespersons to reach Joe Six-Pack are the same ones selling him beer?

October 25, 2008

Top 10 Political Videos of the Week - The Company They Keep

While liberal and conservative bloggers disagree on virtually every aspect of the election (policy, tone, experience, election fraud, etc.), their video linking behavior shows they agree that the top issue is the company one keeps (personally or their campaign).

Over the last fourteen days, the top four of the five most linked and/or embedded YouTube videos by liberal bloggers  were all focused on comments made by McCain supporters:

  1. The McCain-Palin Mob Chart
    Recent blog links:    Liberal - 172, Conservative – 14, All blogs - 308 

  2. Misconceptions of Obama fuel Republican campaign 
    Recent blog links:    Liberal - 140, Conservative  – 21, All blogs - 332

  3. The Sidewalk to Nowhere,  McCain Supporters in Bethlehem, PA
    Recent blog links:    Liberal - 112, Conservative  –  8, All blogs - 223

  4. McCain Tries to Tame Flames He Earlier Fanned
    Recent blog links:    Liberal - 97, Conservative – 19, All blogs - 217

  5. See Below

During the same period of time, the top three of the five YouTube videos linked and/or embedded by conservative bloggers were focused on  the company kept by Obama (Ayers, other Democrats) or his campaign supporters comments. 

  1. Louis farrakhan Calls OBAMA the messiah! Helter Skelter
    Recent blog links:    Conservative – 145, Liberal - 4, All blogs - 229

  2. Ayers
    Recent blog links:    Conservative – 128, Liberal - 31, All blogs - 269

  3. Shocking Video Unearthed Democrats in their own words
    Recent blog links:    Conservative – 124, Liberal - 10, All blogs - 238

  4. See Below

  5. See below

The 4th most linked video from conservative bloggers (John McCain Brings Down the House – Al Smith Dinner) and  the 5th most linked video from liberal bloggers (Batman vs. The Penquin: The Debate) added some comic relief.  The 5th most linked video from conservative bloggers questions Obama's citizenship (Obama Citizenship: I Invented The Internet ).

Only one of the top 10 videos (Ayers) was posted by the campaigns themselves.  On a related note, Micah Sifry has a great post at TechPresident that explores the impact of the YouTube videos posted by the campaigns.

Want to see what videos are moving right now?  Check out the Political Video Barometer to see what videos are moving through the blogs in the last 24 hours, the last week or the last month. 

October 22, 2008

What is "Shifting The Debate?"

Are messages spreading to new audiences or just "preaching to the choir"?  How fast are the messages moving? Is a message spreading through the Internet authentically viral or is it a coordinated campaign that will fade away?

Video_2 These are the questions that we will address on Shifting The Debate.

To get the conversation going we have built the Political Video Barometer to measure how YouTube videos are moving through the Conservative and Liberal blogs. 

Over the last fifteen years the political use of the Internet has evolved from web page campaign brochures into an effective tool to mobilize supporters and raise unprecedented amounts of money.   But as the all-but-fixed proportion of campaign spending on TV clearly shows, the remaining holy grail of online politics is persuasion. 

One only has to look at email, Facebook or read a blog to see many attempts at political persuasion.

The increased use of tools such as online video has provided a platform to inspire and move people. 

Social networking sites, Blogs and Twitter allow for the rapid spread of ideas (as does email for those that still have the time to read it).

So why do political campaigns and issue advocacy groups spend such a small portion of their budget online to shift the debate in their favor?

The answer is one word - Measurement.

Come take a look at which videos the Conservative and Liberal bloggers have been pushing for the last few weeks and follow the shifts in the weeks and months ahead.

Inside the Barometer

Based on ideas from friends and family who share our interest in online politics, we built the Political Video Barometer as a fun and informative way to discover what videos liberal and conservative bloggers are writing about.  You can use it to watch and track videos linked-to by bloggers who share your opinions or view clips popular with your political "enemies."

But how does it work?

The videos shown in the Barometer are chosen by queries against a large database built by network analysis engines from Morningside Analytics.  Every few months a crawler (or "spider") visits millions of blogs and collects their contents and links.

Next, a program mines the links in these blogs and, using advanced graph mathematics, groups the blogs based on two criteria:  how do blogs link to one-another (primarily via their blog rolls), and, over time, what else do the bloggers link to in common?

These groups are called "Attentive Clusters."  Clusters can be large or small, and the bigger ones can contain many sub-clusters and even sub-sub-clusters.

Only after the machines have mapped out the high level clusters, do we bring in some live eyeballs so we can figure out what the blogs in a cluster have in common. But we do not need to look at very many:  from as few as 10 to 20 blogs in a cluster, we can determine what the cluster is all about.

As shown on the left,  American liberal bloggers and American conservative bloggers form the two largest clusters in the English language blogosphere, and the Barometer draws upon roughly the 8.000 "most linked-to" blogs in each of these clusters to position the videos on the graph.


Still another program feeds the Barometer by scanning these 16,000 blogs every six hours, looking for new links to YouTube videos (or YouTube videos embedded right in the blogs).  By counting these links we learn what videos political bloggers are promoting.  Some videos are linked to almost exclusively by liberal bloggers, some are linked to mostly by conservative bloggers, and a few are linked to more or less evenly by both groups.  Once the program determines that a video has traction in the political clusters, it scans through other parts of the blogospere to count how many "non-political" bloggers  link to it as well.

The Political Video Barometer is just one illustration of the insight we gain and applications we build from Morningside's data and engines. We can look at altogether different groups (technology, celebrity gossip, etcetera) or identify new sub-clusters of particular interest.  We program custom, data-driven  applications and write deep quantitative reports for both planning and monitoring campaigns of all kinds.