The power of new media or just savvy marketing: Google at party conventions in the US

Google Inc. will help set up a two-story, 8,000 square-foot headquarters for hundreds of bloggers descending on the Democratic convention in Denver next week, and it will offer similar services at the Republican convention in September, as new media gain influence in politics… With its financial support for the “Big Tent” blogger facility at the Democratic convention, Google stands to gain exposure and goodwill from 500 or so bloggers who paid $100 for access to the facility, run by a coalition of bloggers. Google’s software and services will be featured, including a kiosk in the public area of the tent where anyone can post videos on YouTube.

A story on the Wall Street Journal points to Google’s presence at the US Republican and Democratic Party Conventions in 2008. $100 for access to its “tent” isn’t cheap, but I have no doubt that they won’t be filled to the brim. While Google doesn’t report news, it certainly has the potential to shape the news agenda through its control of the vectors through which most of us receive news and information – through the web, through video and blogs and through our mobile phones. Google has a hand in all of these vectors and dominates news searches on the web.

So clearly, it’s presence at these conventions is an interesting move and its showcase of new technologies, including word recognition in videos, have implication farther afield in online video.

The WSJ article ends by quoting Micah Sifry, co-founder of TechPresident.com who says that,

“The paradox is that the events themselves are all news-free, and it’s really mostly just atmospherics; there’s no real news made after the VP picks are announced. On the other hand, it’s a target-rich environment for bloggers.”

It’s a quote that contradicts points enumerated earlier in the article, that suggest news can and is often made when least expected. The proliferations of mobiles into every nook and cranny of the convention is both a boon and bane for those who wish to control news outflows. A gaffe, slur or private remark can in seconds hit the web and be irrevocably disseminated to hundreds, if not thousands of sites, beyond the capacity of any take-down order to censor.

Does all this coverage lead to better coverage? While each blogger registered at each convention will have a devoted following, I still believe that wire services and mainstream media coverage (also on the web and through social networking platforms) will dominate the analysis of the content of both conventions.

What do you think? Will Google’s presence generate more interest in new media coverage of the conventions (and importantly, the issues they raise)?

2 comments on “The power of new media or just savvy marketing: Google at party conventions in the US

  1. Nalaka Gunawardene
    August 28, 2008 at 7:52 am #

    This is an interesting post – thanks.

    I’ve never attended a political convention in the US, Sri Lanka or anywhere else, so I can’t comment on the ‘atmospherics’…though I can imagine it from the TV coverage. WSJ’s summing up is correct (there’s not much hard news in a convention) but that misses the point: where bloggers are concerned, they are equally interested in the news and the nuances – and I bet there’s plenty in these conventions.

    And nuance is what mainstream media has largely neglected, and what bloggers are adept at capturing, analysing and delivering. Does this mean we turn to wire services for the breaking news – it’s hard to beat them for combining speed, accuracy and delivery – and to bloggers for nuance? I think so.

    Let’s not forget that the presence of bloggers has a sobering effect on the MSM including wire services. They are much more careful and gone are the days when tall stories could be carefully planted. The rumour mills aren’t quite out action, but these days the new media makes it much harder for fabrications, half-truths or half-baked reporting to get away without being spotted, challenged and debunked.

    That’s equally true for coverage of politics, finance, public policy and corporate conduct. For a fantastic living example, look up what the one-man blogger phenomenon Danny Schechter is doing at http://www.newsdissector.com/blog/. This is the one man who saw the subprime crisis in the US coming ahead of most others and kept talking about it long before anyone in the mainstream media took notice of the gathering storm.

  2. Sanjana Hattotuwa
    August 31, 2008 at 5:37 pm #

    Hi Nalaka,

    I agree with you, but Al Jazeera’s (excellent) Listening Post programme on new / web media trends agreed with my observation and noted that the convention coverage would be still be dominated by cable networks / MSM. In fact, they went to suggest a useful way of looking at the new media coverage of the conventions – with MSM providing the main dish and the web media as the garnishing, according to one’s tastes.

    It’s an interesting culinary metaphor. I’m not a particularly good cook, but I do like to savour a well-prepared meal. I can also distinguish easily between one that is and isn’t. With MSM, I can’t match the years of training of the those at the top of their field in charge of the news agenda at most of the larger MSM / cable TV outlets. I can however recognise bias and what’s missing, from my perspective, in their stories.

    Unlike before, I can now go to any number of blogs and alternative news sources on the web to get precisely that which I find lacking in MSM coverage.

    And that’s a good thing. Until such time, sooner than we think, that new and MSM as we know them today coalesce indistinguishably (and something newer than new media comes along) I for one will still switch on BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera or France24 for my news and then fire up Google Reader.

    In that order.

    Sanjana

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