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Emergence of New Technologies: and the 2006 Call for Change Campaign

Despite advances in online organizing strategy, Democrats didn’t develop microtargeting capabilities until 2006, when organizations such as MoveOn fused data mining techniques with online phone-banking tools to challenge the Republican Party.

Founded in 1998 to involve people in the political process, has grown into a national powerhouse with over four million members in February 2009. They have been pioneers in online grassroots strategy and were the first to tackle online phonebanking during the 2006 Congressional elections. “We were facing a “turnout” rather than a persuasion election,” they wrote in their 2006 report. They also recognized that successfully using this tool would significantly change the playing field in the approaching presidential elections.

They created the “liquid phonebank,” named because voters could “pour in calls” from anywhere, allowing MoveOn members to collectively focus on a particular district no matter where they lived. The online tool guided callers to the district where their efforts were most needed, giving MoveOn the agility to quickly shift priorities as races unfolded and conditions changed. In addition, callers met once a week at a phone party, where they could socialize in person while using the online tools to make calls. This strengthened the sense of community, and helped connect people to the political issues. They combined Alex Gage’s microtargeting techniques with Dean’s people-powered online grassroots initiative and turned the tables on the GOP. Over the course of the congressional elections, over seven million calls would be made into sixty-one targeted districts using the online tool.

This would lay the groundwork for the Obama team, who combined and refined online phonebanking, microtargeting, online organizing, and grassroots momentum to create the new model for modern campaigning.

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