While the Presidential primaries are still about a year away, it's clear that the Internet will play an even greater role in the election process. Witness the run to create and build "friends" on MySpace by candidates on both sides of the political spectrum. Clearly, party hopefuls view the web in general, and social networking sites specifically, as a means to reach voters and create momentum.
Of course, it's largely experimental, as candidates and their organizations grapple with the best tactics that will drive word-of-mouth - and votes. It all amounts to a great investment in Internet resources, because both parties realize the vast potential of the web.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal sums up this activity nicely: "Candidates from either party can't simply put up spare one-way Web sites anymore. They update their sites regularly, if not hourly or daily. Candidates have introduced video-laden Web sites and MySpace and Facebook profiles, and are granting interviews to influential bloggers."
These web efforts apply to radio, of course. If you think about filling out an Arbitron diary in the same way that voters make their Election Day choices, you can clearly see the analogies. Our Tim Davis has been conducting "Web Usability Studies" of late - bringing station listeners into a conference room full of computers to literally watch them surf the station site. What's working? What's hard to find? What type of content do they really want from station sites?
Using web resources to generate buzz and more loyalty is at the heart of the challenge and the opportunity. As our new Tech Poll III clearly shows, social networking sites like MySpace are highly used destinations. Roughly half of Rockers are active or occasional participants. Even nearly four of ten Classic Rockers spend significant time on social networking sites, thus validating the need to stay current, visible, and make lots of "friends."
The days when radio station sites could simply function as blinking billboards, showcasing station events and DJ bios are long gone. Today, sites need to be interactive, focus on the music that listeners love, provide video, and cater to the needs of listeners. In radio, our election day is every day.