By Larry Dignan  |  Posted 2004-11-03 Email Print this article Print

With the 2004 Presidential race in the books, one sizable question remains: Who's going to be the next Howard Dean, in 2008?

: The Introduction"> 2005: The Introduction

Here's what a campaign for 2008 could look like:

First, a prospective candidate would form an exploratory committee, Web site and blog and focus on a few key issues, says Convio CEO Gene Austin. Based in Austin, Texas, Convio supplied "constituent relationship management" software for the Dean campaign.

"You want to build a dialogue with people and focus on issues that people care about," says Austin. Dean's Democracy for America site focused on health care and foreign policy, for instance.

The goal is to find supporters. Using Internet networking, a candidate can quickly find like-minded folks and convert them to local volunteers as the campaign expands.

Instead of swapping music files, supporters would swap profiles of themselves and people they know, to get an independent candidate's bandwagon going.

Cuban, who isn't interested in running for office, says he would make liberal use of networking sites such as Friendster and Linked-In, as well as pay per click advertising, to keep costs down. In effect, a campaign only would pay for advertising if it either got a new volunteer – or a new donation.

"When you think about it all your efforts are peer-to-peer," says Convio founder Vinay Bhagat. "You want friends recruiting friends and passing along your message."

Broadband connections will allow an upstart candidate to circulate multimedia such as debate clips, political ads and cartoons could be swapped peer-to-peer also.

Bhagat says organizations like Moveon.org can test a commercial online and then decide whether its worth expending the cash to put it on broadcast or cable TV. Or just let it become a hit on Limewire or another filesharing network.

An independent candidacy could also be fueled by using existing "on demand" infrastructure to deliver services, such as petition-mounting campaigns.

Companies such as Minor's Grand Central Communications allow customers to use its hardware, software and network on a national scale and pay for the service only as business is conducted. Just as a campaign only would have to pay per click for advertising, the same pricing model could be applied to its computing.

Over time, in building the campaign through email and social networks, a candidate would build up a national database of names, addresses and zip codes that can give clues as to where more supporters can be found, says Steven Brown, vice president for marketing at Lyris, a Berkeley, CA email management software company.

"You're building a grassroots organization, but you're also collecting demographics," says Brown. But the independent candidate still has to have the chops to earn support. "You have to be an online personality and connect with people on an emotional level," says Hughes. "It comes down to the quality of what you have to say and whether you are able to produce dialogue and feedback."

Business Editor
Larry formerly served as the East Coast news editor and Finance Editor at CNET News.com. Prior to that, he was editor of Ziff Davis Inter@ctive Investor, which was, according to Barron's, a Top-10 financial site in the late 1990s. Larry has covered the technology and financial services industry since 1995, publishing articles in WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, The New York Times, and Financial Planning magazine. He's a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

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