Thursday, March 20, 2008

BlogHer Still Waiting for Candidates to Wake Up

Even Lisa Stone's outrage is perky. I warn you because you can catch her lecture on blogs and/by women at SteveGarfield.com. She says tough stuff, but very nicely.

Steve was at the presentation by the co-founder of BlogHer. Her What Women Want: How Candidates and Companies Hurt and Help Themselves with Women Today was part of Harvard Law's Berkman@10 series. That insidious Garfield used his Nokia phone and Qik software to vlog live. By the time I took Red Line to Orange Line and shank's mare home, I found that he had streamed the lecture. At least he missed the Q&A portion and the ambient noise stretched the capabilities of his phone. There was a little justification for having made the round trip.

For good measure, I'll stick a crop of a capture from his video here. The pic above is from BlogHer, which you can click on for her bio.

She's a great marketeer, an anomaly for a former journalist. She admits to not being all that geeky and regrets that she isn't an engineering sort. However, she and her co-founders have managed over three years to build a advertising rich and profitable blog community, with over 1,400 "contextually targeted blogger affiliates" (that's regular bloggers on known topics to you and me), a series of fat and popular conferences and on and on.

So all her growth and marketing examples were fine and unlike general, no new-media versions. However, the fascinating stuff was how the political parties and Presidential candidates have blow off the 8.3 million unique monthly visitors during this whole campaign. They continue to do so, stupidly in my estimation.

The potential coverage was a gimme, and seemed a natural, at least for the two remaining Dem candidates. BlogHer offered massive coverage at tiny effort to any and all candidates. Fewer than one accepted.

By the time the two major parties' candidates announced, BlogHer was ready. Over 200 of their community squirreled up during last summer's big conference to agree on 12 key questions in four major areas. BlogHer biggies then went to all Dem and GOP candidates' campaigns and offered:
  • To video their responses to the 12 policy questions
  • To ask the same questions of each candidate (no surprises or ambushes)
  • To conduct the interview using a friendly BlogHer blogger from their party
  • To publish and promote the video on BlogHer
I was astonished to hear that not a single candidate, including Clinton and Obama took them up on it. This surely falls in the gift horse and mouth class. Every candidate has put out a lot more effort for a lot less return many times.

The readership and viewership demographic is only representative of the quintessential American voter. You'd think...

Stone noted that they were astonished how little the candidates had on big issues for women on their own sites. Clinton is very recently coming on, augmenting health care with some education issues. Obama doesn't seem to get it. For example, on his main site there seems to be a total absence of anything about reproductive rights.

A question that Stone helped formulate for the 12 was whether birth control should be paid for by health insurance. There's a good, open, non-partisan question that lets a candidate be candid, or not, and doesn't presuppose one right answer.

The best they have gotten at all has been a couple of campaigns saying they'd consider letting a spouse answer the questions. BlogHer's members told management no dice.

Stone's folk have been scouring the candidates' websites trying to answer the 12 on their own. They are also searching for relevant video in campaign material. They may end up creating a profile as best they can. That remains damning for candidates too arrogant or clueless to respond. Stone adds that just because the candidates don't provide answers on their sites doesn't mean they don't have those answers. I remain astonished that their campaign staffs have not made it plain that this is a request they would be smart to honor.

In that same vein, Stone noted that last year's BlogHer conference invited all announced candidates. None came. Two (Clinton and McCain) sent representatives. Then the next week, all seven appeared at the Daily Kos convention.

In her default mode as marketer, Stone profiled the desirability of BlogHer members and bloggers in numbers, purchasing power, influence among peers, and of course, as voters. Whether it is to promote a new product or sell a candidate, the rules for connecting with BlogHer folk are the same:
  1. Reach out to established, existing women's networks. Don't make them go exclusively to your website.
  2. Stop marketing to and start talking with women. The approach should be, "Hi. Tell me what you want."
  3. Don't separate women into moms, singles or some stereotypical monolithic bloc.
  4. Don't limit the conversation to so-called women's issues. They are as likely to care about Iraq as knitting.
Stone says that the approach is crucial. "If you strike the right tone, we'll reward you...If you miscommunicate, you can do damage to your brand."

Unfortunately, she adds, candidates are pretty narrow right now. They want to engage with an archetype of how they think of women as a group. This seems to be reflected too in such 20th Century ideas as tucking some "women's issues" on their website and thinking they've addressed this massive audience.

Stone sees this as an effort to carefully control the interaction. Instead, she suggests that they go to where the women already congregate and sites they trust, like the popular blogs on BlogHer and elsewhere. This may get candidates out of thinking they can pour all women into "discrete purple and pink silos."

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2 comments:

Yvonne said...

Nothing new here. Women are all about fashion and make-up and lingerie, right? NOT! The astonishing thing is the ignorance that still perpetuates the myth of the 50s Mom. Blogher is one place you can get real with women, and there are many others. Women bloggers are now online in greater numbers than male bloggers... what does that tell you?

The candidates need to get up to speed -- here's the reality: women (like me, I blog at www.lipsticking.com and have a very nice following) do more than just report news and events. WE share them... with each other... all across the net. We COMMUNICATE... in more detail, and more often, than men.

Erica said...

It’s not as easy to find as it should be, but Obama does have a section on reproductive rights on his website:
http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/womenissues

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