The 2004 presidential campaign has changed the way information is acquired, events are organized, and money is raised. The Internet has become big-time for the first time, and nothing in the political process will ever be the same. Credit the Howard Dean campaign with its cadres of young supporters for being the first to actualize the Web’s potential to sell ideas, create a movement, and develop a grassroots funding system. Never again will a candidate run for a national political office without a full-blown Web strategy as a major campaign component.
But the change won’t stop with politics. I can’t help but believe that what the Web is doing to political campaigns, it will also do to commerce. We’ve already seen a steadily increasing reliance on the Web for pre-purchase research and actual buying by both individuals and businesses. The “Webizing” of the 2004 presidential campaign will accelerate that trend. In fact, I think the day will come when we look back and identify 2004 as a time when the Web made another quantum leap in our collective consciousness.
Young, Web-savvy organizers have delivered the Web to politics, and their contemporaries are listening. A joint Pew Research Center for The People & The Press and Pew Internet & American Life Project survey has identified that those between the ages of 18 and 29 are nearly three times more likely to turn regularly to the Internet as a campaign information source than those over the age of 50. Regardless of age, the Internet is the fastest rising campaign information source in a fractured media landscape. According to the survey, the number of Americans who cite the Internet as their first or second major source for campaign information has risen 85% since the 2000 election.
After the election, there is no reason to believe that these people will walk away from the Internet as a major information source for things that matter to them. Given the news coverage of the Web’s impact on the election process that will probably appear, it is more likely that even greater numbers of people will be drawn to the Internet as a primary source.
So, what’s it all mean for businesses? As a result of the 2004 election, look for faster adoption of the Web as a daily news and information source by the public at large. Look for Internet advertising and marketing to grow more rapidly. Look for innovative new technologies to spring up to take advantage of this fast rising trend. And finally look for a way for your company to gain from this development earlier rather than later.