There have been numerous diaries here on DK about how the hundreds of millions spent by Super PAC's and the campaigns this past election had so little influence on the outcome. It's not that they had no impact. In fact some of the money spent had a big influence on the outcome of individual races and certainly the Obama campaign's efforts to paint Romney as a out-of-touch predatory, venture capitalist worked, but overall the days of simply throwing a bunch of money at a national election and seeing a win seem to be behind us or at least on the wane. While it's fun to simply gloat about the other side wasting so much money for such an impotent result the question (at least for me) is, "Why?" So I got to Googling.
There are actually numerous articles devoted to changing trends in how Americans get their news. Starting in 2011 this topic started to get more coverage and some of the findings (at least on the surface) seem to have a correlation to the question I posed above. One such article from journalism.org states:
Social media, however, and Facebook in particular, are emerging as a powerful news referring source. At five of the top sites, Facebook is the second or third most important driver of traffic. Twitter, on the other hand, barely registers as a referring source. In the same vein, when users leave a site, “share” tools that appear alongside most news stories rank among the most clicked-on links (emphasis mine).For me this comment hits home because I (along with many others) was a DK sharing fool this election cycle. I mean I shared so many articles from this and other sites with positive messages about Obama and the Dems and so many negaitve ones about Romney and the GOP that I actually lost friends on Facebook. I also linked them on a private political message board I post at for fans of my favorite baseball team. I actually know I influenced some people because I saw their attitudes change and their comments went from "both sides suck" to "WOW does the GOP suck WAY more." Initial questions asking for positive reasons to vote Dem as opposed to just negative ones about the GOP were answered with links to sites that touted Obama's accomplishments or even links to "The People's Budget" (We really need to get back to promoting that idea again). I was also strongly motivated to defeat Mitt Romney - who makes my skin actually crawl - and wrote several blog posts here chronicling my dislike for the man and shared them all. While I didn't get many recs here on most of them I sent them out into the ether in the hopes they would impact people's votes. Toward the end I was making most of my pleas to third party voters to take one for the team and help hold the line and I know of at least one person who did just that even though they held their nose while doing so. I also worked heavily on younger voters showing them not just the social issues on which the Dems more align with their views, but on issues like Obama's Executive order changing payment options on student loans for those who need it. No, I didn't convince every single person, but that seems an unrealistic goal. Even when I didn't change someone's mind and get them to vote Dem I at least helped open their eyes to the stupidity, racism and misogyny currently dominating the GOP platform and some of the people who's minds I failed to change have been starting to share their own links showing they at least understand that point.
I know I'm not the only one who did this. People complaining about political posts on Facebook became a common thing and like I said, I lost at least a few names off the old friend list and saw several friends (mostly GOP voters) disappear for the last few months of the campaign. Some of them have already returned though my never bloated friend list still remains short a few people.
Okay, I hear you say, "so you recced and shared and linked and blogged and yes more people are reading news and commentary online, but both sides do that." Well, not quite and to find out why continue reading below the (insert cute nickname for the orange dohicky here)...
As you can see from the data table graphic posted at the top of this article the trendlines for age groups receiving news through social media sites heavily favors our side. While the over all use of social networking sites is on the rise, over 40% of people under 40 are currently using sites like Facebook and Google+. That's up 7-13% net since 2010. Meanwhile just 12% of people over 65 are using those sites and that number hasn't budged since the last midterms.
The article I got that image from goes on to talk about trends in twitter and mobile news aps for cellphones:
-17 percent of all Americans got news on a mobile device yesterday.Over 83% of the people who use twitter saw a news story on it and 59% retweeted one. Those numbers are up 25% since 2010. In addition:
-Among the people who own smartphones, 31 percent got news on them yesterday.
More than a third (36%) of those with Twitter accounts use them to follow news organizations or journalists,... On social networking sites, 19% of users say they got information there from news organizations or journalists.Then of course there's the Tablet PC revolution which is simply blowing up. Currently 11% of the population owns a Tablet and over half of those that do use it to access new and...
Consuming news (everything from the latest headlines to in-depth articles and commentary) ranks as one of the most popular activities on the tablet...and
...three-in-ten tablet news users (defined for this study as the 77% of all tablet users who get news at least weekly) say they now spend more time getting news than they did before they had their tablet (emphasis mine).
A third (33%) of tablet news users say they are turning to new sources for news on their tablet, sources they had not turned to on other platforms such as television or their desktop computer. And, more than four in ten (42%) say they regularly read in-depth news articles and analysis on their tablet.The article goes on to explain:
Fully 85% of those who get news on their tablets said they had talked with someone about a long article they had read there. This is more than twice the percentage who say they had shared articles electronically. Some 41% of tablet news users say they share news through email or social networking at least sometimes. And when a select group was asked specifically about their behavior in the last seven days, again about four in ten say they had shared news content through social networking sites or email.Not only are people getting more computer interface based news, but the trend is accelerating relative to other news sources.
No matter the device, digital news consumption continued upward in 2011. Monthly unique audience to the top news sites was up 17%, a similar increase from 2009 to 2010, according to Nielsen Online. Seventeen of those 25 continue to be legacy news outlets.What all of this means is fairly easy to see. People who get their news online aren't subjected to political advertising nearly as much. They will see ads, but the choice to click on the content is theirs. They don't have to sit thorough 5 minutes of negativity, distortion and lies 4 times an hour to get their news. When they see something they agree or disagree with they have the option of pursuing more in-depth information on the topic by simply clicking links or doing a search. That means when they do turn on the TV - for news or entertainment - they are much more likely to have already read something about the ads they see there and able to put the claims in perspective and decide what parts to accept and disregard.
Americans are now fully into the digital era. More than three-quarters of U.S. adults own a laptop or desktop computer. On top of that, 44% now own a smartphone, and tablet ownership is now at 18%, up from just 11% in the summer of 2011. News is a significant part of how people use these devices. Some 51% of smartphone owners use that device to get news, as do 56% of tablet owners. And nearly a quarter of the population, 23%, now gets news on multiple digital devices, according to PEJ research (emphasis mine).
There is a whole generation of young adults who never knew a time without the Internet and that is never going to change. Even people who are 30-35 years old probably used the internet to do research for high school and/or college papers. The simple fact is those people are subjected to a much wider array of information and thus are less likely to accept simple and/or emotional appeals that dominate most political advertising. Websites like DK, TPM, MediaMatters and even CNN are influencing the way politics is discussed and debunking lies as fast as they can be generated. The days were a lie (can) travel half way around the world before the truth can get it's shoes on are coming to an end. The truth and in depth analysis travels just as fast and people today are seeking it out and less likely to simply take what they are spoonfed by the talking heads, pundits and conmen that dominate TV and TV advertising. Younger voters are simply not bothered with having to read an article to learn something. They can pick and choose when and where to do that and not be forced to learn about things on TV's schedule where they would be subjected to political ads.
The simple fact is people want to be more informed and they are. People want to watch less politcal ads and they are. People trust their friends to steer them to good news sources and informative articles and they are. Big money can continue to spend on TV ads, but they cannot force people online who get their news from any of the sources and methods listed above to see and hear their crap. That isn't changing anytime soon and I bet it scares the living piss out of those who want to buy watever's left of this country that they don't already own.
I've seen this quote many times around this site:
Why don't you just quit?I can't remember who said it to Kos so many years ago. Well maybe it's time to track them down and spit it back in their face. We haven't finished yet, but we are closer than ever to breaking the stranglehold the powers that be have on our political system and for everyone who reads, comments and posts here at DK, I'm sure that's some of the best news you've read on the Internet today, no matter how you read it...