Online Campaigns in the Physical World


The Obama campaign is translating online energy into offline results.

Way back in 2003, Zephyr Teachout, director of Internet organizing for the Howard Dean campaign, told me, "I'm obsessed with offline."

[F]or Teachout, a 31-year-old lawyer in black high-top sneakers, the campaign is not about the Internet. Online tools are a way to get people to act -- to meet in the physical world, to put up flyers and posters, write letters and checks, speak to other people face to face. And ultimately, to get out and vote. "The Internet is moving from information technology to organizing technology," she says.

That was so long ago in internet time that my editors insisted that we pause to explain the "electronic journals known as weblogs."

By last summer, it was clear that online campaigns had made enormous progress, but questions remained about the ability to connect all the moving parts.

Obama's campaign seems to have answered some of the questions. As Dean veteran Joe Trippi told the NYT's Brian Stelter,"We were like the Wright brothers. [The Obama team] skipped Boeing, Mercury, Gemini -- they're Apollo 11, only four years later."

I'll be spending a lot of time over the next few months looking at what's working -- and what remains to be done -- in online campaigns.