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Politics as a Visual Networking Case Study

“œInternet’s pervasive political punch” read the front page headline of San Jose Mercury news, that one of our lead SP business analysts, Shruti Jain, showed me on a recent trip to Silicon Valley. While we have been talking of internet revolution for over a decade, the extent to which current presidential campaign in the U.S. is using Web 2.0, underlines importance of the network across all aspects of our daily lives, and across all aspects of the political spectrum for that matter In this case, the network transforms the campaigns from being largely national based on predominately paid placement and news coverage to having a trans-national reach using”grass-roots” methods being driven by individual voters. This approach can both shed light on the emotions associated with the democratic process while helping to bridge the gap between the traditional voters and the younger generation who are going to be defining the international political scenario of the future.In this current campaign, there are many examples of the candidates using the network as the medium. One of the most prominent examples, is a speech in mid-March from Illinois Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama on race in America. Clips of the speech were shown on news outlets throughout the country, but his campaign posted the entire 37 minutes speech on YouTube as well. The result, even though the video was a bit grainy and took some time to fully download and buffer, was that instead of relying on written transcripts of the entire speech published in select newspapers or hearing hearsay from one of the few hundred in personal attendance at the event, many people around the world could not just hear the speech but feel the emotion of it as well -in essence, even with the technical flaw, they were able to”experience” it to some levels. At last count, the speech had been viewed nearly 4.2 million times -far exceeding the reach, depth, and connection with the audience that a traditional advertisement could bring. So where does this leave the provider? Cable and IPTV providers rely on such television advertisements for revenue. Broadband providers deliver such YouTube videos but have no way to monetize the delivery of them beyond basic subscription fees. The answer? It can be varied and is something that is sure to get quite a bit of commentary from those in the industry (In fact, it was the topic of a great conversation I had last week with Phil Marshall from the Yankee Group who has both great ideas and a cool accent-) In my personal opinion, the answer is to break down the silos that exist between broadband and television, between Web 2.0 and traditional vehicles, between social media and paid placement, between professionally produced and user-generated content. There is still quite a way to go before such silo-breaking can occur, both in terms of deployment, technology, and regulatory environments. However, like the efforts of the current campaigns, the resulting visual networking experience for the audience would be even more personalized and impactful. And for the provider? It will be a way to gain both more relevance with the customer and more avenues to drive revenue and deliver more value in the process.

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