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BBC asks “Could the web win it in London”?

The BBC highlights how London’s mayoral candidates are using the Internet to reach potential supporters. Like the reports on this side of the Atlantic focusing on Obama and Clinton, the BBC report compares how each candidate is making use of social networks, video sharing websites, and blogs to garner support. But it also incorporates some skepticism regarding the notion that the “Internet is the great leveller for candidates with tiny marketing budgets.”

At least as between London’s mayoral candidates, it points out that although the clips on YouTube of the smaller party candidates get roughly as many views as the larger party candidates, the numbers of views is small. This is particularly true of clips that do not incorporate gaffs or embarrassing missteps. While Conservative candidate Boris Johnson’s election related clips have peaked at “7,385 hits”, the entry featuring him with the most views is “of the Tory MP indulging in an over-enthusiastic tackle at a charity football match”.

With perception of the importance of the Internet for electoral victory rising, candidates–as for example Labour’s Ken Livingstone who has hired Blue State Digital (the company used by the Obama Campaign)—will have to invest campaign funds into coordinating and updating online activity, creating graphics, applications, infiltrating online social networks, etc.

Although the article doesn’t mention it, at least with regards to the Obama-Hilary campaigns, a sizable part of the heavily viewed entries on YouTube feature footage from sponsored debates to which the 3rd party candidates are simply not invited. And that inability to participate in the dialogue in the brick and mortar world also seems likely to undermine the “leveling” effect of the Internet.

Another interesting points BBC report did mention was that Livingston “used a YouTube video to hit back at Conservative candidate Boris Johnson’s first party election broadcast – something that would not have been allowed on TV, with its strict rules on balance.” As the US presidential race moves into the period where the more stringent campaigning regulation comes into effect, it will be interesting to track how candidates will use the Internet to undermine the campaigning laws they supported as Senators.

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