KAI RYSSDAL: A politician is kind of like a product. Marketed in different ways, depending on the crowd. You know: When they talk to unions, they’re pro-labor. When they talk to wealthy donors, they love tax cuts. Marketing to younger voters presents a different challenge. Candidates are using the Internet to reach that demographic — including social networking sites like MySpace.
So how they doing? We sent Youth Radio’s Alana Germany to check it out.
ALANA GERMANY: MySpace is my life. I’m on almost 24/7. But I still don’t understand why presidential candidates would want to be on MySpace.
JOE TUMAN: It’s an inexpensive way to reach an audience that sometimes gets ignored — younger people.
That’s Joe Tuman, a professor of speech and communications at San Francisco State University.
TUMAN: It’s a great place to recruit people to work on your campaign. And it’s an interesting place to think about how you can do fundraising.
Twenty-year-old Quincy Mosby is one of the thousands of MySpace users whom candidates have reached. He “friend-requested” Barack Obama in hopes of linking to the senator’s profile and rallying support for his candidate.
QUINCY MOSBY: I’d like to think that, you know, by having him up there, that’ll make them think about, “Hey, maybe I should vote for that guy, ’cause he’s on Quincy’s page and Quincy seems to be not such a bad dude.”
And take it from an expert: In a place like MySpace, that’s like a big popularity contest, a lot is riding on how you present yourself.
The upside of Hillary Clinton’s site is there’s a lot to look at. The downside is all the merchandise she displays, which is kind of tacky. It’s also interesting that there’s no sign of Bill around.
John McCain’s MySpace layout is ridiculously boring — a dark background with hazy white stars. As you scroll down his page, the stars disappear, and you descend into blackness. I hope that’s not what his presidency willbe like if he’s elected.
Mitt Romney goes wrong in his picture section. They’re all of him at rallies, shaking hands here, giving hugs there. Please. The baby-kissing bit is the oldest trick in the book.
John Edwards’ page is my favorite. MySpace is all about being yourself. And in his pictures he’s playing with his children on the beach and having lunch with volunteers during a clean-up after Hurricane Katrina.
So what are the presidential campaigns ultimately hoping to get out of their social networking profiles?
Professor Joe Tuman says in the end, no matter what the platform, candidates are still commodities.
TUMAN: They’re packaged like products. And the prettier and more appealing you can make something, the more likely you are to sell it.
I’m Alana Germany for Marketplace.
RYSSDAL: Alana’s story was produced for us by Youth Radio.
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