Along with the voters, and the pundits, and the press, there was another group of people paying very close attention to last night’s presidential debate. They were waiting for their opportunity to capitalize on something. On what, exactly, they didn’t know, until Mitt Romney spoke about his effort as governor of Massachusetts to have a gender balance in his cabinet.
“I went to a number of women’s groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,?' and they brought us whole binders full of women," Romney said.
That turn of phrase --“binders full of women” -- was just unusual enough to launch a new Internet meme.
There are untold binder tweets, a binders full of women Facebook page and one on Tumblr. But can people make money off of this? Alex Nagle, of Trendrr, a social media measurement platform, says unquestionably yes.
For evidence, he pointed out that he'd just spent the weekend at Comic-Con, home to 1,000 costumed, living, breathing memes. Then he asked if I remembered the Nyan cat, "that little loop of the pop tart cat with the obsessive little, catchy jingle behind it."
The pop-tart cat animation on YouTube has over 86 million views. Fans can -- and do -- buy Nyan cat T-shirts and bracelets at stores like Hot Topic. It's overnight Internet sensations like these that earn the right to be called a meme. They can make money, but those who want to cash in have to move fast.
Take bindersfullofwomen.com. The page is full of anti-Romney messages published by American Bridge 21st Century -- a Democratic super PAC. American Bridge was able to get the domain because it had staffers watching the debate ready to pounce on any potentially promising URL. The group's president, Rodell Mollineau, said the domain name cost about $40.
“Which I’d say, for the amount of buzz, that was a pretty good investment,” he said.
But whether that $40 persuades any new voters remains to be seen. Alex Nagle says memes are a case of Warhol on steroids.
“Warhol famously said everyone will be famous for 15 minutes at some point,” he said.
Now, of course, it's 140 characters the people get famous for.