Lisa LaFlamme replaces Lloyd Robertson. New beginnings or an era that has now passed?

Prior to the Olympics I heard an interesting rumour from a source close to the business that CTV’s Lloyd Robertson would be pulling up anchor and moving on after the company’s high profile gig of playing host network to Canada’s 2010 Vancouver Olympics. It was the kind of information that you’d want to triple-check and the kind of tidbit of info that you’d want to ensure isn’t confirmed from sources who had only heard the same from the original rumour monger. While it was never enunciated broadly, it graced the front of one media watcher’s blog and threatened to make its way onto talk radio. Robertson himself acted to quash the rumour declaring that he had no announcement to make and that he’d be staying on for the nightly newscast.

That is, until last evening.

The man that anchored CTV’s flagship newscast and who had done so since 1984 told friends, colleagues and the industry that it was time to wrap it up. Anchor politics have been relevant to the mainstream news business in the past and indeed, with recent shakeups including the entry of Sun News on the scene, anchor politics are in play again.

In the United States, the retirement of Dan Rather and introduction of Katie Couric set off a lot of chatter. The passing of the torch between an outgoing Tom Brokaw to an incoming Brian Williams represented a similar “seismic” shift over at NBC.

But are such events as relevant as they once were?

In an evolving media landscape, the news consumer has more options than David Brinkley vs. Walter Cronkite. As they unfold, national and international news events are disseminated in a less fixed (or indeed less anchored) manner, but rather more in a diverse, disparate, and distributed fashion. One time, sitting on a political panel for one of the Canadian networks, I found it telling and perhaps unsurprising that the host was keeping on top of emerging stories not via the news wire, but rather via National Newswatch — an amateur independent news aggregator that is well-read among political types in Ottawa. Former CTV political host Mike Duffy famously kept us up to the minute via tips sent to his Blackberry. And even since, I’ve learned that while even the Prime Minister’s Office keeps on top of news via National Newswatch and similar news aggregators, much of their breaking media monitoring operations has shifted to tracking emerging chatter on Twitter. Whole government departments are now contracting social media monitoring to keep on top of issues and to conduct their media management. The department of Heritage sought a social media guru to keep track of anti-seal-hunt chatter to provide intel of possible disruptions during the Olympics and even in the aftermath of the G20 violence, police are using social media networks to identify perpetrators.

Regarding packaged content that can be monetized, companies are scrambling to understand the landscape as it shifts. Google is set to make a serious entry later this year with its Google TV offering which will allow the further convergence of search/web/television and make it accessible to the average end-user. Google’s YouTube announced YouTube Leanback this week which previews the socially-aware web-television interface where whole channels of content will be dedicated to videos produced and shared by one’s Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Google contacts. The format promises to be open to developers and therefore we may yet see new imagined methods of information consumption emerge.

The significance of this? The media space and the distribution of content is becoming less top-down. Today, in contrast to ten years ago, it matters less to the Prime Minister’s Office to get their story on The National. Much has been written about the Conservative’s strategy of narrow-casting to local and ethnic media. Even more has been written about the waning influence of broadcast news to cable. Former PMO Director of Communications Kory Teneycke is banking $100 million of Quebecor’s money on this newer front. What may yet be the newest frontier is tapping into the emerging importance of building online networks of influencers bottom-up from a populist rather than top-down elite information distribution model.

What happens when the 500-channel universe and 15-minute news cycle gives way to an unbound media universe and “cycle” (soon to be a misnomer) consistently in flux? Will we need an anchor? Or will we be happy to float along the tide?

In old media, we see another changing of the guard and Lisa LaFlamme should be congratulated for her career accomplishments that brought her to anchor CTV’s newscast. However, it will be how she and her company adapt to a broader, more fluid and bottom-up media culture that will determine their success in the next phase. Because that’s the kind of era it’s been. Now to the future.

UK Tory GOTV E-day effort online

We’re still watching the votes come in on this side of the pond and it’s turning into a late night/early morning for our cousins in the UK as votes are counted and a hung (minority) Parliament looks like the outcome of the election in that country.

I spoke to the web gurus over at the British Conservative Party on election day to find out what they did to drive get out the vote (GOTV) efforts online. They revealed a peak into their strategy for mobilizing Britons to the polls.

First, an unprecedented buy of the British Youtube homepage’s ad unit. Cameron’s web team has admitted to me that they received millions of impressions of their video advert on e-day. Advertising on broadcast media is prohibited in the UK on election day and thus the Youtube ad placement is shrewd and effective. Part of the motivation to buy Youtube for May 7th was to keep the same rare legal platform for advertising out of the hands of their political opponents.

The UK Tories also mobilized a simple Facebook application which allowed the user to donate their status update message to a GOTV message for the Tories on election day. We saw a similar tactic used during the previous US presidential election for both McCain and Obama.

An email was sent out from David Cameron to the UK Tory supporter list for election day:

and later in the day, a second GOTV email from London mayor (and Conservative) Boris Johnson:

Finally, but most importantly, the integral element of the Tory e-day e-GOTV strategy has been Google advertising. The Tories have purchased keywords relating to their leader and to their political opponents and have targeted the ads geographically in key ridings.

And now, we continue to watch the votes come in. The magic number to beat a Labour/LibDem coalition is 310 seats, whereas a majority would be won with 326.

Rob Willington presents at the Manning Centre conference

Rob Willington is the brains behind the campaign that got the GOP’s 41st Senate vote in the Massachusetts special Senate election.

He gave a lunch time presentation on social media and how the MA republicans used online technologies to elect Scott Brown to the senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy, a Democrat.

On Facebook, Brown advised that politicians should engage potential voters not just with political content but with non-political content as well.

With YouTube, Willington advised to use YouTube as a publisher as a search engine. This means to promote relevant keywords and content.

Twitter was used as an example to use every facet of a social media strategy to promote means by which a campaign can collect data about its supporters.

The Brown campaign was one of the first national campaigns to use Google Docs to manage data flow into spreadsheets to manage RSVP lists and donor lists. Forms feeding into spreadsheets automatically populate your lists.

Google News alerts are appropriate for campaigns to gather new information as its posted on your candidate and their opponents.

Data is gold in a campaign. Data collection can be done via petitions, polls and events.

In the US, talk radio is dominated by conservatives. The Brown campaign collected 70,000 mobile numbers from advertising short codes on lawn signs and twitter. The Brown campaign would send texts when their opponent was on radio on would include a call-in number to jam the lines with Brown supporters.

Ning was used to create the “Brown brigade” to create local groups. Ning is like Facebook but a whitelabel solution to mobilize local cells in your campaign.

Willington was able to target online ads to activists inside and outside of the state discretely. For ads inside the state the ad would be for volunteers. For outside the state, the ad would be to make calls from home to voters within the state. GOTV ads would be visible to Repubican heavy areas on election day.

By the end of the campaign, voluteers were waiting an hour and a half in line outside of the campaign office to make calls.

Willington advised that volunteers have more skills than licking envelopes and making calls. Find skillsets in your volunteers (iphone app development, final cut pro) and put them to work.

Moneybombs were successful for the Ron Paul and Scott Brown. The Brown campaign invented the “Voter Bomb” where people could sign in and claim responsibility for bringing out a number of their friends to vote for Brown.

The Brown campaign changed how campaigners win elections online. Willington gave a great presentation.

Prime Minister will use social media to connect with Canadians

I just found out from my friends in the Prime Minister’s office (and at Google) that the Prime Minister will be using YouTube to livestream his reaction to the Speech from the Throne and will use Google Moderator to take questions from Canadians regarding the Throne Speech and Budget.

Social media has been creeping into many different fields from its rapid uptake in entertainment to cautious integration in politics. Barack Obama used social media extensively during his campaign and has used it during his presidency. Some will remember that President Obama used Google Moderator to hold a first-of-its-kind townhall answering questions submitted via the service.

Canadians can watch the Throne Speech reaction live at Tuesday March 11, 2010 at 11 a.m. ET at http://www.youtube.com/TalkCanada and submit questions via the same address and see the townhall on the 16th at 7pm ET.

Here is the release from the PM’s office:

Canadians, especially younger Canadians, are no longer getting their news from just television, radio and print media. They are turning to new media in increasing numbers. This marks the first time that a Prime Minister’s speech will be livestreamed on YouTube.

Social media is changing the way Canadians interact with politicians. It allows Canadians to have unfiltered and immediate access to information. And it facilitates conversation between citizens and their elected representatives. Livestreaming complements our Government’s current use of social media, which includes Twitter, Facebook and pre-taped YouTube videos. In fact, Prime Minister Harper has an active following – 47,383 followers – on Twitter.

Here is the YouTube video explaining the event:

The pulse of a nation

measured by Facebook

It was quite a game yesterday and one of those defining moments sure to be included on an updated version of the Canadian immigration quiz. I awoke yesterday hearing Foster Hewitt’s classic cry “Hennnnnderrrsssson” from the classic 1972 Canadian-Soviet series when Henderson scored with 34 seconds left in the final game, playing over and over in my head. I didn’t know then but it turned out to be a good sign.

When Zach Parise scored a tying goal with just 24 seconds left, almost 30 years to the day of the famed American “Miracle on Ice”, Canada’s heart felt a jarring palpitation as seen by the first spike of status updates in the chart above.

The second spike would come about half an hour later when Sidney Crosby scored the overtime goal against the US to enrich an already golden games for Canada.

ASIDE: I was somewhat amused (and actually impressed) by Jack Layton’s ability to find a camera as we all watched the gold medal game. Jack was watching at Gretzky’s bar in downtown Toronto and kept popping up in reaction shots when CTV would show different crowds watching the game around Canada. I missed it the first time, but our friends at the Torontoist show us Jack’s gold medal determination at a sport he has dominated for quite some time.

I believe / J’imagine Jack.

Mark Holland on Twitter

October 5, 2009:

Liberal MP Mark Holland is among the majority of the MPs in the 308-seat House of Commons who have not signed on to Twitter.

He sees it as an “info-dumping” medium and says he cannot find a compelling reason to start tweeting.

“You can’t get very much in 140 characters,” he says. “It tends to lend itself to a lot of really useless information.”

5 hours ago:

“looking forward to connecting with my constituents in a new and exciting way – please follow me on twitter.”

Perhaps the threat of a star candidate in Ajax-Pickering made Holland think again about the need to connect in more ways with his constituents.

h/t

NDP convention — Saturday summary

Today, the NDP got down to business and discussed policy, policy and more policy. In fact, the difference with Liberal policy conventions and NDP policy conventions, is that at NDP policy conventions, policy is discussed.

I started following the day with interest as delegates debated building an oil pipeline from Alberta to Eastern Canada. The advantages — according to the delegates — would be that such a move would create hundreds if not thousands of jobs and it would maintain sovereignty over Canadian energy distribution as distribution channels now run through the US. The clear disadvantage? That would be a nod to the reality that Canadians consume oil and export oil from the oil sands — a sticky point to a party that ran on a moratorium on future oil sands development in the previous election. In the face of recognizing economic realities and lofty dreams, the party faithful sided with the latter firmly saying “no” to our own oil production and transport.

From there, delegates went onto women in “peace-building” (is this the same as Conservative “peacemaking” — or closer to Liberal “peacekeeping”?) The resolution carried as no controversy could be found in a feel good resolution for everyone. Then foreign aid came up and Libby Davies took the microphone to describe the conditions of the people in the Gaza strip after she had returned from… the West Bank. No mention of Israel, though one delegate found the Canada-Israel Committee’s presence at the conference “interesting”. There was some other drama as some delegates debated the highly generalized language of the foreign aid resolution which described aid to “countries”. One delegate moved to discuss aid on a case-by-case bilateral basis. There were also some procedural debates. One French-language resolution was discussed which may well have been lifted by the Bloc Quebecois mandating the use of the French-language by all Quebeckers. Further, a policy resolution on EI firmed up the party’s position closer to the 360 hour mark similarly being proposed by the Liberals.

Leo Gerard was one of the showcase speakers of the day. The president of the United Steelworkers certainly gave the best crowd-pleasing speech of the day but appealed to the worst elements of partisanship as he, at different times, called both Harper and Ignatieff “the prince of darkness” and called ideological opponents in the US healthcare debate “redneck jerkoffs”. Frankly, if the NDP is to ever be taken seriously, this sort of language is unacceptable from a showcase speaker during the convention of a mainstream political party. In fact, to emphasize the fact that the NDP is still not taken seriously, there will be little to no critical coverage of this language in the MSM tomorrow, as there would have been screaming headlines if this had occurred at a Conservative or Liberal convention.

Next, the results of the party executive elections were announced. Peggy Nash replaces Anne McGrath as president of the NDP while Rebecca Blaikie was elected treasurer. A motion was made to destroy recycle the ballots. Nash served as an MP for the NDP in the 39th parliament and then most recently as an adviser to the CAW. Blaikie is daughter of the former NDP MP and Dean of the House of Commons Bill Blaikie.

Next, Marshall Ganz — a Harvard lecturer and labour organizer — spoke to the crowd about his experience as a community organizer and as a campaign organizer for the Obama campaign. Ganz gave the most informative speech of day for assembled delegates. Though Ganz spoke about the “politics of hope”, the NDP would be better served going negative against Michael Ignatieff as the Liberal leader has left them a lot of room to maneuver on the centre-left. To stake out their place there, the NDP will have to define Ignatieff more aggressively than recent Conservative efforts did with the now famous Just Visiting ads. Particularly notable moments of culture shock were apparent from Obama speakers in their use of biblical parables to illustrate “teachable moments” at this convention. The party of prairie preacher Tommy Douglas has taken a long road eschewing social justice drawn from religious inclination to one taken from a more atheistic worldview and Obama campaigners seemed to be out-of-place making religious analogies to a largely secular party.

After Ganz, the party went back to policy debate and discussed a state-focused nuclear disarmament resolution in a “hey, remember the 80s/something happened on 9/11?” moment. As conflict has moved from cold-war area politics to one with asymmetrical non-state actors post 9/11, the NDP still seems bent on having the same “world without (US) nukes” policy discussion instead of addressing the real and present danger of global terrorism. Another striking moment came during the international policy discussion portion when NDP MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) suggested that Tamil actions in blocking traffic in Ottawa and occupying a highway in Toronto were legitimate methods for Tamils to get the attention of the Canadian government.

The keynote of the day was Betsy Myers, the COO for the Obama campaign. According to her agency website, Myers banks between $15-20k per speaking arrangement. Myers talk was relatively light and uninspiring for delegates, but involved a Q&A session hosted by NDP national campaign manager Brian Topp. During Myers speech to party faithful, union delegates were notably absent from the speech. While union organizers make up an important part of the NDP field operation, they may have been upset by the party brass importing some expensive American talent to tell delegates about the shiniest new campaign techniques.


Union delegates absent from Myers speech and Q&A

After the Myers segment, Dippers poured out to hospitality events including a Keith’s brewery tour hosted by the NDP Nova Scotia Provincial caucus, that despite just forming government in that province, only managed to bring out five MLAs to the reception. Another big event of the evening was the Charlie Angus-sponsored Canadian Private Copying Collective gathering at the Delta. Of the federal caucus, only Angus and Bruce Hyer were present (a reader writes to inform that Claude Gravelle, Carol Hughes, Malcom Allen, Glen Thibault, Brian Masse, John Rafferty, Andrea Horwath, Ken Neuman, Leo Gerrard, and Andrew Cash also showed up during the event). They were joined by Canadian artists Eva Avila of Idol fame, Chris Cummings, Teresa Ennis, and Marie Denise Pelletier. The other free event was the NDP “tweetup” on Argyle street attended by Paul Dewar, Niki Ashton, Megan Leslie and Brian Masse. The VIPs, not at the brewery tour, copyright party or tweetup, must have been gathered at the Delta for a closed-door $300 “winner’s circle” meet-and-greet with Betsy Myers where MP Olivia Chow reported that Myers said that the NDP “[gives] voice to the voiceless”. Indeed.

Despite an initial setback after the party banned one of their leading activists, the eNDProhibition movement is making its voice heard at the NDP convention and is reportedly being more shrewd than the members of the Socialist caucus who are bluntly and clumsily pushing to nationalize everything. Dana Larsen, the NDP candidate who was fired during the last campaign for being pro-drug, was similarly barred from attending the NDP convention. The advocates for marijuana are looking for any small victory for their cause such as having the resolution on psychoactive substances debated on the floor. The eNDProhibition activists were seen lobbying GLBT delegates making the argument that they too once faced discrimination within their own party (Tommy Douglas’ views on homosexuality).


Some eNDProhibition buttons seen at the convention

Tomorrow will be an interesting day as the convention closes and the NDP debates their convention-headlining moment: the possible rebranding of the party. Observers will note a blue colour has washed over the NDP website and former party communications guru Ian Capstick noted to me that orange is simply terrible on camera. During the keynote, Myers spoke against a blue backdrop complete with “Jack Layton” in large letters overtop a barely visible “NDP-NPD” sitting next to large Obama logo. The party of Layton seems dedicated to embracing the success of the new American president who is for everything from the death penalty, to nukes, to civil unions over same-sex marriage, to two-tier healthcare, to increased troop presence in Afghanistan, to free trade with Colombia, to keeping Omar Khadr locked up. Layton may be embracing the blue colour in a nod to the US Democrats who turned red states into blue states for Obama in the 2008 election. The NDP slogan “it can be done” is somewhat similar to “yes we can” but seems to be more “convincing a disbeliever” in tone rather than a collective and affirmative call to action.

If Marshall Ganz could have given one lesson to delegates it would have been that without a personal story from each and every person about why they believe in your candidate enough to work on your team, the slickest political package and most sophisticated social media operation will never win a campaign. You can fly in the top-paid political talent, but without a strong field team you’ll be spending more time convincing people that “it can be done” rather than everyone believing that “yes, we can”. This weekend, the NDP may yet illustrate that it will fail at its own expensive imported lesson.

UDPATE: The NDP will not change its name. But not for a lack of trying. The delegates were only given an hour to debate an omnibus resolution on party constitution matters. No time was left to discuss the name change. As James Moore says, “everything old is new again”.

Announcing IggyFacts.ca

Today, I launched a new political mini-site at IggyFacts.ca.

The site is meant to be a humourous take on the definition campaign of the Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff.

The site is meant to be integrated with, but does not require, Twitter.  Random facts about Michael Ignatieff are presented and with a single click of a button, they can be “re-tweeted” (repeated) via a person’s twitter account.  You can even submit your own facts.

Twitter + Politics + Crowdsourcing = IggyFacts.ca

For those that aren’t familiar with Twitter, the service is like building your own mailing list.  People sign up to receive information from you at your discretion.  For example, at the time of this writing, I have 3,846 people “following” me on Twitter.  This means that several times a day, almost 4,000 people read my updates on a variety of topics from politics, what I’m thinking or even doing (or whatever else I’d like to write).  The political implications of this are large because each one of these people have their own “following” (or list) and this presents the opportunity to spread a message.  Some people that follow me are web designers, some are Democrats, some Republican, some Conservative, some Liberal, some Calgarian, some Australian, among others.  A police officer that follows me on Twitter may find a message that I write interesting enough to re-tweet (or repeat) it along to his list of his police officer friends, his Vancouver motocycle club twitterers and even his fellow jetskiers on Twitter.  In turn they may pass the message along too.  This bridges groups and it can find a message going out beyond one particular community.  Blogs are often read by die-hard partisans and not often by swing voters.  Since Twitter allows you to read beyond the highly integrated political blog community, it is a powerful tool for politics.

Is s.329 of the Elections Act quixotic?

Section 329 of the Elections Act reads,

“No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.”

The polls in Newfoundland and Labrador close at 8:30pm local time whereas those in BC close at 7pm. In reference to the Eastern time zone, those eastern polls close at 7pm and those polls on the west coast at 10pm. Therefore, it is technically illegal to broadcast results of any poll between 7pm and 10pm tonight though results should be available as early as 7:45pm.

In this age of new media, bloggers, facebookers and twitterers are expected to operate in the framework of an antiquated law. When this provision of the Elections Act was written, the intent of the law was to prevent television networks from broadcasting results in Newfoundland to British Columbia in order to prevent BC voters from having results before they cast their own ballots. Now that new media offers populist broadcasting to everyone with a mobile phone or a computer, how will Elections Canada enforce this provision of the Elections Act?

In my opinion, this section is a violation of free speech. Yes, I understand the reasoning behind it, yet I do believe that the law does not reflect reality in this age of self-broadcasting. Laws should be enforceable because when it is impossible to enforce a law, a law ceases to have effect. If the purpose behind the law is valid (to prevent “specially informed” voters), a more realistic method of achieving it is required. It is much more reasonable to close all polls at the same moment no matter the time zone.

What is to stop an Atlantic Canadian from updating her twitter status as to the result of her Newfoundland riding? Or the Prince Edward Islander from posting who is in the lead on his Facebook wall? Since the possible forums for national broadcast have gone from a limited three television networks to practically limitless social media outlets, this particular provision of the Elections Act is de facto unenforceable.

And who is responsible for the rebroadcasting of early results? Do I shut down Blogging Tories for three hours this evening because a blogger whose RSS feed I aggregate there may put me in violation of the Act? Is the situation similar for Google Reader and iGoogle which both act as an RSS reader? More broadly, will Google shut down its Blogger site to Canadian IP addresses? Will Twitter face sanction because a Canadian might convey information to another Canadian through its American-hosted service?

Indeed, the law does not reflect reality and must be changed. What remains to be seen is whether change will come from mass social media violation of s.329 or through the legislative process.

LiberalTour (LiberalTour) is now following your updates on Twitter

I just received this email on my Blogging_Tories twitter account. Somebody in the Liberal war-room has been spending their afternoon following everyone and their brother on twitter.

At the time of this writing, liberaltour on twitter is following 1,963 people while being followed by 532 people.

Perhaps the Liberal strategy is to follow as many people as they can in order to build reciprocal followers. When people follow others on twitter, the followee receives an email indicating that they’re being followed and this gets them to reciprocate with the person who is following them. So, is the Liberal campaign building a following by blasting twitter users email inboxes with follow notices? It appears that they are succeeding somewhat as the number of people following the Liberal tour has also increased this afternoon.

At 2:45pm, liberaltour had just over 1,300 people that they were following, up to 1,600 at 3:15pm, to 1,731 at just before 5pm, and now at 1,932 (5:16pm).

Here are the current standings (as of 5:15pm on September 25 2008) among the five federal party leaders:

Account Following Followers Ratio Updates
jacklayton 909 920 1.01 84
pmharper 854 807 0.94 35
premierministre 17 58 3.41 28
liberaltour 1,962 532 0.27 36
tourneeliberal 0 10 10.0 1
gillesduceppe 171 182 1.06 69

Taking the English and French twitter feeds together for each campaign, the Conservatives have a ratio of 0.99 Following/Followers, the Liberals have a ratio of 0.28, the NDP has 1.01 and the Bloc 1.06.

Most campaigns follow as many people that follow them. However, the Liberals follow more than are followed in the twitter race.

The Liberal campaign should be careful, the folks at twitter advise

A Twitter account may be suspended for a variety of reasons. The most common of which is automated mass following or other types of spammy behavior.

Twitter is a growing social platform that all campaigns are trying to figure out during this campaign and it’s impact on Canadian politics has yet to be seen. If you like, you can follow me on twitter and check out political updates on twitter in real-time at govtweets.ca