This feature compares the way five different web sites treated the campaign race for the Democratic presidential candidate with specific reference (but not restricted to) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.


This is the first time in the history of the United States that the race for the Democrat presidential nomination has been fought so extensively on all media fronts – old and new. The traditional media was used extensively by both candidates but the younger candidate in the form of Obama launched a dedicated and targeted online campaign that has paid off.


Some $120 million was spent by the two candidates in the past 12 months and some believe Obama’s success is partly attributable to his significantly larger media budget.


Obama’s camp embraced new-media strategies from early on, and relied on online activity and a social-network-style campaign website. After Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million, the Obama team responded by sending out an e-mail to its supporters the next day that read, “We need to match this quickly, can you help?” Within 24 hours respondents donated $8 million.


Obama outspent Clinton in paid search, but according to SEO specialist Michael Fleischner, Clinton out-ranked Obama on her use of organic search. On Google, Clinton ranked within the top 20 listings on 717 related political keyword phrases. By comparison, Obama only ranked in the top 20 for 201 political keywords searches.


At the beginning of her campaign, Clinton featured extensively on blogs and was an early proponent of YouTube. However, there was no catching Obama on the user-generated media channel. Nearly three times more videos were uploaded by the Obama camp vs. the Clinton camp, with 10 times more views.


The viral impact of the “I got a crush … on Obama” video by “Obama Girl” ( and its various spin-offs enjoyed more than 60 million views on YouTube.


Obama could also rely on more than 1 million Facebook and MySpace friends. His use of social media has not just helped him to connect with younger voters, but has also been an incredibly efficient way of keeping him in the media.


Obama also gained the upper hand in the one-to-one communication with gimmicks such as Chris Rock voice-mail messages and making use of the 1 million-plus e-mail addresses that were acquired through a fundraising database.


Obama’s ability to create personal relationships via mass-marketing techniques characterized his media strategy. The employment of digital media channels – notably  his website, use of social media and e-mail marketing – helped gain younger voter support and proved effective in fundraising, a critical factor in sustaining a heavy marketing effort.

(Antony Young


We now look at some of the sites in more detail.


1. AlterNet


One of the most impressive “independent” sites I have come across is AlterNet. It is also one of the most interactive sites with links to Digg, Delicious, reddit, Fork, Yahoo, Newsvine, Facebook and NewsTrust.


It even has a display calendar that archives videos by date. This makes it extremely easy to go to the date you are looking for and access the video you want to view.


Furthermore they make it very simple to subscribe to their newsletter. All you need to do is to add your email address, postal code and click on go! No need to fill in your life history as many sites require and which is very off-putting.


Nature of site

In their words the site is an award-winning news magazine and online community that creates original journalism and amplifies the best of dozens of other independent media sources.



AlterNet’s aim is to inspire citizen action and advocacy on the environment, human rights and civil liberties, social justice, media, and health care issues. Their editorial mix is dedicated to fairness, equity and global stewardship, and making connections across generational, ethnic and issue lines. AlterNet, they say, serves as a reliable filter, keeping hundreds of thousands of people well-informed and engaged, helping them cope with a culture of information overload and resist the constant commercial media onslaught. Their aim is to stimulate, motivate, and engage.


Use of technology

In addition to high-quality print content, AlterNet makes effective use of a wide range of web tools. They provide a variety of multimedia content, engage their readers in two-way communications, features reader-generated content, and respond to breaking news with various blogs.


Engaging their readers

AlterNet has an average of 1.7-m visitors per month. They send out a daily newsletter to

90 000 people and have 15 000 registered contributors. More than 80 000 readers visit their blogs per month.



AlterNet has won two Webby Awards for Best Web Magazine and several Independent Press Awards for online political coverage. AlterNet was also named one of NPR’s five “Winners on the Internet.”


It is one of the most interactive sites with links to Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Fork, Yahoo,

Newsvine, Facebook and NewsTrust.








As can be expected this is a comprehensive site that offers a wealth of information. Interesting is the by-line: Telling America’s story.


Nature of site

This is a government site that provides a wide range of information listed under interesting headings such as Foreign Policy, Economics and Trade, American Giving, Peace and Security and American Life.


Aim of site

The obvious aim of the site is to inform and one can expect, to also influence. This is the site to visit for general information on the election with detailed information on the candidates, the election process and everything else that pertains to the election.


Use of technology

The site does is any time as advanced as any of the leaders in the field. It features videos, podcasts, webcasts, webchats, blogs, charts and others. There is a link to all the most popular social bookmarks such as Delicious, Digg, reddit, Facebook and StumbleUpon 


Engaging their readers

Should one want to follow a link you have a choice of 63! These are listed under the headings General Election, Parties, Campaign Finance (that track money spent), Diversity (women, Hispanics and youth), Information for Students, Polls and media.

Under polls one can link to sites such as ABC, CBS, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post

Under media one finds the familiar names of ABC, CNN, Fox, The New York Times and The Washington Post.


General impressions

What impressed me most about this site is the attractiveness of its layout. One would often expect a government web site to be bland and stuffed with to much information. The layout is clean and fresh with easy access to any of the information, articles, links, videos and others. It is regularly updated and pleasing to the eye.





Barack Obama embraced new media enthusiastically as part of his nomination campaign and this is clearly evident on his site His home page is well laid out with buttons titled Learn, Issues, Media, Action, People, States, Blog, Stores, and a separate button Donate now.


Under Learn you can choose to click on Meet the candidate, Meet the Obamas (which is not much different from Meet the candidate, other than an additional article about his spouse, Michelle Obama), Obama speeches, In the news, Know the facts and Results centre. Clicking on Results centre one is presented with a comprehensive colour-coded map with all the results tabled.



No less than 24 issues are listed under this heading ranging form civil rights to women.



Under media one finds Barack TV, photos and downloads.



Seventeen headings are found under people ranging from African Americans, to veterans, to women.



Fifty five American states are listed under this heading. Most of the copy under the different states consisted of the same case study – that of the Mickes family and tax relief for the American middle class. Some had information pertaining to the specific state.



The sale of merchandise is used as an additional income stream and some 16 items ranging from T-shirts, stickers, signs and posters to caps can be ordered online. Interesting is the note at the bottom of the page informing buyers that any purchase is considered a federal contribution to Obama for America. If buyers have already contributed the maximum amount under federal law or are otherwise ineligible to contribute under the federal rules, they however may still purchase Obama merchandise.


Nature of site

Everything on the site is aimed at promoting Obama and the cause he stands for. The call to donate is also prominent without being overpowering. I believe part of Obama’s success was his moderate stance which is also reflected in the design, layout and content of the web site. He manages to bring across his views without having to slant or attack anybody.  



Use of technology makes extensive use of the available technology. One can link to Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, Twitter, Eventful, Linkedin, BlackPlanet, Faithbase, Eons, Glee, MiGente, MyBatanga, AsianAve and DNC Partybuilder.


General Impressions

New media has played an important role in Obama’s campaign and it is obviously an important part of his total strategy. Obama has taken the lead in this respect and has set the benchmark.





Hillary Clinton’s site also consists of a mostly blue background similar to Obama’s.

Many of the buttons are also the same such as Issues, States, Store and Blog, while others differ slightly e.g. newsroom (media), and Take action (action).


Issues vary from economics (Strengthening the Middle Class) to health care and education, women and immigration and Iraq. These are issues that came up often during the presidential campaign and one would expect to see the candidates’ viewpoint on their web sites.  


Under the heading Spotlight in the centre of the page one can click to the Campaign Photo Album with some of the best campaign photographs presented as if in a hard copy album. Some of the pictures have commentary from Hillary that makes it even more personal. Under the same heading one can also read a transcript of her speech in Washington D.C., look at a video of her election night speech in New York and read a message from her with the heading I want you to know.


Additional sites

There are four sites one can link to from the site. The first, The Hillary I know is what a number of different people have to say about her. These are all people that have been helped or have a close affinity towards her.


Women for Hillary is a site about campaign news with a slant towards women.


Hillary Hub consists of a News, Blog and Video section with news about Hillary and the campaign. offers a number of promotional items that can be ordered online.





Use of technology

Whereas Obama had no less than 16 social media sites on his site, Hillary only has a quarter of that number with MySpace, Facebook, Flickr and You Tube.


General impressions

Although Clinton’s site is by no means as comprehensive as Obama’s it is informative, easy to navigate and attractive. It has far less links and is therefore also much less interactive. It does however manage to connect with the user and create a two-way flow of communication.




Interesting background

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News television station has been forced to apologise to Barack Obama for the third time in two weeks. The first incident happened when a Fox contributor had to apologise after making a joke about Obama being assassinated.


The second incident occurred on the night that Obama won the Democratic nomination. Obama, in a show of affection, lightly touched his fist against his wife Michelle and the anchorwoman referred to it as a “terrorist fist jab”.


The latest was when during an interview a caption was flashed up saying: “Outraged liberals: Stop picking on Obama’s baby mama.” The term is slang for a woman who has a baby with a man who is neither her partner nor boyfriend.


The site

On Tuesday 17 June, Fox news brought the election news to its readers on a bright blue and red background with a striking photograph of the Statue of Liberty in the foreground and the thick smoke cloud of 9/11 in the background. The accompanying headline read: Candidates advisors’ accuse each others of weak mindsets on terror fight, with a link to the full story. It then listed another six Top Stories on election news.   


Under Latest Posts from the Campaign Trail, Fox features headlines such as McCain slams Obama on energy and McCain camp: Obama will make the US less safe.


With headlines such as these one does suspect a bias towards McCain.


The site features a map with the heading Primaries and Caucuses and a facility to click on each state that takes you to a page of the state. On the page one can view the past results of the last three elections as well as a list of the local media – radio, television and newspapers available together with their web site addresses.




There is access to a video on the site, a poll with a relevant question pertaining to the election, Blogs spotlight, Calendar with events and Fox news on air.


Use of technology

The site makes good use of technology to support its news but is less interactive than what one would expect.


General impressions

Being a news site it is packed with fresh news and less emphasis on background news although this is available. In general it provides what a news site should – news of the day on matters that pertains to the candidates and that what they stand for. 


Fox news:


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