Iowa Caucuses Blanketed by Twitter, Blogs, Video

    by Mark Glaser
    January 3, 2008

    i-53171c1574df91417a5d3683575dffe6-Twitter caucus.jpg
    If you were anywhere in Iowa yesterday, you might as well assume that anyone around you could report on what you were saying, even in what you thought was a private moment at a restaurant. That’s the hard lesson learned by veteran GOP political strategist Ed Rollins, who was repeatedly flummoxed in a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, who hectored him about a conversation he had that was transcribed and sent to a TownHall.com blog by the one other person in the restaurant.

    Some choice nuggets in the overheard — and then blogged — conversation:

    Rollins believes Rudy Giuliani is “done,” “has no money,” and was “hurt terribly by those police cruises with his girlfriends.”

    Rollins said Fred Thompson was “a disgrace as a candidate. Fred has been a friend a long time, but has never converted a single vote. No one is taking him seriously.”

    Welcome to the new media world order, Ed. Everyone can and will blog something newsworthy you might say even in the seeming privacy of a restaurant conversation with your wife. It’s not necessarily a good thing, it’s just a new reality when everyone can snap a photo or take video of you with their cell phones or quickly write up a blog post on a laptop or tap out a text message broadcast over Twitter. If enough people pick that up, the news will spread quickly enough and you’ll be red-faced on Fox News.


    That’s just one of the many insights I had in watching the Iowa caucus results come in while bouncing around online and surfing the TV remote simultaneously. Another one was that perhaps Barack Obama’s online prowess in collecting MySpace and Facebook friends had actually paid off in his win in Iowa. That relates directly to a question I had asked you here on MediaShift, with most people being pretty hesitant to predict a correlation between online popularity and real world popularity. Most impressive was how Obama pulled in such a huge percentage of younger voters in Iowa.

    Twittering at the Caucuses

    The other big takeaway was that, as with the Southern California wildfires, the micro-blogging platform Twitter can produce important, quick news updates.

    But the credit to that finding goes to GOP e-consultant Patrick Ruffini, who asked voters to send in Twitter updates live from their caucuses to try to beat the networks at their “entrance poll” games. Ruffini even started a Facebook group to get the word out about his Twittering efforts.


    It’s fascinating stuff to follow his Twitter feed for the night, as he tallies the precinct totals he was getting for the Democractic caucuses, mainly in more liberal college towns. Ruffini noted that the Obama momentum was pretty strong much earlier than any TV reports I saw. Here’s how he explains his Twitter success on his blog at the end of the night:

    Very shortly after 7 p.m. central time, all the [Twitter] reports were pointing in a single direction: a big night for Barack Obama. This led me to post at 7:20 p.m. that the trendlines were for Obama, long before the media caught on. Though I figured most of these tweets came from urban and university precincts, the 2- and 3-to-1 advantages I was seeing consistently were clearly enough to overcome even a mighty Clinton and Edwards surge in more rural parts of the state.

    From a partisan perspective, I do wish we’d had more than three or four Republicans in this bunch, though I did know that the Democrats — with their multiple rounds of voting — would provide for more interesting coverage. Even more people participated via email and text messages — showing the ease with which one could implement an open, lightweight, distributed election day reporting system as a refresh to the closed, bulky, proprietary systems operated by the parties.

    So I’m calling this experiment an unqualified success. This exercise in citizen journalism foretold the result far more quickly than dispatching two dozen stringers to caucus locations throughout Iowa.

    I don’t know if I would give Ruffini total credit in scooping the networks, as he never made any official projection of Obama winning, but I do give him credit for pulling off a very quick ad hoc group of stringers via Twitter and email that gave informal results on the fly. Plus, the asides and commentary gave nice color, and Twitter’s 140-character limit keeps the gab at a minimum vs. TV’s talking heads that go on and on.

    Other Caucus Resources

    While there were a lot of live video and audio feeds from Iowa online, nothing I saw trumped the simple cameras that showed live caucuses on C-SPAN or the cable news networks. Still, it was nice to get alternative perpsectives online, and the breadth of information coming out of this tiny Midwestern state was impressive. Here’s a list of various blog posts, videos and maps that can help you relive the night:

    Iowa Caucus Podcasts, Blogs & New Media at Podcasting News

    Obama and Huckabee Surge To Victory Buoyed by Bloggers, Youth and Online Organization on Wired Threat Level blog

    Huckabama Wins, A Few Observations on Mashable

    Who Needs CNN? at TechPresident

    Obama Beats Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire Online at HitWise blog on Jan. 2

    Patrick Ruffini’s Twitter feed

    Podcastmama’s Twitter feed

    Tweet Scan search for iowa caucus= mentions on Twitter

    Google Map Caucus results

    Des Moines Register’s YouTube VoterVideo project

    Brave New Films’ live video and chat feed

    Caucus Cooler blog on caucus rumors

    The Ointment video spoofs

    What did you think of online coverage of the Iowa caucuses? What resources did you count on that we’ve missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll update this post with anything we missed.

    Additional research for this story by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo.

    Tagged: election twitter video weblog
    • There are a lot more blogs written by Iowans here: http://www.blognetnews.com/iowa

      And you can start listening to the New Hampshire blogosphere here: http://www.blognetnews.com/new_hampshire

    • I’ll preface this by saying I work for an “old media” company.

      I thought some of this new stuff was fascinating, but I also think the traditional media outlets did a great job at the caucuses too.

    • Mark

      Thanks for the comprehensive look at new media coverage of the Iowa caucuses and also for the shout out to Podcasting News. These new options aren’t going to replace traditional coverage anytime soon, but they can offer a really compelling alternative.

      We experimented by discussing our experiences at the Iowa Caucuses on Twitter and with Seesmic videos.

      With Twitter, our comments were probably only seen by a few hundred readers. The people that followed them, though, thought that the real-time coverage from participants was really cool. The fact that Twitter makes posting thoughts trivial is going to lead to more real-time coverage at events.

      With Seesmic, we’re also dealing with a small audience of viewers at this time. It’s a very engaged audience, though, which leads to near real-time video discussions.

      Like Twitter, Seesmic makes posting content trivial, which encourages real-time interaction and collaborative content production. This is a different type of television, one which you’re actively involved in.

      For getting the news, I’m with you – cable news has this down to a science. New media options, on the other hand, offer an immediacy and involvement that will make you sit up in your chair.

    • Dan Riedinger

      I’d call Mr. Ruffini’s Tweeter feed an “unqualified success” not simply because it proved to be a good early indicator of the final result in Iowa. It also tapped into a much broader and more active group of people that wanted to be sure their voices were heard, regardless of where CNNs cameras and pollsters happened to be at any given moment.

      Traditional “mass” media by definition are good at getting the word out to many people. But it’s not so nimble (nor should we expect it to be) when it comes to getting many peoples’ words out to all those who care to listen.

      People wanted to have a conversation about what was happening in Iowa, and new media facilitated the dialogue. Mr. Ruffini knew both how to listen and how to boost the signal of this discussion.

      Of course, none of this alters the fact that ours is a representative democracy. We elect and pack off to Washington other people to look after our own interests. Mr. Ruffini and Twitter, along with the many other social media channels covering Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond, provide a welcome reminder that whoever ends up renting the White House for the next four to eight years is signing all of our names to that lease.

      Hopefully, the conversation will continue well beyond the move-in date.

    • please check out our coverage of iowa caucuses from http://www.imgay.tv

      Cate & Crew

    • That would be great info. thanks for all

      get more twitter followers

    • vkodass

      I recommend trying http://www.socialkik.com to buy Twitter followers, they have been recommended by a lot of bloggers and they can be trusted. We’ve used to boost the number of followers for a few of our clients and they’re all satisfied

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