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Viral Senators

Posted by cwaddell under All, Media Commentary, Political Strategy

Christopher Waddell

A seat in the Senate has long been a reward for those who pitched the Conservative and Liberal parties to corporate donors. With laws now severely restricting corporate funding of political parties, the Conservatives have a new innovation – making Senator Mike Duffy into a pitchman with personally-addressed emailed video messages soliciting not money (so far), but advice on policy priorities. Watch one here.

It is an interesting concept but at three minutes the video is far too long. As polling firms working on the Internet have discovered, people have a limited attention span on the web.

Filling out the list of priorities gets you a brief closing thank you from Mike and a promise he’ll be back in touch soon – frequently he says. Then you get the chance to forward it to your friends, cleverly structured in a way so that the recipient believes it is coming from you, not the Conservative party.

With a large enough response distributed across the country and beyond just partisans, it could become a way to circumvent pollsters by going directly to the public much more cheaply than paying for polling as well as a way to spread the Conservative message by completely ignoring the mainstream media.

Christopher Waddell is acting director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University. He is a former reporter, Ottawa bureau chief, national editor and associate editor of the Globe and Mail and a former CBC-TV parliamentary bureau chief and executive producer-news specials for CBC TV News.