Kevin07 is like a refreshing spring breeze. It’s very bronzed and very beachy. There is something new under the sun. Or at least that’s what Labor would like you to think about its new website.
In Monday’s Crikey, I had this to say about Howard’s online strategy:
Howard is actually using social media rather cunningly – to play the mainstream media rather than appeal directly to the “YouTube generation.”
Kevin07 is trying to have it both ways. The unkind would say that’s not dissimilar to the offline Kevin.
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Initial blog reaction to the site’s appearance around midnight on Tuesday captured the strategy well:
Such a breezy breezy response to all the doom and gloom and negative ad campaigning this desperate Coalition government is getting into… Labor is running lovely breezy pictures of people having fun by the beach. Is this tack going to be an effective antidote strategy to the endless, joyless nastiness of negative political advertising?
That’s spot on, and Alexander Downer was seemingly so impressed with another blog commenter’s remark that Rudd might be running for Governor of California, you might suppose that he recycled it for the next day’s talking points. Who said that Australian blogs don’t influence politicians?
But do blogs influence politics? Kevin07’s message to the media and the voters is that “fresh thinking” is just the ticket if you’re tired of the apocalyptic thrashing around that passes for the government’s message in these days of The War on The States. It’s the new millennium version of the “It’s Time” bumper sticker. And the semiotics are all about youth, not age (not that offline Kevin would suggest Mr Howard is too old).
But Kevin07 does actually do what the Coalition isn’t really doing – engaging with the (mostly young) users of social media. It’s a cleverly designed one stop site for the Kevin07 presence on YouTube, Myspace and Facebook. And as Trevor Cook suggested, it’s a first for Australian Politics 2.0 in actually allowing unfiltered comment on the Kevin07 blog – there’s criticism there as well as Young Labor adulation. That’s actually very clever.
In Griffith Review last year, back when you had to counter arguments from Caroline Overington that Gen Y were Howard’s Young Fogeys, I suggested that a lot of youth politics was already taking place on sites like Myspace and Facebook. That’s still happening, even if the political parties are quickly moving to colonise the space.
The idealism and the high expectations on display at the Kevin07 blog are a clue as to why Howard’s numbers are so low among younger voters. Allowing it free reign is very smart.
But there’s a risk – in light of the likelihood that a Rudd government will be quite conservative, it might still come back to bite.