The next time someone says we’re experiencing Australia’s “first internet election” or our “first YouTube election”, slap them. Slap them very hard.

Our politicians only see the internet and the emerging social media as a different kind of TV. YouTube is a place to post commercials, MySpace and Facebook for media releases. Their use of social media is so clueless that geeks attending PodCamp in Perth this Saturday were laughing.

Far from this being the “first internet election”, it’s more like the The Last Television Election. Maybe the second-last.

Mainstream media was all a-flutter over the recursive TV ad of Howard watching Rudd watching Howard. Why?

  1. It was posted on YouTube. Big deal. Any 13-year-old with a computer can do that.
  2. It was posted within 24 hours of Rudd’s advert. Again, big deal. TV current affairs crews turn around little movies every afternoon.

As of 9am this morning, it had been viewed 20,754 times. The other YouTube videos from LiberalParty07 have around 2,000 views or fewer. Pathetic.

By comparison, Sydney-based Cyrius01’s satire Bennelong Time has 31,702 views: 50% more. An ordinary citizen, with no help from a political party, has a bigger impact than the PM and his team.

The internet is still a sideshow. The real political hit comes when they’re reported by mainstream media like ABC News with 1.2 million viewers, or even Lateline at a quarter of a million.

The problem with the politicians’ use of social media? They completely miss the basic concept: it’s about conversation.

They’re still locked into a centrally-planned one-way industrial age media model, talking at the public with a broadcast message. Political strategies are still crafted like the Soviet economy of 1948.

John Howard’s MySpace page is a disaster. “About Me” is a copy-and-paste Liberal media release. There are no blog posts, no comments. It’s his presence on the biggest social network site, but nobody’s home. The only personal fact is that he’s 68 — reminding MySpace’s youthful audience that he’s “old”.

Kevin Rudd’s isn’t much better. At least there’s content, but still nothing you couldn’t discover from the ALP website.

The only federal politician who gets it is Senator Andrew Bartlett. He’s been blogging for three years. His MySpace page reveals his music and film tastes. He was a drummer in a goth band. You get to know the man and, like him or not, at least you can form an opinion. A shame he probably won’t survive the election.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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