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Ron Paul and Distributed Online Campaigning

In all the talk about the Ron Paul online machine, there has been very little discussion of his actual campaign website, which has recently undergone a facelift. His approach is novel. Instead of building an infrastructure on his own campaign website. like most candidates have done, Paul has created a portal to his presences on various third party websites.

The Paul website itself essentially consists of a homepage, an issues section, a bio page, a donation form, a sign up form and a blog. Interestingly for the social candidate, his blog doesn’t even allow comments. Instead, it encourages visitors to discuss/interact with the blog content on social sites like Digg, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon and Facebook. He seems to deliberately avoid building a community on his own site. Due to this, supporters have no choice but to organize elsewhere.

Paul relies on third party tools for fundamental aspects of his website:

(1) Videos are entirely hosted and served from his YouTube account.

(2) Campaign news gathering and discussion of said news is done via Digg. Paul is the only candidate I’ve seen that includes a prominent link to a Digg search of his name right on his own homepage.

(3) Paul’s schedule is kept exclusively on Eventful.

(4) Supporters are encouraged to create their own events on Meetup.

(5) Campaign gear is sold exclusively through a store hosted by Cafe Press.

(6) All photos are on Flickr.

(7) Social networking occurs on Facebook and MySpace.

His website is basically a mashup of all this stuff, with only a few core functions being performed by the website itself. Lots of campaigns have played around with this stuff. Paul is the only one I’ve seen that truly relies on these tools to perform mission critical campaign functions.

Obviously, as a long shot candidate with a limited budget, the use of these free tools is done out of necessity. But the strategy here is also very sound: by not giving supporters much to do on his own site he maximizes the amount of noise they make in other venues. It is the perfect approach for an insurgent candidate like Paul.

As 2008 grows nearer, I’d expect other insurgent candidates to mimic the Paul approach. Front runners? Not so much at this point. The buzz this approach creates is great, but there is also a lot to be said for having control over all these tools and all the data they generate.

Fred Thompson disclosure.