Monday, 3 November 2008

Left vs. Right

Today sees the climax of potentially the most exciting and definitely the most expensive American election in history. It is widely expected that despite claims of a late comeback from Republican John McCain, Democrat Barack Obama will become the first black president in America's history.



The main reason for the huge cost behind this race, bar Sarah Palins wardrobe, is the unprecedented investment in media made by each candidate. Obama purchased 30 minute infomercials across several of the major TV networks last week

But how has this media battle played out online? Both of the candidates have their own websites which both feature number one in Google and Yahoo! for their respective names.
It is worth noting however, that both websites require Javascript in order to function correctly. This has accessibility implications, as visually impaired web users will not be able to access this content with their screen readers. I wonder how big a demographic, this segment represents?

John McCain's website has amassed an amazing 730,243 inbound links. In e-commerce terms, these are the sort of volumes that SEO's dream of acquiring naturally. This particular battle has a clear winner. Over the same period, Obama's site has gained 1,604,953 links. This is over twice the amount of his rival! Both sites have a pagerank of 8, a clear demonstration of the exponential nature of the pagerank algorithm.

But the online pain does not stop there for McCain. Running mate Sarah Palin has become a major character in the election race but in doing so has left herself open to attacks from viral networks, belittling her serious policies by concentrating on her image and appearance. In fact the Pew Research Center's
project for excellence in journalism found that 39% of news stories surrounding Palin are negative. This compares to 14% about Obama.

McCain has also had coverage of his political rallies removed from YouTube as he became another victim of the increasingly stringent copyright laws. As a result he only has 206K associated videos compared to Obama's 368K

So if the election was to be played out purely online then Obama is a clear winner. Although both websites have greater potential to further engage with their users and capitalise on modern online marketing principles.

Microsoft have developed an interesting visual search engine that allows voters to ask questions about subjects surrounding the election. It's not associated with any candidate or incredibly accurate but worth noting that this is Microsoft's third foray into the visual search arena. It's clearly work in progress.

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