Measuring Up Online

Web 2.0: Obama vs. McCain

When George W. Bush and Al Gore challenged one another for the spot of commander-in-chief, the world had yet to become completely wired via the Internet. Sure there were Websites in 2000, and the dotcom boom was in full swing, but the average American still used traditional mediums more frequently to do research and communicate.

My, how times have changed, and so have the candidates’ approaches to the Web as a campaign tool. Rather than slapping up informational sites in hopes that someone will stumble across them, both Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain have entered the world of Web 2.0, offering up an interactive experience to prospective supporters who take the time to visit their online campaign headquarters.

Nipa Shah, president at Jenesys Group L.L.C., a Website and online marketing campaign development firm in Novi, Michigan, says that while the candidates’ sites tell a similar story, there are some clear differences between the two. “Obama’s site [www.barackobama.com] is aesthetically pleasing,” Shah says, “and comes across as more attractive in both look and feel.”

McCain’s site, www.johnmccain.com, on other hand, is jam-packed with information, most of which is available on the homepage. “I know McCain is doing work in this area, so I’m surprised he doesn’t publicize it more on his site,” says Shah, who sees McCain’s lack of a “people” tab as odd.

With the goal of reaching out to individual races within the American population, Obama’s site includes a “people” link which includes several categories for voter groups, such as the one for African American known as “the online home of African Americans for Obama.”

Shah says video is used effectively on both sites, despite the fact that Obama’s link to moving pictures requires a few scrolls down the page. “McCain’s is right up front,” says Shah, who sees Obama’s site as more user-friendly overall. “If I was an undecided voter, and I wanted to know what a candidate was doing for me, I’d say Obama does a better job than McCain online.”

Like McCain, Obama is also soliciting financial support via a “donate now” button on his site’s homepage. Visitors to the site can register to vote, search for upcoming events, and log on to “MyBO,” an interactive feature that allows users to sign up to connect with other supporters, friends, and family, and create their own blogs. Credit Chris Hughes, co-founder of social networking site Facebook and head of Obama’s my.barackobama.com, with helping to create this interactivity.

On Obama’s site, visitors can download the candidate’s tome for the future: The Blueprint for Change, Barack’s Plan for America. They can also meet the candidate and his family and find out where Obama stands on the issues, including a few that go beyond the obvious points of interest highlighted on McCain’s site.

Obama’s issues are presented in short, one-paragraph form, followed by a “continue reading” option for those who want to learn more. Issues covered on Obama’s site include disabilities, economy, education, faith, family, fiscal, healthcare, homeland security, Iraq, poverty, seniors

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