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Daily Download: Social Media and Mobile Devices Key to Viewer Debate Digestion

October 18, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
A third of adult viewers under 40 who watched the second presidential debate were "double screening," meaning they both watched the debate and used an additional form of digital media. Ray Suarez talks to the Daily Download's Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz about the "binders full of women" meme and politicized search terms.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And a second take on politics, part of our regular look at the campaign as it plays out in social media and on the Web.

Ray Suarez has that.

RAY SUAREZ: For that, we’re joined again by two journalists from the website Daily Download.

Lauren Ashburn is the site’s editor-in-chief. Howard Kurtz is Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief and host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

And we’re starting again this week with Twitter, a service with 500 million users, 340 million tweets a day, but moving the boundaries when it comes to its use in political campaigns. What’s a promoted tweet?

LAUREN ASHBURN, Daily-Download.com: The Obama campaign is using what they are calling promoted tweets, which means in your queue of all the people you follow — say, if I follow a congressman, Twitter will know that.

They will know that I would more likely be interested in and an ad, promoted tweet, which would rise to the top of my queue that would be about politics. It’s one way that the campaign is getting its message out.

Another way on Twitter is through promoted trends. That’s the hashtag debates or hashtag RomneyRyan2012.

And you can buy that term, and the campaign is doing this. And that means that then you can promote who you want to promote.

HOWARD KURTZ, Newsweek/CNN: And this week, what the Obama campaign is heavily promoting is a phrase from that second presidential debate in Long Island, binders full of women.

This was Mitt Romney making a reference to his effort to find qualified women when he was governor of Massachusetts. A lot of people thought it was funny. The media have glommed on to it. Some people have just done it on their own.

But the president also has personally tweeted, or somebody on his behalf, “Mitt Romney won’t say whether he will stand up for equal pay, but he likes binders full of women.”

RAY SUAREZ: The world is shifting under our feet here, so I’m wondering if we know whether any of this works. Yes, now that we know that we can do this, someone can pay because of what I’m interested in to have something move to the top of my queue, so it’s more likely to catch my eye.

Do we know whether these things, people starting their own Web pages, circulating these fun photos and collages that people put together, whether it changes anybody’s mind, whether it gets them thinking about the issues in a different way, whether it gets them to engage in a different way.

LAUREN ASHBURN: I think they are engaging in a different way.

Studies have shown that people whose friends share things politically based with them are more likely to engage in politics because their friend is also interested in that, although there are some people who you want to not follow during the political season if you don’t agree with them.

HOWARD KURTZ: Right.

And this has caught fire, at least for this week on the Web, a Facebook page about binders full of women, 341,000 likes. There’s a Twitter handle, @Romneybinder, 33,000 followers. Remember, it’s been only a couple of days since that debate.

And the Romney campaign taking it seriously enough that it’s trying to push its own slogan or meme, as it’s called online, and that’s empty binder. And you can click and you can get to a picture that shows a blank book or a blank page, and it says President Obama’s second-term agenda, meaning not very much there.

RAY SUAREZ: Part of all this, I guess, is that if these places are arrived at through search engines, the search engines also push them up to the top, so that if you do a search with the term binder, you’re more likely to find some of these sites.

LAUREN ASHBURN: And find an ad that has been bought by the campaign.

HOWARD KURTZ: Or you can go on Google, as campaigns have been known to do, and buy search terms. And so you’re kind of putting your thumb on the scale to make that more frequent that people will see that.

And then there are now there sites popping up, and not necessarily directly connected to the campaigns, with certain, for example, pro-Democratic partisans have started sites likes mittsbindersfullofwomen.com.

And you can go to that and you get a lot of anti-Mitt Romney rhetoric.

LAUREN ASHBURN: And there was a Tumblr site, which is where you can go and put pictures and clips together, and that has 11,000 followers. And that was funny. It was just a very lighthearted look, never intended to be as popular as it is.

Well, other websites like the ones Howie references really do have political messages, anti-Romney messages.

HOWARD KURTZ: And this is an effort to elevate women’s issues, and that’s who the president is trying to appeal to right now, because there was a question in the debate about pay equity.

RAY SUAREZ: Now, speaking of binders and such, that, of course, came from the debate that was seen by tens of millions of people this week out on Long Island. And once again, we saw interesting trends in the way people consume the debates themselves.

Tell us about it.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Many people don’t just sit in front of their television set while they’re watching TV.

What the studies are finding now — and I have a graphic here that we can take a look at — is that they’re following the debate online, first of all, but they’re also following it with another device. So, they’re following it online, maybe on their computer, and then they may be…

HOWARD KURTZ: Watching it on TV.

LAUREN ASHBURN: … may be watching it on TV.

So what we have here, the PewResearchCenter did a study that found that all of the people…

HOWARD KURTZ: In the first debate.

LAUREN ASHBURN: … watched 14 — 14 percent of them watched online, dual screening.

HOWARD KURTZ: Either online exclusively or being on Twitter and Facebook while watching it on the tube at the same time.

But look at the difference in that second chart.

LAUREN ASHBURN: In under 40 — look at the under-40s; 32 percent of people under 40 did that. So it does show you a third of people under 40 who are watching these debates are dual screening.

HOWARD KURTZ: And the reason that’s an earthquake in my view, Ray — and in fact the number is only going to grow — is that people who are on Facebook and Twitter the same time that they are watching something on — this is still a big television event, let’s face it — they’re engaged, they’re talking to their friends, they’re commenting, they’re reading about Big Bird or binders full of women or whatever is the catchphrase, or Medicare or actual serious issues.

And so it’s a different way of consuming political information than just passively sitting on your couch with the clicker in your hand.

LAUREN ASHBURN: And that’s very much this younger generation.

When you’re designing a website, as we did, Daily-Download, it has to be interactive. It can’t just be static information anymore that is given to you. People want the ability to click here and click there and feel like they’re a part of it. And the same thing now is true in politics.

HOWARD KURTZ: And that describes Lauren, who is always on Twitter.

(LAUGHTER)

RAY SUAREZ: Howard Kurtz, Lauren Ashburn, good to talk to you both.

HOWARD KURTZ: Thanks, Ray.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Thank you.