Saturday, November 27, 2010

It pays to advertise

Managing Warren Mosler's Senate campaign was my first experience with buying advertising for a client. Because of budget limitations, we confined ourselves mostly to online advertising. Mosler ran for office as a way of promoting his message of jobs and prosperity and driving traffic to his website seemed like the best way to do that.

Traditionally, online advertising links to your home page, but as ours was a campaign of ideas, I decided to link our advertising to the issues page. So far as I know, nobody else has done this. It was my view that as an Independent candidate, Mosler would not have the immediate "brand" identity that a Democrat or Republican would have. Therefore it was necessary that voters have the opportunity to learn about his proposals.

At first we advertised with four media companies, the Hartford Courant, Journal Inquirer, Waterbury Republican American and the Connecticut Media Group. Monitoring our site statistics, I was surprised by the results. Most of our money was spent on the Connecticut Media Group, which owns several newspapers in southwest Connecticut. This gave us the worst results, fewer readers clicking on our ads, and not spending much time on our site when they did click through. Why was this? Was it because of the placement? Or was it because southwest Connecticut has never been receptive to Independent candidates? In 2008 Nader got his best votes in the first, second, and fifth congressional districts. Voters in the third and fourth voted overwhelmingly for Obama, with McCain at a very distant second, and Nader hardly visible. So maybe readers of the Connecticut Media Group were not clicking on our ads simply because they are not interested in Independent candidates. We later bought ads on just two blogs from the Connecticut Media Group, Ken Dixon's Blogorama and Brian Lockhart's Political Capitol. We spent $128 for our placement on these blogs and got almost as many hits as buying 150,000 impressions across the entire newspaper group.

We bought a space on the homepage on the Waterbury Republican American. This also preformed very poorly for us, which stunned me (Mosler would get his highest vote in Waterbury). Waterbury is the home of the Independent Party of Connecticut, they have several elected local officials. I expected this to be our best placement, but we got fewer hits than our other venues. Why? Was it because Independent voters are not online?

My experience with Independent activists is that they are not interested in blogs. Some are active on facebook; but otherwise they do not seem interested in social media. They were more interested in talk radio and public access cable television. There are several Independent public access cable TV talk shows, they have been very active in taking advantage of this medium. But they have not been active online. Indeed, it was only at my suggestion that they put up an Independent Party web site.

We did do two advertising inserts in the print edition of the Waterbury Republican American, in a Saturday edition and another on the Sunday before the election. This was possible because of the donated labor of Connecticut's celebrated graphic artist and Photoshop genius, Carmine Capobianco. Judging by our site statistics, it was a success, generating a nice spike coming in on organic search.

We also puchased 100,000 impressions on the Journal Inquirer site, a group of newspapers located mostly in towns across central and northern Connecticut. The Journal Inquirer did very well for us, bringing in a steady flow of clicks by readers who stayed on our site a minute or more. We also did better in towns where the Journal Inquirer has newspapers than other towns. Whether this is because their readers were online looking at our ad, or whether it was from our phone banking effort into these towns I could not say. Our phone banking effort was directed to reinforce our advertising.

Our best results came from our advertisements on two of the Hartford Courant's blogs, Capitol Watch and CT Confidential. Not only did we receive a steady stream of hits, readers from the Courant blogs stayed two and even three minutes and looked at several pages. However, for a fraction of the cost of the Courant blogs, CorrenteWire supplied a stream of clicks of readers who also stayed two or three minutes. On a per-click basis this works out to $6.47 per click for the Courant blogs compared to $1.48 for CorrenteWire. Obviously the blog represented better value, except that CorrenteWire's readers are spread out across the country, whereas almost all the Courant's readers are in Connecticut.

Is this because blogs are a better venue for political advertising, or because CorrenteWire is a blog that supports emergent party candidates?

We also bought print advertising in Connecticut Cruise News. This was an excellent fit for us as Warren Mosler makes the world's coolest car. Connecticut has a vibrant cruise culture and Mosler went to many of their events, reaching out to a very non-political group and recieving a warm reception.

We did some radio advertising on a Carribbean station in Bridport. If I had it to do again I would skip advertsing in the Connecticut Media Group and put the money into advertising on talk radio, where the Independent base is to be found.

Normally I would not discuss the details of a client's advertising campaign, but all the details have been filed with the Federal Election Commission. Political budgets are not confidential.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Today in federal IT

Federal Times reports on an Executive Order establishing "controlled unclassified information."

Computer World reports that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has fastracked 115MHz of spectrum for commercial use.

Microsoft's Bright Side of Government blog announces the winners of the Azure Application Development Contest.

Federal Computer Week's Circuit blog reports that Gary Bass is leaving OMB Watch and that Soraya Correa is moving up at the Department of Homeland Security.

Enterprise 2.0 blog
is reporting that Infomation Week Analytics are conducting a survey on Enterprise 2.0 applications.

Via Netspective's Fedsphere.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The problem with site analytics

If, like me, your blog uses eXTReMe Tracking, Site Meter, and Google Analytics, you already know what the problem with site analytics is; the three different services give you three different sets of numbers. Clearly site analytics is as much of an art as a science.

This was brought home to me as manager of Warren Mosler's US Senate campaign. My duties included analyzing our web site statistics to, in addition to other things, judge the effectiveness of our online advertising campaign. Where was our traffic coming from? Which advertisements sent us the readers with the highest level of engagement? And how to account for the discrepancy between the reports sent to us by our advertising venue, and our own site statistics?

We need more information by the providers of site statistics and analytics as to how they detect hits and referrals and measure engagement.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

What is a Statement of Work?

Why Clients should take a closer look at SOWs
One very important aspect of successful project management is the creation of a Statement of Work (SOW). A Statement of Work can be defined as a narrative description of the products and services to be provided to a client under contract. Basically the SOW tells “what” needs to be accomplished rather than “how” it is to be accomplished, and clearly defines the scope of the project. Getting everyone to agree on the scope of a project at the very outset is important because it helps in minimizing scope creep. Scope creep occurs when new functionalities or requirements not envisaged in the SOW are introduced into the project plan.

I remember a presentation on software process improvement wherein the presenter said that he wanted to write a play wherein the contract officer slew the dreaded feater creep.

It is so easy in technology to become so absorbed with how that you forget what and why.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Warren Mosler

Although this is not a political blog, I would like to talk about what I have been doing for the past four months. Last spring I attended the Fiscal Sustainability Conference and saw Warren Mosler speak about Modern Monetary Theory.

Mosler points out that, as a fiat currency, the United States can never go broke. That is not a case for unlimited spending, merely that the whole debate about the deficit is based on a fallacy. Unlike countries in the Euro zone, the US controls its own currency and we cannot go broke. The federal budget is a spread sheet.

When I learned that he was running for US Senate from Connecticut, I offered my services and found myself running his campaign. I learned a great deal and plan to blog about some of it. I saw online advertising from an entirely new angle and looked at social media in an entirely different way.

As campaign manager for an Independent candidate, I saw our two party system in a new and not very flattering way. The cards are truly stacked against Independents. (I capitalize Independent because Mosler was the nominee of the Independent Party of Connecticut.) Independents are not included in political polls, editors ignore your events, and when the League of Women Voters included us in their debate, the Democratic and Republican candidates refused to come. As far as the press is concerned, I really don't think I can improve upon what Ken Dixon wrote about the gubernatorial debate.

I encourage everyone to check out Warren Mosler's blog, Center of the Universe. You will find it as informative as it is entertaining. I also encourage everyone, especially members of Congress, to read his short but brilliant book, Seven Deadly Frauds of Economic Policy.

Recently President Obama has talked about the possibility of enacting one of Mosler's economic proposals, a full payroll tax holiday. Just doing that alone would pour trillions of dollars into the economy and give everyones sales a much needed boost. I hope that our President and members of Congress will take this much needed step to jump start our deeply distressed economy.

As for everyone else, if the Democrats and Republicans fail to nominate anyone to your liking, check out the other candidates, you might be pleasantly surprised.

To the people of Connecticut, thank you, I had a great time in your state.