Audio for America
The Problem with the Mainstream Media
Eric Alterman's work on the "so-called liberal media" ably demonstrates the problem our nominee is going to have breaking through the pundit filter and right-wing spin machine. Even so-called liberal pundits will be critical of the nominee (just look at how they're covering the primaries!). They are not on our side. As Bob Somerby puts it, they have "millionaire pundit values", not progressive values.
On top of that, the nominee will have to fight back against George Bush's $200 million attack ad bonanza and grassroots GOTV effort.
We need a way to take our case directly to the voter, bypassing the mainstream media.
Getting Around the Mainstream Media
I call my solution "Audio for America". The plan is to create audio CDs about the candidate and distribute them to 5-10 million voters. It is the AOLization of presidential advertising.
This is not a unique idea, but most people have focused on using DVDs instead of CDs. I think this is a mistake. There is no question that video is the more interesting and engaging medium, so why should CDs be used instead of DVDs, VHS, or internet distribution?
CDs are ubiquitous, but not everyone has a DVD player. VHS is impractical because VHS duplication is too expensive and VHS tapes are too heavy and bulky to distribute easily. Internet access is still too limited to rely on for distribution, and on the internet the voter has to come to you. CDs are also easy for consumers to copy and share with their friends and family.
However, using primarily using CD does not preclude doing DVDs and internet distribution on a more limited basis. Campaign multimedia will be posted on the campaign website and file sharing networks for download and distribution.
As I imagine it, the "Audio for America" CD would be an authoritative audio overview of the campaign. It would not be a mishmash of speeches slammed onto a CD. Instead, it would be carefully crafted to introduce voters to the candidate, flesh out his ideas, and then tell them how to get involved.
The CD would feature a narrator to introduce each track (for example, what the event is, where and when it occurred, and what will be discussed). The first track would introduce the candidate's overall theme and movement (a sort of commercial). It would be followed by major speeches, radio commercials, and town-hall format question and answer sessions where the candidate fleshes out his policy positions. It would conclude with a message from the candidate about how to get involved with the campaign.
The "Audio for America" package to be distributed to voters will contain the following: 1 audio CD (~72 minutes of audio), gray scale printed cardboard mini-jacket (front: CD title, campaign artwork, and contact info; back: track listing and mini-literature), and half-page folded literature insert. This package is designed with cost and bulk as the primary concerns. It will be cheap to print and easy to carry.
According to CD manufacturing quotes I looked up on the web, the cost for 10,000 is approximately $.75 per CD ($7500).
This breaks down as follows (these figures are from ACME CD Manufacturing):
Audio CDs: $.49/each Mini-jacket (2 color): $.10/each Insertion: $.10/each
Since the campaign will be manufacturing 5 to 10 million CDs, I believe these costs can be reduced to about $.50/each for a total cost of $2.5 to 5 million. If the cost stays at $.75 each, the total cost will be to $3.75 to $7.5 million..
CD manufacturing companies will also list your CD on Amazon.com for free. I do not know if it is legal for a campaign to sell items of this nature, but if so, it would be another distribution channel for the CD.
Distribution would be handled primarily by voter-to-voter contact. Tablers would give away the CDs to interested voters. Door knockers would carry the CD with them with their pile of lit. It would be passed out at Meetups, rallies, and fund raisers, always with the mantra: "Copy this and give it to a friend." Duplication of the CD would be heavily encouraged, perhaps by using a Creative Commons license for the CD.
MP3s of the audio would be available for download from the candidate's website, along with PDFs of the printed material for the package. The audio should also be shared on file sharing networks like Kazaa.
The CD could also be mailed AOL-style to potential supporters.
If legal, the campaign could also sell the CD online at their own store and Amazon.com.
By sharing the audio on the internet and encouraging widespread duplication, voter contact with the Audio for America CD can be doubled or quadrupled with no cost to the campaign. Therefore, the total number of voters exposed to the CD could reach 10-40 million. That's a significant fraction of the voting population getting the campaign's message directly from the campaign instead of through the filter of the so-called liberal media.
There are several variations on this idea that could be very successful.
- Multimedia CDs for computer use, with campaign literature and multimedia. The Wellstone campaign used this.
- "Enhanced CDs" with audio for CD players and multimedia videos for computers.
- The same idea (perhaps on a smaller scale), but with DVDs instead of CDs.