As pundit speculation regarding the VP choice mounted, the Obama campaign had promised Web-savvy supporters – who helped the Illinois senator build an extensive Internet base – that they would be “the first to know” via text message when he made a decision on a running mate.
The seemingly leak-proof Obama effort picked an inopportune time to break down – its handling of the candidates' announcement of a running mate.
When CNN became the first to learn that Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) would be named Obama's VP choice around midnight on a Friday, rather than the legion of followers who registered their cell phone numbers and e-mails, the campaign lost control of its message. McCain's camp had rebuttals out before some had rolled out of bed Saturday morning. But, more importantly, Obama's campaign disappointed some of its most ardent supporters.
This innovative technique was smart on two levels. One, it appealed to the “netroot” audience that favors direct communication with campaigns (opposed to being filtered through the mainstream media). Two, it was an amazing way to collect information for direct marketing purposes. Now, however, the campaign has to deal with the disappointment from those who were woken up by the text at 3am, after the networks had already called the post Biden's.
Some tech-savvy supporters found out about their candidate's choice on Twitter after all – but via CNN's status update, hours before the official announcement. The campaign got credit for its innovative approach to message dissemination, but they should have known that embargoes are usually broken – especially if the traditional media feels it's getting squeezed out.