PROVIDENCE, RI: Backers of a new user-generated cell-phone ringtones site called Ringtones08.com say ringtones based on snippets of 2008 presidential candidate speeches and other public appearances could the next frontier in the US for viral political messaging.
Launched at the Personal Democracy Forum at New York's Pace University in mid-May, Ringtones08.com is still in beta testing mode, noted Green Machines Public Relations co-founder Jo Lee, who conceived of the idea and is supporting development of the site along with Katrin Verclas, who helps oversee MobileActive.org, an activist network that uses cell phones for "civic action and engagement;" and Alex Taylor, a graphic designer at Big Ring Design.
Lee said the power of ringtones to affect public perception of political candidates was illustrated in the Philippines in 2004, when a taped conversation of president Gloria Maccapal-Arroyo asking the federal elections commissioner: "Hello Garci? So will I lead by more than 1 million?" was downloaded and heard throughout the country - at bus stops, shops, and elsewhere - despite the recording being declared illegal based on wiretapping laws.
"I thought at the time, ‘Where is, "We're in the last throes of the insurgency" [as a ringtone]? Where is, "Mission accomplished"? Where is Howard Dean's scream? Why don't we hear these kinds of ringtones?'" said Lee, who noted that activist groups already successfully employing ringtones in campaigns include the Center for Biological Diversity, which offers free downloads of endangered animals such as the Beluga Whale and the Blue-throated Macaw.
The site is intended to provide an easy, free way to download ringtones posted by visitors. Postings currently include "You are doing a good job, Brownie" and "GeorgeAllenMacaca." The site has already been mentioned on Techpresident.com, but Lee said ultimate plans for promoting the site, likely to follow the launch of an updated version of the site in about a month, are still undetermined.