By Ian Rosoff
Hurricane Isaac forced everyone in Tampa to stay home yesterday. The mostly unnecessary delay left folks at the Republican National Convention wandering to and fro and wondering what to do with their free evening. It gave me a chance to catch up on some much needed Xbox before tuning into the wall-to-wall, non-stop, 24-hour coverage of the RNC.
The RNC Convention began with a new way of covering politics using an unlikely medium. Microsoft is giving Xbox LIVE users election news, facts, and exclusive content through its new Election 2012 Hub. Xbox will work with Face The Facts USA to provide daily political fun facts. They are teaming up with Rock The Vote to register and mobilize young voters on Xbox who will be getting access to special musical performances through the Election Hub. Furthermore, NBCNews.com will be informing the Election Hub with David Gregory and the NBC political team.
Microsoft is one of the corporate sponsors of the RNC this year, which may have something to do with their presence in Tampa and their efforts to roll out innovative new products (Windows 8 is just around the corner). There are dozens of other sponsors including tech companies, energy companies, Walmart, various banks, auto manufacturers and various companies and groups around Florida, all chipping in to cover the over 50 million for the convention.
If what Marshall McLuhan said is true, that the message is in the medium, then this move by the RNC makes a lot of sense. According to “Business Week,” the firm StrategyOne conducted a survey of 1,678 Xbox LIVE households and found 40% are swing voters. Xbox LIVE subscribers are young so exposing them to a get out the vote campaign could influence not only the 2012 elections, but elections down the road.
The Xbox Election Hub is not alone in trying to reach political audiences with unorthodox methods. Google is using YouTube to create their version of a political hub. The YouTube political hub will host speeches, scandals, and reporting from major news outlets. Twitter is joining in the election festivities with their political index that tracks general support for the candidates which we blogged about here.
All of these efforts to be creative with political coverage are a response to the current reality that younger generations don’t regularly watch the news or read the paper. My generation does play Xbox, watch YouTube, and curate our news from Twitter and recently launched Waywire.
Even in 2008 when the youth came out in droves for Obama it was still an embarrassing showing for a generation whose future is being mortgaged financially and destroyed environmentally. Given the stakes, Generation Y should be the most passionate about politics and elections, but apathy and cynicism often take root by the time we reach voting age.
Politics are boring to so many young people and the economy can’t compete with playing Xbox for entertainment value, but perhaps that’s starting to change. The big brands in tech seem to be making a concerted effort to market politics to youth in a way that could work.
Votifi is trying to be part of changing the way politics is done in this country both in terms of communication and coverage. Microsoft is beginning a bold experiment with the Political Hub, and hopefully it is the start of engaging a generation that is informed as well as passionate.