Why '08 Matters for the Web

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Woe is the interactive marketer, whose budgets pale in comparison to that of his traditional counterparts. Or so it was, until the 2008 election commenced a year early, and on the Web at that. Politicos around the country are now spending like it's 1999 in an effort to get their (wo)man to the finish line. Whether you are running in this race or simply viewing it from the sidelines, here are 10 trends to watch:

1. Dollars will flow online. Not only are candidates raising more coin than ever, but they are spending it on the Web. In just three months, expectations for a candidate's Web site have gone from basic brochureware to sophisticated social networking applications offering online fundraising and fresh video delivered round the clock.

2. Dollars will flow to direct marketing. Closer to the election, the candidates will make significant investments in database marketing, from CRM solutions to the delivery of e-mail blasts and search marketing.

3. The interactive labor market will only get tighter. While the Web always has been 24/7, most agency employees do get to sleep once in awhile. That is, until they started moonlighting for the candidates. Not only do campaigns require constant attention, they usually do not allow for outsourcing beyond the U.S. borders. As a result, day- and night-shift employees, including search media managers, are likely to be employed on a contract basis.

4. Technology will take a big leap . There is nothing like competition to serve as a catalyst for growth. Moving toward 2008, open source developers are in for a serious ride as they push the limits and expectations of new technologies. As a result, the entire tech community will benefit.

5. Newspapers will get a run for their money. Looking to compare the candidates' platforms? Forget the paper. Just about every content site has special 2008 election coverage and functionality. Examples include MySpace's Impact section and YouTube's YouChoose channel.

6. Candidates will beat each other up online first . Mudslinging is so much more fun when it is viral.

7. Candidates' supporters will beat each other up online first. Case in point: the now famous "Vote Different" video posted to YouTube took about two weeks to go from a casual "hey, did you see that?" to a full-fledged CNN investigation.

8. At least one interactive shop will take the blame. As candidates start to drop, fingers will point to the agency. Those in the know already are predicting the demise of one Democratic candidate due to poor interactive partner selection.

9. Voter turnout will increase. Yes, I'm going on a limb here. Intuition tells me that as more voters actively read, watch and blog about the election, participation should rise. This is in contrast to the apathy experienced during elections made up of one-way, mass media campaigns.

The Web will finally get some respect. For better or for worse, the media's attention to the Web will increase. For example, BusinessWeek recently published "How To Read the Google Tea Leaves," suggesting that "A Google search can reveal a lot about whom Presidential candidates consider to be their most serious rivals." Superficial? Yes, but if it takes an election to raise awareness of online, that's all right by me.

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