March 19, 2007— -- John McCain, like each of the major GOP Presidential hopefuls, is devoting considerable resources to help shape favorable coverage through the "new media" -- the term loosely used to describe the campaign's website, Internet bloggers, "social networking" sites, online ads and direct e-mail.
McCain however enjoys certain unique advantages and faces certain challenges the other GOP contenders do not.
When his revamped campaign website premiered in February, Redstate.com, a conservative website usually not friendly to McCain, reported in real time, "Moments ago Sen. John McCain unveiled his new campaign website, JohnMcCain.com, featuring loads of information, lots of video and tools for bloggers to actively engage McCain supporters. The website is what you'd expect from the Republican frontrunner -- and puts his competitors' websites to shame."
Indeed the website, a key part of the new media operations run by eCampaign Director Christian Ferry contains biographical information, video of McCain's campaign and TV appearances as well as "testimonials" from supporters, and an array of interactive features which allow readers to form their own campaign operations, communicate with friends and fundraise for the campaign.
According to the campaign, this state of the art media tool is maintained by a "small" staff at McCain headquarters and an outside vendor. The campaign will not release exact figures but states that they get "tens of thousands of hits" on the site each day.
Ferry refers to the website as "almost a living thing" which will continually be updated, incorporating, for example, footage and information from McCain's bus tours to Iowa and New Hampshire.
The message running through the video and biographical information has a common theme: McCain is a battle tested, highly knowledgeable candidate.
His website is replete with pictures and text describing his military service and imprisonment, testimonials from member of the Armed services, and clips from vintage McCain speeches talking about wasteful government spending.
Ferry explains that all of this is meant to emphasize that "McCain has the experience and life stories which uniquely qualify him to be president."
But McCain, whose acerbic sense of humor is sometimes problematic, also shows a lighter side.
For the sports minded, they can find his picks for the NCAA basketball tournament. Comedy fans can enjoy clips of him bantering with David Letterman or crooning off key in a Saturday Night Live skit mocking Barbra Streisand.
The website is only the beginning of the McCain new media operation.
He, like the other candidates, has "social networking profiles" on sites like Facebook.com and Myspace.com, channels on Youtube and Veoh, and a share of online ads.
Their direct email messages, while not as frequent as some of the 2008 candidates, go out with updates on McCain to hundreds of thousands of Internet readers at least once a week.
All of this technology is not meant, according to the campaign, to replace traditional media or direct "snail" mail, but rather is "a piece of the overall communications plan."