Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Politics, Communications and Digital-Only Voters

As a communicator today, I know that the world is going digital.

Long gone are the days when large groups of people of all ages read a newspaper, listened to the radio or watched TV news.

The result? More time and energy devoted to social media.

(A sign of the changing times is that more non-profits today are hiring social media specialists—a job description that hardly existed even five years ago.)

Now politicians are adapting to this new reality.

An new study by Abacus Data for Google Canada found that 30 percent of all eligible voters in the 2015 election will get their information about politics only online.

As reported by the Globe and Mail, these “digital-only” voters—people who don’t watch TV news, listen to radio or read a newspaper—are typically young. But a fifth of eligible voters 50 years or older also say they are digital-only, too.

“Traditional broadcast communications are just not going to reach them,” says Abacus CEO David Coletto.

Overall, TV is still the main source of information about politics for most Canadians, with 33 per cent of respondents identified television as their primary information source. 

The Internet is close behind, with 30 percent, while for 19 percent its newspapers, 13 percent said radio and 4 percent identified word of mouth.

Respondents were also asked about what kind of information they search online. Seventy per cent said they either frequently, fairly often or occasionally looked for political news stories online, while 63 per cent said they searched for information about politicians and 60 per cent said they turned to the Internet to find out what parties stand for.

Despite the digital shift in recent years, Canada’s political parties still spend most of their advertising budgets on broadcast, probably because more older people mostly watch TV, and this is the demographic that is (currently) most likely to vote.

There’s more bang for the buck, in other words.

Of course, that's not the whole story; ads or stories on TV or a newspaper often end up online, anyway. So it's not like there's no digital reach. It just isn't the first way that political parties reach out to voters.

This is not unlike most non-profits, and for similar reasons. Going viral on Facebook is great, but it doesn’t bring in much money compared to a print appeal.

But the world is changing, and political parties and non-profits need to change with it. Who will be brave enough to go first and go all-digital?  

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