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Political microtargeting: Is 2008 the year?

Newsweek’s Steven Levy writes that this is the year for political microtargeting. He focuses the article, though, on examples from a strange source: The failed Mitt Romney campaign. He tells about how a consulting firm called TargetPoint, sifted through all sorts of consumer and behavioral data to pick out one group of people who tried to live rich but lacked the means. (Sounds to me like a big enough group to reach with TV ads)

I’ve been up to my ears in political microtargeting. One of the chapters of my book is on it. It traces the efforts of a Democratic consultancy that places us into our “values” tribes, though a combination of surveying and datamining. These tribes are related to our ideas about community, freedom and righteousness. I loved working on the chapter (because I rarely get to dive into politics in my current job). But the election we’ve seen so far revolves around the antithesis of microtargeting: mass appeal. Microtargeting could be crucial in November. But its power is in delivering a percentage or two of targeted voters in very tight race. Most of politics, and most of the spending, still focuses on the crowds.

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