The decline of traditional TV

Netflix has launched with a roar in Australia and New Zealand, and research is starting to come in showing that the take-up has been huge.

Analysts predict that if Netflix were measured as a 24-hour station by Nielsen, it would have more viewers than ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox within the year.

This is yet another piece of evidence that very significant numbers of people are abandoning traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines).

While I have no doubt that a very good (and expensive) TV ad campaign might have previously been able to win elections, there are more and more reasons why this is no longer the case.

If you were to sink the vast bulk of your campaign budget into TV ads, you should really stop and think about how many people would actually see them (and that is assuming they have any effect at all, of which there is limited evidence).


Reviewing the review

The envelope on which NZ Labour’s campaign review was written on the back of has unsurprisingly been leaked. Expect a witch hunt to distract from just how sub-standard the review is.

The content of the review, and lack-thereof, offer a fascinating insight into a party in turmoil. The actual 2014 general election campaign is skimmed over – most of the focus of the review instead seems to be the party’s organisational structures.

I’m going to go through the review and offer some thoughts. Starting with part 1 – General Election 2014.

Part 1 – General Election 2014

1A Campaign organisation

The late start under a changed leadership team left too little time to allow Labour to prepare and implement an effective campaign. In general, Labour’s campaign preparation was inadequate.

The new leadership team should make an immediate start on developing and implementing a coordinated strategic plan for contesting the 2017 election. A small and properly constituted Campaign Committee should be established at least a year out from the election and should be charged with preparing and implementing a campaign strategy which achieves buy-in from everyone, from the leader down.

While I don’t really disagree with the sentiment here, I find it an odd thing to open the review with (defensively stating “we didn’t have enough time”). David Cunliffe had a year between taking over as leader and the general election – which oddly is the lead time the review recommends for the setup of a campaign committee. I actually thought that the campaign committee was a standing committee, and if it isn’t, it should be. With three year terms no political party can afford to take two years off from campaigning.

1B Candidate selection

Candidate selection on the whole worked well and produced some excellent candidates. Late candidate selection hampered some 2014 electorate campaigns.

There should be a strategy developed for early selections and electorates with limited potential to generate a significant candidate pool. Attention should be paid to the transparency and fairness of the process for drawing up the list and to the structure of the list.

Oh candidate selection worked well, did it? The late selection bit is rubbish too – it is one area where Labour actually did really well. Six months out from the election Labour had selected all but seven electorate candidates, well ahead of Nats, Greens and NZ First.

Yes there should be a strategy developed for early selections, but this was done following the 2012 Coatsworth/Shearer review. What this review needed to do was ask *why* didn’t it happen – or is it simply misinformed.

1D Fundraising

The campaign was undoubtedly hindered by a shortage of financial resources. The finance available was less than in earlier campaigns, though only a little less by comparison with 2011. Labour must do better in this respect in 2017. Labour must build greater confidence in its ability to win and to form a successful government, and – in addition to building its database of online donors – it must use high – level business and other contacts, supported by a strengthened group of professional fundraisers on the staff team, in approaching the corporate sector and other potential sources of funding for donations.

We need more money. This could pretty much be the title of the review. Let’s see if any action is actually taken.

1E Leadership

Perceptions of tension around the leadership and disunity within caucus seriously undermined Labour’s credibility with voters and frustrated any attempt to present a Party that was ready for government.

It is imperative that Labour acts – and is seen to act – as a disciplined and coherent team that is ready for government if it is to win the trust of voters in 2017. As a key element of this process, the senior leadership team within Caucus should be given greater prominence and responsibility throughout the three years.

Yes, leadership was a problem. However the review conveniently ignores the harsh reality that the party was facing an election with a deeply unpopular leader. I’d be interested to know if this review panel has actually seen the research the party did on leadership? Yes, caucus disunity was a problem for David Cunliffe, but only in so far as it had been for every single Labour leader before him. Though I don’t have any hard stats to back this up, I actually think the party and caucus seemed pretty united during the campaign, and I certainly don’t recall any leaks against the leader (as had happened previously).

Sadly, the recommendation the review provides (giving the senior leadership team in caucus more prominence and responsibility) doesn’t really seem to be a solution to any problem, real or imagined.

So, we’re at the end of the General Election 2014 section of the review, and we have the following recommendations:

1. Form a campaign committee a year out from the election.

2. There should be a strategy for early selections. The list selection process should be “transparent and fair”.

3. More resources are needed for training candidates, campaign managers and volunteers (this was 1C, which I haven’t covered because it’s totally uncontroversial)

4. We need more money, and to do that we need more professional fundraisers in head office.

5. Giving the senior leadership team in caucus more prominence and responsibility.

I challenge any member of the Labour Party to take a look at that list and tell me that it adequately addresses the problems Labour’s campaign in 2014 faced.

Part 2 – Policy and Positioning

This section has a list of policy and positioning recommendations which it tells us are not actually recommendations, because they first need to be passed to the Policy Council and then the Media and Communications Unit in the Leader’s Office. I’m going to ignore it, as the party almost certainly will (after Patrick Gower has finished mocking 2G).

Part 3 – Party Governance and Organisation

This truly is the strangest part of the review. It goes from making recommendations based on problems Labour faced in 2014, to just making stuff up. I’ll try and summarise, but forgive me if I end up rambling, due to the nature of the subject matter.

3A – Party legal status

This is an issue I’ve heard about before, and still to this day don’t really understand (the review doesn’t go into much detail). I don’t know why it was a problem, or what the review is recommending, so hopefully the new general secretary will be able to finally resolve this.

3B – National level organistational structure 

This section a series of recommendations. Sadly the review doesn’t mention what problem they are trying to address. Here is what they suggest:

1. A new sub-committee of NZ Council, the Executive, which would include the Leader, President, two senior Vice Presidents, General Secretary, and three Party members elected directly by the membership. Tasked with developing and implementing campaign strategy as well as selection criteria.

2. Maintaining and expanding the NZ Council to include an ethnic representative.

3. A Campaign Committee to be appointed by NZ Council.

4. Sector groups to be reviewed (yes, this review recommends more reviewing).

5. Te Kaunihera Māori, the Māori section of the Party , should also undertake a review (are we seeing a pattern here?).

As I said earlier, I don’t really know what the problem is the review is trying to address here. I would actually assume that the new Executive and Campaign Committees would conflict and potentially hinder each other’s work.

3C – Local organising

The recommendations in this section are a mess. They recommend cementing the LEC (electorate committee) as the main unit of power, not abolishing branches but removing any power they have. It also recommends finally abolishing regional councils, which should have happened when Hubs were implemented. However it still leaves in place the regional reps on NZ Council (which will never be allowed to get smaller) and regional conferences will never die. Sadly review doesn’t touch on how the “Hub” organisational model worked or didn’t in the general election.

3D – Affiliates 

Precis: the affiliation model is broken (also, we get no money from them).

The main recommendation that there should be a working group to “examine the most effective way for affiliates to be integrated into a campaign strategy.” And it also handily points out that the money gained from unions is small, but doesn’t have any recommendations on what to do about that.

3E – Candidates

I’m going to quote the first line of this section: “The real question appears to be how the Party identifies candidates and then prepares and supports its candidates before, during and after the election.”

I’m sorry, does it?

It also then goes on to say:

“One of the most criticised aspects of the last election was the process for selection of list candidates”

Really? Not the fact that you got 25% of the Party Vote?

It then goes on to make the following recommendations to change this ‘problem':

1. Any member with 10 signatures should be able to nominate for the list (this is raising the current threshold, but it’s still so low it doesn’t matter).

2. All nominations should be vetted (and presumably vetoed) by a three-person “Vetting Committee”.

3. Moderating Committee should change to being composed of the NZ Council + 4 members of caucus (does that include the members that already sit on NZ Council).

These three recommendations are the most incredible thing in the review. They’re proposing to centralise power in a way that would make Muldoon blush. While they complain about a lack of democracy and transparency, their recommendations propose the opposite. Amazing.

3F – Fundraising

The main recommendation here is to put in place a capital fund to pay for campaigns. And to do that they want to “unlock the significant resources held by local entities of the Party”. Good luck with that.

 

At the end of the day this review is a mess. However the biggest problem will be if the party focusses on the guff in it (I can already imagine the fights that changes to LEC and regional council rules will cause) and continues to ignore the very real political problems it faces – which remain largely unaddressed.

Given this review is a waste of the envelope it was written on, it will be interesting to see how the new leader and president react (I can’t imagine the current General Secretary doing much to improve the situation).


Digital campaigning in New Zealand

There are few people who would doubt that digital is becoming an increasingly important component of political campaigns. Sadly I can no longer find the source for this graph, but it’s one that I’ve shown a few times recently to convey that both sides of politics are embracing digital as an increasingly large chunk of their campaign expenditure (in the US at least).

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 2.37.14 pm

One of the quaint things about election campaigns in New Zealand is the disclosure of electoral expenses, in order to enforce their spending caps. This allows us to very accurately examine what political parties are spending, and what they are spending it on.

Now that the 2014 election expenses have been released I’ve been able to compile what the various parties spent online, and there are some interesting numbers… (data here if you can’t see the full table)

Social Media Websites Display Ads Misc Digital Total Digital Spend Total Spend % Digital
National $38,214.39 $27,791.44 $393,772.70 $459,778.53 $2,558,211.53 18.0%
Labour $22,353.13  $1,236.30  $85,445.91 $109,033.34 $1,269,298.91 8.6%
Greens $33,099.63 $33,804.42 $52,433.96 $119,338.01 $1,291,419.81 9.2%
NZ First $1,518.00 $1,518.00 $268,530.23 0.6%
Maori $6,621.70 $6,621.70 $202,562.12 3.3%
ACT $30,704.66 $30,704.66 $294,406.09 10.4%
Conservative $5,292.00 $5,292.00 $1,914,072.38 0.3%
Internet Mana $230.00 $40,966.58 $19,237.20 $310.50 $60,744.28 $660,574.07 9.2%

While I wasn’t surprised to see that both the Greens and Internet Mana spent a large proportion of their budget online (at 9.2% it’s a higher proportion than the 2012 Obama campaign) – to be honest I was surprised the Internet Mana party didn’t spend more. The only other minor party that made a substantial investment was ACT – presumably getting David Seymour’s video far and wide.

What is surprising is both the huge proportion of their budget that National spent online (18% is much higher than I’ve seen in any other political campaign). As well as investing reasonably heavily in social media and a rather good looking website, they totally saturated online display advertising. It looks like they totally dominated in this space.

By contrast not only did Labour spend a tiny amount of money, but even the proportion of their total spend on digital was small.

This led me to wonder what this looked like compared to the 2011 election. So I dug out those numbers and compared…

Total Digital Spend 2011 Total Spend 2011 % Digital 2011 Change between 2014 and 2011
National $118,078.73 $2,321,216.06 5.1% +12.9%
Labour $98,790.34 $1,789,151.95 5.5% +3.1%
Greens $95,596.93 $779,618.38 12.3% -3.0%
NZ First $558.90 $155,902.86 0.4% +0.2%
Maori $- $72,172.56 0.0% +3.3%
ACT $41,347.10 $617,035.18 6.7% +3.7%
Conservative $5,300.55 $1,878,337.22 0.3% 0%
Internet Mana $500.00 $60,082.91 0.8% +8.4%

Surprisingly the Greens dropped their digital spend as a proportion of their total campaign budget, but I imagine this is probably because their total campaign budget was so much larger this time, and much of their additional resource was allocated to TV. They still spent almost three times as much online in 2014 as they did in 2011.

While National outspent Labour and the Greens on digital in 2011, they dramatically increased their spend in 2014. To be honest, I’m really taken back by it. You don’t think of the Nats as being on the cutting edge of campaigning, but I’ve never seen a political party invest so heavily in digital media before. Let’s hope the new look Labour team decide to do things a bit differently.

Notes

This data has been hand coded from the election expense results. There will be data entry errors on my part.

I’ve broken the 2014 data down into three sub-categories of digital spend: social media, websites and digital display advertising. Apologies for not doing this with the 2011 data.

I’ve compared the 2014 Internet Mana party with the 2011 Mana Party – very different beasts.

If you have trouble viewing this data on my blog, you can see the spreadsheet.

Update

I’ve been contacted by Labour to point out some of the digital spending in their expense that I missed, I have updated accordingly and removed a paragraph from my post that is now inaccurate with the new figures. If anyone else spots mistakes or omissions I’m more than happy to make corrections.

 


Why Labour Did Not Did Not Win

There’s a lot of analysis about “why Labour did not win”. (Short answer: it was heavily overdetermined.) But this is about just one reason that is not why Labour did not win, one thing that almost certainly made no difference to the result: hoardings.

There’s various theories about Labour’s hoardings, ranging from the true – Vote Positive was a weird choice for a message – to the somewhat kooky – apparently we should have plastered David Cunliffe’s face over everything, as if voters might have somehow forgotten he was leader – to the utterly crazy – the claim that Auckland MPs were hiding party vote hoardings on back streets. These theories, of course, are always delivered with complete certainty.

But there’s a fundamental problem with these arguments: hoardings have very little effect on the outcome of elections. Hardboiled American political hacks have a stock phrase for this: “signs don’t vote”. It’s not quite fair to say they don’t do anything – seeing a neighbour’s fence with a candidate’s face on it does matter, because it’s an endorsement from someone in your community, someone who’s part of your broader social milieu. But a large billboard at the roadside? It just doesn’t make much difference. As an Auckland friend of mine sarcastically puts it, “I always make voting decisions based on what corflute on the street tells me”.

There’s some academic research to back this up*, and smart American practice is shifting this way. So, overall, if your theory of Labour’s loss relies on poor hoarding design or display, it is not a load bearing structure.

* Which I’m too lazy to look up right now, sorry.

tumblr_na8j9lIzEM1ti79u7o1_1280


Opening Broadcasts

One of the many quaint things about New Zealand politics, is the odd, round about way they deal with partial state funding of political parties, while mashing it into a spending cap, and leaving a mess of a solution that suits no one.

Basically, the Electoral Commission allocates money to each party based on a huge number of factors, including number of MPs, polling performance and this year they’ve even quietly announced that they are taking Facebook Likes into consideration!

This money can then *only* be used for the production and broadcast of radio and television ads. Not only is it ring fenced, but it also acts as a spending cap – parties can not spend any additional money on TV or radio than what they are allocated by the electoral commission. The one way that parties can somewhat get around this is if they fund the production of the ads themselves, so they can spend the full amount of their allocation on ad placement.

Is it an ideal system? Nope. Is it likely to change anytime? Of course not.

As a campaigner it really bugs me. Additional campaign funds, that you don’t even have to work to fundraise for, is fantastic. Having to spend the money on one of the least effective forms of advertising? Well, that’s just cruel.

Another odd, and very old fashioned aspect of the system is that each party gets a set amount of time to broadcast opening and closing TV statements. These are played together on TV1 about a month out from the election, and then closing statements in the final week. Just like last year, National have gone with something safe and dull, and Labour have tried something new and exciting. It’s cool to see just how good Labour’s offering is. But sadly it will be seen by very very few swing voters.

Anyway, here are this year’s opening statements…

Labour

National

Available on their Facebook page.

Greens

NZ First

Theirs isn’t online either. And their YouTube channel hasn’t been updated in five years. Suits their brand I guess?

Conservative Party

Okay this is getting ridiculous. Theirs isn’t online either, and they haven’t updated their YouTube channel in a year.

ACT

Internet/MANA

And finally, I highly recommend you check out Steph’s reviews at The Standard.

And if you’re in NZ (or can figure out how to use a VPN so TVNZ thinks you’re in NZ), you can watch the full “programme” here.

 


Social media gurus

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Like at a senior MP sharing a story about how the leader is a liability…

10564820_10152078546171887_1391910779_nOr a Labour candidate sharing a graphic asking people to Party Vote Green…

2014-07-17 15_18_06-Tautoko! He Wai-ora…He Wai-rua…He Wai-Māori! - Rawiri Waititi for Waiariki

Scary that 26 of Rawiri’s fan’s liked the Party Vote Green message!

rurawhe

Look, I know Labour’s electoral strategy relies heavily on hashtags, but please make that the last time anyone uses #ElectoralAct1993.


labour2041

 

#Labour2041? As I said, sometimes you just have to laugh.

Seriously though, from what I’ve been told, an 8 page social media guidebook has been circulated to caucus and candidates. I have no idea if it covers this sort of stuff or not. But regardless, someone needs to be cracking some heads together (that Rawiri post has now been online for three days) and telling candidates that these posts need to come down, and not happen again. Like I said yesterday, when Labour are struggling to get their message out at all, they shouldn’t allow candidates (or the leader) to create distractions.


How not to release policy

NZ Labour’s woes are well documented. The latest round of polls – both with Labour sub 25, are frankly, disastrous. On these numbers Labour will be lucky to get deputy leader David Parker re-elected, and the prospect of any new list MPs just looks like a fantasy.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. From my distant perspective, it looks like Labour is running some excellent on the ground campaigns. Some of the MPs look like they’re making great visits (David Shearer and Chris Hipkins seem to have had a really sucessful visit through the regional North Island). Kelvin Davis is getting good media from his work helping flood victims in his electorate.  I’ve heard that some electorates are smashing their voter contact targets. The fact that they’ve even managed to agree to targets at all amazes me (I have previously sat in a Labour meeting where the idea of targets was quite literally dismissed as “boss talk”).

And as Phil Quin pointed out on the Q+A panel the other week, Labour do have some very good policy positions. Chris Hipkins really needs to be commended for the work he continues to do with education – their school donation and class size policies are really solid vote winners.

Unfortunately, Labour seems to have since dropped them like a lead balloon.

Using Facebook as a sample of Labour’s external comms*, let’s have a look at what they’ve done with the education announcements…

2 July – Labour announce their school donation policy with a nice graphic on Facebook. Lovely stuff.

3 July – Cunliffe posts a story about how the PPTA back’s their policy. Nice touch.

5 July – Saturday of party congress. Cunliffe announces iPad for every child policy with another nice Facebook graphic.

6 July – Sunday of party congress. Leader’s keynote speech. Presumably in the speech Cunliffe announces their major policy of employing 2000 new teachers to reduce class sizes. But you wouldn’t know that from his Facebook page which stays completely silent on the matter.

7 July – David Cunliffe is awkwardly holding a sausage.

cunny_sausage

8 July – David Cunliffe meets the Japanese Prime Minister. Does he talk about education? We’ll never know.

10 July – A week after the key note speech a video of it is posted online. Without any mention of the policy. You have to watch the 36 minute video to discover that Labour wants to reduce class sizes.

10 July – Chris Hipkins launches Labour’s excellent education manifesto. It’s a beautiful document that really easily sets out some great policy. Does Cunliffe or the Labour Party mention it? Nope.

Number of mentions of Labour’s education policies after they’re announced: 0. Number of times David Cunliffe has mentioned that they are reducing class sizes on Facebook: 0.

Hell, it’s even depressing to look at a Facebook feed of all Labour candidates and party pages. The last time anyone from Labour talked about education was Grant Robertson three days ago.

Labour candidates should be told to post about it. They should be told to do a visit, then talk about how the education policy is relevant to that visit afterwards. People aren’t going to vote Labour because you have dunked yourself in a pool of icy water. They will vote Labour if they think that improving our kids’ education is worthwhile, and that Labour is the best party to deliver that. You have a good policy. Go out there and sell it!

In a week where Labour committed hundreds of millions of dollars to make worthwhile and significant changes to education, candidates should not be posting videos of ice water challenges. There are enough distractions from Labour’s core messages thanks to donations scandals, Kim Dotcom etc etc, Labour shouldn’t be using Facebook to create even more diversions.

And by totally going to ground and refusing to go out and sell Labour’s policy, David Cunliffe doesn’t even look like he wants Labour to win.

 

* Facebook certainly isn’t and shouldn’t be Labour’s only communication tool, but given they can easily use it to reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of people, they would be criminally negligent to ignore it. And sadly it doesn’t look like they’re picking up the slack here in any other medium.


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