Posted on 5:29 pm on May 26, 2015 by

How Digital Media Can Influence Politics in 2015

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From a politician’s point of view, braving the world of digital holds several advantages.

For the duration of the UK General Election campaign, party campaigners were pouring resources into political adverts and campaign videos on such platforms as YouTube, Twitter and Buzzfeed. Not only did David Cameron ramp up his presence on social media, but you could barely visit YouTube without seeing a targeted campaign from his opposition.

Social media has forced politicians to become more digitally literate, although the Tory minister Brooks Newark scandal proves they still have a long way to go. Digital viewing offers a form of instant contact with the electorate, allowing those vying for power to engage (or at least appear to engage) directly with constituents. If likes were seats, Cameron had the edge over Miliband, while UKIP drove the largest amount of web traffic. For UKIP visual content was once again a staple of their campaign. They seemed to have a strong grasp of social marketing tactics, using everything from the standard ‘like and share if you agree with us’ tactic to the slightly more advanced social tools such as Thunderclap – a crowd-sourced mass sharing platform that helps to spread messages. These media types offer a unique way of reaching voters with video who might not pay attention to more traditional forms of media.

For younger voters tired or simply not interested in watching politicians being interrogated on Newsnight, this election marked a crucial change in engagement. The general election saw a new crop of online news outlets make their presence felt for the first time. One example of this was brilliantly serialized by VICE Media – its worldwide news documentaries have earned the VICE Media network 10m subscribers on YouTube. VICE blended traditional written journalism with long-and short-form videos focusing on societal and cultural issues affecting young people, rather than Punch and Judy style Westminster politics.

Vice's General Election Campaign

You can read some of topics covered in VICE’s general election portal here >>

David Cameron faced a lot of stick from the UK’s media with his refusal to partake in April’s live televised debates. Interestingly enough, he did accept an interview with the internet aggregator Buzzfeed, which was live streamed on their Facebook feed on the 16th March. For the Conservatives, they were able to tap into the 18-34-year old, engaged demographic Buzzfeed offers. Moreover, Ed Miliband’s interview on Russell Brand’s Trews YouTube channel {link} has been watched by over 1.2 million people, many of whom would never consider watching BBC’s Newsnight.

People might question whether digital communications is a decisive tool for choosing who to vote for. However, it undoubtedly exposed the hybrid between different mediums during this election. Even Twitter and its faster paced characteristics of digital media needs a mixture of anchor points to bounce off. Digital media is extremely good at responding quickly, whether it’s satirical posts, hashtags or tweetspots from live TV. The traditional TV debates and politicians public appearances remain extremely important in terms of viewing reach, while providing a catalyst for such interactions.

Politics will continue to be televised, broadcast and read on paper, as it has been for decades. But more and more, the revolution will be hurtling in your direction via video on a computer, tablet, phone and maybe even your smart watch.

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