Republicans look to Buzzfeed for new site inspiration

Republicans try and emulate buzz feedStill smoldering after Mitt Romney’s defeat to Barack Obama, a defeat that was in no small part down to Obama’s superior digital campaigning strategy, the GOP are looking to ramp up their own digital presence.

They are taking inspiration though from an unlikely source in the emerging digital media giant Buzzfeed, which recently launched here in the UK.

In Buzzfeed the GOP sees the future for the websites of political parties in how it manages to engage people and get them reading. According to the National Journal the National Republican Congressional committee “spent hours poring over BuzzFeed’s site map and layout, studying how readers arrived at its landing pages and bounced from one article to the next”.

The newly designed site will get rid of many of the features we typically associate with political website, and will take inspiration from the Buzzfeed sidebar with links to recent posts. Part of this strategy is already in action, with the recent post attacking Obamacare on its third birthday which featured pictures of angry animals. Obviously.

Other feature changes will include shorter postings and a reduced number of items in the website menu.

Speaking to the National Journal’s Brian Fung, NRCC spokesman Gerrit Lansing explained the dcision:

“BuzzFeed’s eating everyone’s lunch. They’re making people want to read and be cognizant of politics in a different way.”

The NRCC say the changes that they have brought in thus far are already having an effect. Communications director Andrea Bozek said that “for every visit, the site makes about $0.10 to $0.25 in contributions”, and that “to do that in the first quarter of an off year is pretty extraordinary.”

That maybe so, and there are certainly things to be learned from Buzzfeed given its rapid rise to success. Furthermore, it is important for political organisations to seek out interesting and innovative ways to engage new people into the political discussion.

However, Obama won online because he made people feel a part of something big and important – the future of their country, not because he mocked the Republicans.

While satire and snark have long been a feature of political discourse, ultimately politics is a serious business, it should not be simply reduced to online one liners and silly pictures. Do we really want the future of political campaigning to look like this?