Democrats & Liberals Archives

First Mover Advantage

The chattering classes were shocked last week when Howard Dean kept up his momentum despite what they insisted was a disastrous performance on Meet The Press.

Why was that? It was because of the Internet, and a hoary old (by Internet standards) idea called First Mover Advantage.

Dean was been the first candidate for President to embrace this medium and all it has to offer. He made his campaign truly interactive, and even Democrats who don't agree with him on everything (which he warned them would be the case) have come to respect that.

As with such early companies as AOL (first to online graphics) and Netscape (first to the browser) Dean has managed this feat with a pitifully small investment. I have been to Burlington. The Internet campaign consists of just a few people in a corner of the office. There are also big square offices there, where middle-aged men in white shirts and ties continue doing things the old-fashioned way. But the Dean campaign has, on the whole, left the Internet people alone, embraced their success, and refused the (big company) temptation to co-opt them and turn them into something they are not.

As in the 1990s there are now copycats. Dennis Kucinich is a copycat. Dennis Kucinich is trying, manfully, to copy the Dean innovations in his campaign, and achieving some short-term success. But Kucinich does not have the budget to overtake Dean's First Mover advantage.

This has nothing to do with the stands taken by Dean or Kucinich. I suspect that had Kucinich embraced the Internet first, embraced blogging and interactivity, mailing lists and databases, Kucinich today might be scaring the Democratic Establishment while Dean would still be Howard Who?

Now let us go back to the Netscape example. You're not using a Netscape browser, are you? AOL is no longer even a technology company. (It is a Time-Warner marketing division.)

This is because Microsoft kept making mistake-after-mistake until it got things right. Microsoft spent big and overwhelmed Netscape, and it overwhelmed AOL.

Bush might yet do this to Dean. The Bush campaign is the Microsoft of this political season. But there's one thing that Bush has that Microsoft did not have, a deadline. If his people don't figure out interactivity by the fall of 2004 all the money in the world will not save him.

That is not what I expect. In the end, I believe, the 2004 election will be decided based on how the American people feel about George W. Bush at the time they go to the polls, and on how many are motivated to go at all. It won't be money, and it won't be the Internet. In the end, the decision will be yours.

Posted by Danablankenhorn at June 30, 2003 9:14 AM