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The Obama SMS: (Un-)gratifying instantification

The thunder of Web 2.0 campaigning was stolen by old-school TV news coverage.

So the SMS went out to hundreds of thousands of Obama supporters. Not everyone got it at the same time (according to, it took about 15 minutes for the bulk of the messages to get through the carriers' systems) or, in some cases, at all, but overall, the pre-announcement buzz (including some fake VP announcements -- "Michael Phelps!") was palpable and the word was spread.

"Be the first to know whom Barack picks as his running mate," had been the campaign's promise. The only problem: Those who had signed up to be the first to know, were not the first to know. About three hours before the Obama campaign deployed their SMS blast, John King of CNN broke the news, leaked from "Democratic sources." The "artificial exclusivity" of one-to-one marketing was undercut by the familiar means of traditional broadcasting. The thunder of Web 2.0 campaigning was stolen by old-school TV news coverage. The utterly disciplined Obama campaign seemed to have lost control for a moment and experienced one of its rare glitches. The "eventization" of news -- a social media paradigm so masterfully applied by the Obama camp -- was "uneventized" by CNN's preemptive strike. CNN suspended the suspense. What was supposed to be gratifying instantification - "all for this one moment," as Lufthansa's advertising slogan goes, collectively shared -- became a shallow confirmation email devoid of any newsworthiness.

What this tells us: you gotta be faster! "Now is Gone," Brian Solis called his book about PR in the age of social media. Indeed. If CNN breaks tomorrow's news, you have to release yours yesterday.

Also read Tomi T. Ahonen's analysis including a great overview of SMS usage in the US.