Wednesday, June 28, 2006

... or center fizzle?

Unity08 just held its second "conference call for bloggers" (here's my take on the first one). I have some thoughts on the group's prospects, but first I'm going to pay for my ticket by publicizing their current effort:

Declare Your Independence -

Unity08's "Declaration of Independence" is a familiar, but well-presented political gimmick. The goal is to get 10,000 signers (more on that in a bit) saying the same thing, and to brandish it versus the political targets as a threat, and to the public as a badge of credibility ("we have support"). If you agree with it, sign it.

I don't agree with it, so I won't be signing it. But that's just me. Your mileage may certainly vary.

Now, let's dig into the prospects: To put it bluntly, things are looking pretty dim for Unity08 at the moment. They may catch fire, but they haven't yet.

The first sign of this on the conference call was when a participant asked the obvious question: Why seek only 10,000 signers for the "Declaration of Independence?" The response (I think it was from former Maine governor Angus King, but I have a problem telling voices apart) was to refer to boilerplate political technique -- paraphrased, "always hire a hall too small for the crowd you expect -- that way when it's standing room only, you can claim to have exceeded your expectations."

The second sign was when I asked about Unity08's overall number number of declared supporters as evidenced by response to their web form. The response (this time I think it was Doug Bailey) was that they don't plan to share those numbers until early 2007. Once again, of course, accompanied by good reasons why.

Good answers. Smooth answers. But let's face it -- it's really just putting the best face on less-than-stellar results.

Here are some facts that anyone can find -- facts, in other words, that Unity08 can't stonewall on:

Alexa ranks Unity08's site the 3,047,820th most popular site on the Internet. It carries Google Page Rank of 0.

For the sake of comparison:

Libertarian Party: 27,128th on Alexa, Page Rank 7
Green Parties Worldwide: 287,401st on Alexa, Page Rank 7
Communist Party USA: 511,696th on Alexa, Page Rank 6
Pansexual Peace Party: No Alexa ranking (hosted by Tripod), Page Rank 5

Hell, I'm fairly certain that Kn@ppster isn't creeping up on Yahoo! and MSN just yet, and I can't even get an Alexa ranking (it defaults to Blogger.Com's), but my Google Page Rank is 6. Page Rank is largely a function of how many other sites link to yours (but the exact formula is, I believe, rather secret). My own new (and very niche) project, freedomSLUT, launched since Unity08's site, is still at zero with respect to Page Rank, but already about a million and a half up on Unity08 at Alexa.

who links to me shows 19 sites (via MSN search) linking to Unity08, and Technorati finds seven blog posts linking to it in the last 21 days.

Unity08 is just not reaching people via the Internet (and it is substantially, if not wholly, an Internet and campus effort at this point); those whom it is reaching don't seem to be hopping on the bandwagon with enthusiasm or intensity in any great numbers.


Let me emphasise that: Yet. Something could change. They may have a great media plan up their sleeves, or a million bucks stashed away for the "big push," or whatever.

But I'm just not seeing it right now. That bugs me a little, because they've certainly gone out of their way to generate "blog buzz," and just for doing so they deserve more than they're getting. Their plan and agenda deserve to be examined, even if ultimately rejected.

As I note above, the Internet isn't the only front on which Unity08 is working. They claim to have established a presence on more than 100 college and university campuses as of last week. That could energize the effort come fall ... if they can get some oomph into it now so that students come back to school pumped up behind the idea. But that's a big if, and they have about two months to deliver on it.

The emerging Unity08 agenda probably deserves a post of its own, and may get it.

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