Obama’s VP text message reached 2.9 million people, Nielsen reports; No data on how many were awake when it arrived


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The Obama campaign’s highly anticipated text message announcing Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee’s running mate reached 2.9 million U.S. mobile subscribers last weekend, making it ‘one of the most important text messages’ ever and ‘one of the most successful’ branding efforts using mobile devices, according to Nic Covey, director of insights for research firm Nielsen Mobile.

Covey bestowed those superlatives despite some major problems with the Obama text message initiative, which promised people who signed up that they’d be the first to know the news.


It didn’t quite work out that way.

First there were the fake text messages that started appearing late last week. Then, The Times and other major news organizations, led by CNN, broke the news late Friday night that Obama had chosen his Senate colleague, Biden. That forced the campaign to send out the text messages about five hours earlier than they had planned -- at about 3 a.m. EDT Saturday (midnight Pacific Time), when most supporters probably were sound asleep.

‘Assuming you weren’t in front of your computer, cellphone or television between midnight and 3 a.m. Saturday, you missed a lot. ‘ Shane D’Aprile wrote for Campaigns & Elections Politics magazine. ‘Actually, you missed it all.’

As our colleague Jon Healey wrote on the Opinion LA blog, ‘the so-last-century mainstream media’ beat ‘shiny new technology.’ In Olympics parlance, you could say TV and newspaper websites took gold and silver in this race, while the trendy newcomer, texting, got the bronze.

Some tech-savvy Republicans said Obama blew it by waiting too long to release the news. But as Covey and others have pointed out, breaking the vice presidential announcement wasn’t the only point of the Obama campaign’s texting tactic.

‘The value of the message goes far beyond the 26 words and 2.9 million recipients,’ Covey said in a news release. ‘Here, Obama branded himself as cutting edge, inflated the already enormous press attention paid to his VP pick and further established a list of supporters’ most coveted form of contact: their cellphone numbers.’

Covey predicted that it would inspire U.S. companies to experiment more with text-message-based campaigns. Though probably not ones that land in the dead of night.

-- Jim Puzzanghera