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Obama's 2.9 million texts create online frenzy

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Jake Turcotte

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Obama's now-legendary text message announcing the selection of vice presidential candidate Joe Biden has been discussed ad nauseum -- including here.

Why bring it up again? We know now just how many text messages were sent out.

The folks over at Nielsen tell us that 2.9 million texts were sent out. It sounds impressive. And according to Nielsen, it is:

"The V.P. message was sent in the late hours of Friday night and is, by many accounts, the single largest mobile marketing event in the U.S. to date," a release from Nielsen read. "While much has been said of the timing and the scoop by news outlets, Obama's V.P. text-message still ranks as one of the most important text messages ever sent and one of the most successful brand engagements using mobile media."

Online political pundits agree. This was a success. And if you signed up, get ready for more says the Obama campaign. Nick Shapiro, a spokesman at the Obama campaign told ABC News:

"Moving forward, we're going to continue to keep our supporters engaged with our valuable two-way communication tool," he said

This valuable two-way communications tool spawned an enormous amount of media coverage, not to mention the viral conversation it started.

The Obama text underground...

The text event generated a life of its own. Enter "Obama text message" into Google and 983,000 results pop up. It's a lot of reading but, in short, there are forums, web pages, articles, and even videos discussing the issue.

One of the most entertaining is an account of a fictitious lawsuit against the Obama campaign from an unemployed bricklayer named Manley Scott. In the fictitious (repeated for emphasis) account, Scott didn't receive the text and filed suit. The article comes complete with fictitious quotes from Senator McCain and FOX News anchor Sean Hannity:

"First he says he'll send Manley a text message, then he changes his mind and doesn't," said Sean Hannity of Fox News, "this kind of flip flopping is proof Obama is not ready to be President."
"Textgate is a classic example of why Obama is not fit to be commander in chief," said John McCain from one of his many houses. "When we should be bombing Iran, he would be fiddling with one of those new fangled cell phones, trying to order some arugula."

Area 51

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Conspiracy theories also popped up. From a blogger on the Daily Kos:

"Given Verizon's history of blocking NARAL messaging that it found unacceptable, I begin to wonder if Verizon did not deliberately block Obama's message to some portion of its wireless customers."


And of course, reports of fake text messages that were dispersed:

"A Manhattan woman got excited when she received a message announcing Hillary Rodham Clinton, but soon realized it was a joke when she saw nothing more about the choice on the Internet. There also were reports of John Kerry, Walter Mondale, and even Eliot Spitzer."

It didn't work

Not to mention complaints that the old media got the scoop first? There were plenty of complaints:

"What seemed like a brilliant exercise in media management devolved into a late night rearguard maneuver."

It did work

Yes, network news anchors did beat the text to the punch. But Nielsen says that's not important.

"The value of the message goes far beyond the 26 words and 2.9 million recipients," the Nielsen release read. "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."

Now, we'll put this issue to bed. Unless there are more fun fictitious lawsuits to discuss.

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