Saturday, February 5, 2011

KC Rag ranks Mayor Funkhouser Campaign site Number 1

Ranking Kansas City Mayoral Candidates Based on the Quality of their Campaign Sites

Although politicians may have first tought the internet was simply a “series of tubes”, there is no doubt having a good internet presence is vital in today’s campaign world. Some have called Barack Obama the first “Facebook President” and former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin can circumvent the mainstream media by refudiating arguments her Twitter page.

So as we head into the final weeks of the Kansas City Mayoral election, which candidates have done the best job maintaining an internet presence? Here is my ranking of candidates solely on the quality of their website:
1. Mark Funkhouser ( I’ll give it to the guy, the site is nice. Funkhouser had an insurgent campaign his first go around, effectively using Youtube and his blog to circumvent traditional media sources and interest group politicking and position himself as a political outsider. He has taken a similar course for his re-election campaign, although it is harder to argue he is a political outsider. His site is clean, crisp, and colorful. It is easy to contribute, to sign up to volunteer or to obtain a yard sign. His site features a Twitter feed that actually seems updated every other day or so, along with a link to his re-election Facebook page.
His site features many quotes from constituents, leading you to believe he is truly a man of the people! He  has an easy-to-read bullet-point list of accomplishments as well as a clear vision for the future, with in-depth descriptions if you want to read more. He even has a nice link to Flickr so the site is not junked up with awkward photos. This is what a campaign website should look like.
2. Mike Burke  – The graphics seem nice and the site is well organized. The vision is a bit sparse, but it is clear (and a nice knock on the incumbent by making “professionalism” part of his vision for the mayor’s office). He embeds a slick campaign video on his front page.  His biography is very detailed and he makes it easy to contribute money or volunteer. He has links to Facebook and Twitter and those are well-maintained.
However some of the site is awkward. You can review Mike’s position by clicking on the icon – but the icons aren’t accompanied by words, so you kind of have to guess at what they represent (my best guess – “City Hall”, “porches”, “plaques”, “the Performing Arts Center” and “graffiti”). Also, there is a Login front and center on the page, but I have no idea why. Overall though, it all looks pretty professional.
3. Henry Klein – The website has a nice modern look. Orange seems to be a popular campaign color since the Ukrainian Orange Revolution (Funkhouser used it to great effect four years ago). Klein puts a big Youtube video front and center, so its a good attention-getter. He seems to have some good ideas on his blog, but it is updated sporadically. Even less updated is his Facebook page (aw, only 67 people “like” Henry!). And his Twitter page has two posts since Christmas. Also, for a guy who seems to be running on a platform of “new ideas”, his Issues section looks very sparse with bad formatting. While its easy to contribute, to volunteer, you either have to click on “Issues” or “Contribute”, which may not be that evident.
4. Deb Hermann -The banner is nice and professional looking with a cool blue theme, but its a bit of a mess below that. The main page features “News”, but the news is pretty sparse (just seven entries since she announced her candidacy) and its all written in huge font with lots of exclamation points as if it was the blog of a fourteen year old Twilight fan. She makes it easy to contact the campaign, volunteer, contribute and subscribe to their newsletter (cleverly called “The Bandwagon”), but there is zero Facebook or Twitter presence (for the record, she does have a Facebook page that is updated quite a bit, but no Twitter presence that I can find).
“Deb’s Vision” is poorly organized. It lists three things – why’s she’s running, a “Culture of Excellence” and “Renewing our Neighborhoods”. If you click on each, it gives a nice detailed list of what she wants to do, but its not organized particularly well. So if you wanted to know say, what her stance was on say economic development, you’d have to wade through a bunch of other issues to get to it.
5. Sly James -Sly’s page immediately takes you to a sign-up sheet to get his newsletter or join the campaign, which I never like because I think most people that go to sites are trying to find issues first. Few people are going to want to get an email from the campaign (I still regret signing up for Obama’s text alerts. I get it Mr. President, you’re giving a State of the Union Address tonight!) or join the campaign – those that do are probably dedicated enough to find that kind of stuff on your site.
Anyway, after you get that, he does put the issues front and center. It is curious he cites experience as a big factor, although he has the least political experience out of any of the candidates. Its easy to contribute or get involved. He also allows you to send e-post cards – why, I don’t know. He also helps you write letters to the editor which I think is a smart move.  He has a well-maintained Facebook site with 941 friends, the most out of any candidate (including one of my friends who is always posting updates – so at least anecdotally, his supporters seem avid).
On the front page is his campaign ad, which seems well done. My biggest problem with the site is just all the bare space on it. There is a ton of room at the top being unused, so when you first look at the site, the picture of Sly, which should be front and center, is cut off halfway, leaving only his smiling eyes looking at you.
6. Jim Rowland -This looks like a bare-bone website thrown up just to have a web presence. It almost reminds me of like a 1990s-era online encyclopedia entry. He has a large picture of downtown Kansas City in the top right corner, and it looks like an Eric Bowers piece. Eric does great work, but the picture Rowland chooses makes Kansas City look awfully gloomy and depressing.
He links to Facebook and Twitter and his appeared to be updated much more than any other candidate. Its easy to contribute and volunteer, although the entry field page for those seem to lead to a graphics fail.  He has well-organized categories on the side – although three of them are about him – Biography, Accomplishment, and the Rowland family – not to mention the “Photos and Videos” section only has pictures of him with his youth baseball team (and no promised videos!)  I’ll give him credit for at least trying to be bilingual, as he has quite a bit of material in Spanish. He also lists “Issues” and “Policies” separately, although I am not certain why.
So there you have it, if you are judging candidates solely on the quality of their internet presence, Mark Funkhouser is the clear choice. But hopefully when you’re in that voting booth on February 22, you’ll be determining your vote on something a bit more important than that, like how they smiled that one time you saw them on TV. Good luck!

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