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Yes, the Internet can

November 5, 2008

I really wanted to come up with something original to say about President-elect Obama’s victory and I hope someone hasn’t already beaten me to the punch when I say this: As much as the win was about breaking down a major race barrier and vindicating the idea of democracy at a time when it was in question, it was also the realization of the full potential of the Internet.

That latter point goes easily overlooked in light of the former two, but I think it’s a monumental one that we’re going to look back on with a lot more weight than we’re giving it right now.

Look: A man who was just “some politician” four years ago is the president-elect due in large part to support he rallied over the Internet. Amid all the porn, gossip, scamming, spamming, stalking and harassing that exists on the Web, a man was able to harness its full potential and use it to ascend to the highest office in the world.

To put it simply, Obama proved that the Internet isn’t just wires and lights in a box.

Here’s the really exciting part (even if you’re a McCain/Palin fan): Anyone on earth can apply this to their own Internet ventures and be just as successful. There are precious few — perhaps no — facets of Obama’s Internet campaign that can’t be replicated for free. A Facebook page? That takes all of five minutes. Twitter? Even less. An iPhone application? A bit more of a time commitment, but completely doable. Obama did all that and more.

Whether or not this serves as a wake up call to slow-to-change news sources remains to be seen. What seems almost certain is that the next Republican challenger to President-elect Obama will have to take him on in cyberspace as well as on the campaign trail. And if that’s true, the news business will have to follow them there, as well.

For individuals in the journalism industry, though, Obama’s win should serve as a lesson: that your ability to compete with anyone and everyone in your profession is limited only by your willingness to embrace the Internet.

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