“Money is the mother’s milk of politics,” said California State Assembly Speaker, Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh (1922-1987).
For a politician, the Internet is a huge bargain.
For example, Newt Gingrich, who is flirting with a run for the presidency, has more than 1.3 million followers on Twitter.
Twitter is free. Talking to these million-plus followers—keeping them fired up on a very personal basis—costs Gingrich nothing beyond a bit of his time.
Twenty years ago, he would have been forced to mail postcards. In today’s dollars—at 30¢ a pop—each postcard mailing would cost Gingrich $394,000.
The record shows that Gingrich has sent out 2,363 tweets as of this morning.
If the former speaker had sent all his tweets to his full list, that’s 3 billion tweets. In postcard arithmetic, that totals $929 million worth of messages.
Conventional wisdom—especially amongst politicians and the very young—is that the Internet is a Godsend, because everything is free—news, magazines, books, music, movies, tweets, Facebook, correspondence.
“‘Conventional wisdom’ is an oxymoron,” wrote Charles Hughes and William Jeanes.
In actuality, the Internet—the “new medium” where everything is free—can be a catastrophe. Not only is it an enabler of excruciatingly sloppy, self-indulgent writing that bores people to stupefaction, but it can invade our privacy, get us fired, destroy our reputations and careers, and, in some cases, cause us to commit suicide.
In the early days of the republic, mail and news traveled by covered wagon and stagecoach and arrived weeks and months late. It was disseminated when residents gathered in the town square to hear the town crier.
The railroad and telegraph lines sped the process and eventually the newspaper replaced the town crier.
When radio came along, handwringers in the print world said it would replace newspapers. It did not. Listeners were (and are) fascinated to read in-depth coverage of the bulletins they heard on the air.
Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.