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Epic Text Message Fail? Media Gets Biden News Hours Before Supporters

BY Patrick Ruffini | Saturday, August 23 2008

Shortly after 3 AM on the east coast, the long-awaited text message from Barack Obama announcing Joe Biden had finally arrived. But it was something short of letting the cat out of the bag. At 10:50 pm on Friday night, ABC News confirmed that Biden was getting Secret Service protection. The first official confirmation that I could find came from CNN at 12:45 a.m. The promised "be the first to know" text message came a full two hours later.

What seemed like a brilliant exercise in media management devolved into a late night rearguard maneuver. All day Friday, the Twitterverse was on pins and needles waiting for their text message. (A number of us with iPhones probably jumped when we received one earlier in the day from AT&T promoting a software upgrade.) By 6 p.m., as the evening news cycle was closing, it was clear that no text message would come on Friday. The Obama campaign had kept the waiting game going for one more day. Again, seemingly brilliant.

But as Friday evening turned into night, it became apparent that the campaign was going to run into sequencing and logistics problems. Sure, the campaign could wait to send the message minutes before the nominee took the stage at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. But that ignored the fact that the nominee had to get to Springfield. And with the media camped out in front of each of their houses, how exactly were they going to do that without getting noticed?

Add to this the fact that text messages are best sent during the day or evening hours. Many mobile apps actually prevent you from sending messages after 9 or 10 pm or before 7 am in a given time zone. With the West Coast included, this limits the ideal time to send a message until late morning in the east.

So, the 3 AM message seemed unplanned, a response to the media's confirmation of the Biden pick. A number of people on Twitter reported being awakened by the message, never ideal.

The bottom line: by stringing everyone along, Obama's camp waited too long. They didn't coordinate the logistics of securing the nominee with the actual notification process. Though I'd love to think that the Secret Service would move in in response to a text, in the real world that probably isn't going to happen yet.

Not that I suspect the Obama campaign is crying over this. The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama netted 3 million cell phone numbers out of the deal.

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