DemCast Proposal: Overview

 

Welcome!

If you received the link to this page, then you are likely a person who wants to see a Democratic tsunami in 2020. Whether you are a devout Democrat, Independent or progressive, you know what needs to happen during the next election, and how important it is for our democracy. These characteristics probably apply to you:

  • You are a registered Democrat or plan to vote blue underneath the “Big Tent”.
  • You understand the GOP must be soundly defeated across the board.
  • You believe the center and left need to protect (i.e. not trash) Democrats heading into 2020.
  • You know that the Kremlin and GOP will try to divide the left.
  • You are ready to work hard to save democracy.

DemCast is a proposed mechanism for amplifying blue messaging through 2020 and beyond, to achieve our goal of blue advancement: from state legislatures all the way up to the White House.

This document is a concept proposal – a pitch for a collaborative project that we could build together. Thank you so much for reading: as a grassroots activist, you are the target audience. Our hope is that you’ll see the vision, agree that this is an organizational approach that our community should adopt, and – ultimately – that you’ll become integrally involved once it’s live. DemCast is a project of activists, by activists, for democracy.

Our Request:

  1. Please read through the sections below.
  2. Consider whether this model resonates with you as an activist.
  3. Think about how having the DemCast infrastructure in place could support you locally and support all of us at a national level.
  4. After you’ve made your way through the materials, please fill out this SURVEY to provide feedback, raise questions, and identify if/how you could see yourself participating.

Thank you!

 

The DemCast Mission 

To win the presidency and expand Democratic majorities in the US Congress and state legislatures, as well as ensure blue pickups in key state-level races for governor, secretary of state, and attorney general across the US. DemCast will amplify the unified voice of the grassroots activist community. No infighting. Just electoral dominance.

 

Project Synopsis

Throughout the 2018 election cycle, grassroots writers, bloggers, podcasters and artists developed digital media and commentary that supported the cause. Unfortunately, much of this content languished in distant corners of the internet – largely unseen.

We can fix that, and it’s critical that we do. DemCast will be the digital hub for activists. Neither a for-profit news site or a new corporate media company, this grassroots project will focus on amplifying the voices of activists who spend their time creating high-quality, pro-blue digital media. This project is about aggregating content and disbursing it systematically via social media.

Examples:

If a writer spends four hours crafting a persuasive essay in support of a candidate, but only the writer’s mother, best friend and 9th grade English teacher read it via a Google Doc or a personal blog site, does it make an impact? Maybe a very small one. But there is a huge missed opportunity, too.

Similarly, if a graphic artist spends four hours crafting an impactful graphic that depicts her anti-immigrant Republican Congressman as a snickering warden patrolling cages full of immigrant children, but she merely emails it to her friends and family, then only 25 people may ever see it.

Given a well-traveled content hosting platform and a dedicated amplification strategy to help content spread with geographic targeting, the essay above could easily get 7,500-20,000 reads, its headline could be seen in peoples’ Facebook and Twitter feeds 500,000 times, and the powerful “kids in cages” graphic could catch the eyes of a million plus.

DemCast is a way to ensure that high quality digital content like this gets seen, which is absolutely essential in the age of the Information War. The social media landscape is littered with manipulative messaging from the right (and their enablers abroad) and content-poor click-bait that distracts from the important issues of our time. This makes it incredibly hard for non-divisive Blue Wave/pro-democracy messaging and information to slip through.

So DemCast is a not-for-profit endeavor rather than a click-driven, for-profit media site. It is critical infrastructure – a canvas on which grassroots activists can paint, accompanied by a built-in distribution network to ensure their work is seen.

Below, we share some key facets of the DemCast model and some of the rationale for why it fills a critical gap in our grassroots communication infrastructure. If you like what you see, and would like to read even more – please click on this graphic to download and read the full concept proposal (pdf format):

 

The Basic Idea

  • Activists, candidates, elected officials and grassroots/party-affiliated groups will develop articles, op-eds, graphics, podcasts, video blogs and other creative media to support blue electoral gains (this is already happening).
  • In addition to posting their content via existing channels (Daily Kos, Medium, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, personal blog sites, etc.) they will also contribute their works to DemCast.com – a centralized hub for pro-blue content. (DemCast will also welcome original content that is not posted elsewhere.)
  • A volunteer army of grassroots social media amplifiers will take posted content from DemCast and spread it strategically on social media, using geographically targeted hashtags and partnerships with local, state and national groups.
  • DemCast staff and partners will take the time to train those developing content and those distributing it, to ensure that the model stays true to the mission of widespread blue victory.

 

Why is This Necessary?

If you click to download the Complete Concept Proposal and read Section 1, you’ll get an in-depth rundown about why this model is necessary. But here is a summary, based on that content:

  • The right is aggressively using digital tools to spread disinformation, and we must counter their efforts.
  • Production of digital content (written, audio, video and graphic) and social media amplification are both important forms of digital activism – and are strategies that we should promote.
  • There is currently no centralized effort to aggregate and actively promote grassroots-produced digital content using a grassroots, structured social media network.
  • Digital activism has grown in quantity and quality on the left,  but it is too uncoordinated. More structure would improve quality & amplification.
  • Digital activism needs to be acknowledged as a valid form of volunteering and honored as such by organizers and campaigns. Acknowledging digital activists as invaluable volunteers helps them to connect and deepen engagement, increasing effectiveness and expertise.
  • Quality digital content often languishes unamplified in far-off corners of the internet – a huge missed opportunity given the messaging war that we face.
  • Releasing digital assets into a dedicated social media slipstream greatly increases their exposure. In a rapid-fire news environment, this is critical.
  • Hybrid activists – those who engage in both digital and in-person activism – are uniquely valuable: structures should exist to help curate such participation.
  • Local activists are in a fantastic position to produce content about and amplify local races & issues.
  • The for-profit, click-driven nature of most media sites spreads noise, and necessitates a louder bullhorn for quality content that matters.
  • Up-and-coming digital activists need coaching to maximize impact.

Given these conditions, a collaborative, not-for-profit content development & amplification network is the right solution. That’s DemCast.

 

Key facets of DemCast

Aggregation: Fantastic content is being produced by grassroots activists in every state. DemCast.com will act as a magnet, drawing in the best of that content, to collect it in a single location. The site will host articles and op-eds, as well as podcasts and video blogs. A smart, searchable meme and graphics library will host blue wave and resistance art that can be used in social media posts. Content posted on DemCast will not be exclusive – contributors can share their work elsewhere. In fact – we will encourage people to do so. The more eyes the better.

Amplification: When activists post articles on Daily Kos or Medium, they are largely on their own. People who already use those sites may find the content, but there is no built-in amplification strategy. DemCast will draft and train an army of social media accounts to share out DemCast site content, and also flag/share other pro-blue stories and posts floating around social media using a unique set of DemCast hashtags.

Not-For-Profit: DemCast is mission-driven, aiming to help Democrats pick up seats across the country at every level of government. There is no intent to make this endeavor profitable. No ads. No fees. In fact – profit motive would likely ruin the project. To the extent that DemCast requires funds for operating costs, the goal would be to keep those costs as low as possible, and only take in money from people/sources who don’t expect editorial control.

A Volunteer Framework: DemCast is not for professional journalists or social media operatives. Contributors and social media amplifiers will be treated as volunteers – just as they would if they were volunteering for a campaign. Volunteers will opt in to specific roles at a commitment level that is right for them (roles are described below), and will receive training/support through peer feedback, from a lean editorial team, and via a dedicated “Bootcamp” that will offer ongoing training about how to be more effective digital and in-person activists. If this works as intended, DemCast will help to cultivate the next generation of Democratic commentators, social media managers and campaign communications staff through intentional structure, training and mentorship.

By and For Grassroots Activists: This project will be by and for the millions of Americans who are desperate to see our democracy advance in 2020 and beyond, and who are writing, tweeting, posting and creating (not to mention door knocking, phone-banking and postcard-writing) on behalf of that vision. Indivisible, Swing Left, MoveOn and local Democratic groups are doing great work in parallel and are coordinating locally, but there is no single forum or resource to aggregate their efforts at a national level. DemCast will fill that void, in recognition of our common desire to elect as many Democrats as possible in the coming years – to make it clear to the GOP that their corrupt agenda is not what America wants or needs.

Uniting Local, State & National Under One Umbrella: DemCast.com content contributors and the #DemCast social media amplification team will be trained to tag all assets by their geography, using content labels on the site and hashtags on social media. This way, users can quickly find the information most relevant to their lives. Volunteer roles will include State Content Captains and State Social Media Captains, to help build and train teams in each state. Each state will have a dedicated page on DemCast.com that will share all state-tagged content. Within each state page, embedded links will direct people to local Indivisible groups, candidate sites and Democratic party groups.

Engaging Candidates & Elected Officials: Op-Eds and articles written by elected Democrats and candidates for office will be welcomed on the site. DemCast will encourage engagement between grassroots activists and those who currently represent them (or desire to). Elected Democrats and progressives are doing good work across the country at all levels of government, but report that it is difficult to get their message out because of the 24/7 news cycle. DemCast will give politicians a direct line to the grassroots activists who can reinforce their efforts.

Positive Grassroots Messaging: DemCast will be a forum for positive discourse, where individuals will be welcome to share their vision for progress – so long as they make their case on the policy merits, without trashing the Democratic Party. Infighting on the left is the goal of Kremlin-backed disinformation campaigns, and DemCast will not participate in or amplify this type of discourse.

 

Grounded in Best Practices

Section 2  of the Complete Concept Proposal shares information about two pilot projects tested during the 2018 election cycle that show the promise of content aggregation and social media amplification. Here are the basics about those two efforts, but see the full proposal for more detail. 

Promising Practice #1: DemWritePress

DemWritePress is a pro-Democratic blog site for activists. Founded in late March 2018, the site offered an option for contributors and candidates seeking greater exposure for their articles and op-eds in the final eight months before the midterms.

  • Featured ~60 contributors – all volunteers
  • 223 articles published between March 2018 and Election Day
  • 287,377 unique site visitors, almost entirely driven by social media link clicks
  • 483,765 page views by Election Day
  • Article headlines seen 21 million times on Twitter from @DemWrite account
Promising Practice #2: #WaveCast

#WaveCast was a four-day Twitter campaign that ran November 3rd-6th, culminating on Election Day. This project piloted a coordinated, Twitter-based #BlueWave reporting approach led by grassroots digital activists – with a goal of bolstering voter turnout and increasing exposure for Democratic candidates.

  • 170 activist accounts (all volunteers) live-tweeted final get-out-the-vote efforts and Election Day news using state-specific #WaveCast hashtags (i.e. #WaveCastCA)
  • Participating accounts used photos, podcasting, YouTube feeds, Periscope and videos to drive clicks and spread a sense of mounting energy
  • #WaveCast tweets were seen 320,000,000 times on Twitter over four days

 

These two 2018 pilots demonstrate the promise of increased digital aggregation and coordination heading into 2020 driven by and harnessing existing volunteer energy.

 

DemCast Volunteer Roles

There are many ways that grassroots digital activists will be able to get involved in this collaborative DemCast project. Here are some key volunteer roles, all of which can be scaled based on individuals’ availability/bandwidth:

  • DemCast Correspondent: Producing articles on 1) local, state or national races, 2) actions taken/legislation passed by Democratic lawmakers, 3) committee/subcommittee work in state or federal governments, 4) GOP corruption, etc.
  • DemCast Columnist: Making the case for Democratic policies and/or politicians through persuasive opinion writing.
  • DemCast Content Editor: Helping to review drafts and provide feedback to grassroots writers.
  • DemCast Curator: Patrolling the internet and looking for high-quality, pro-blue digital content/contributors that would be a good fit for DemCast. Also: identifying potential topics that need more attention in the public discourse.
  • DemCast State Captain (Content): Finding potential writers in your state, prompting participation, and identifying stories that need to be told.
  • DemCast Graphic Artist: Producing pro-Democratic memes & graphics to be housed at DemCast.com, and spread across social media.
  • DemCast Social Media Amplifier: Sharing assets from DemCast (and from other sources that align with the DemCast vision) across social media, using a special set of common protocols to maximize reach (and grow your own following in the process).
  • DemCast State Captain (Social): Finding amplifiers in your state, introducing them to the model, and identifying what state-specific messages need to be amplified.
  • DemCast Site Designer: Using your design or programming skills to help build & maintain the site.

While core DemCast staff will coordinate and train volunteers, edit and curate content, ensure connectivity between contributors and the amplification network, develop and maintain the site, create system processes and protocols, and conduct ongoing outreach to build partnerships, the model can’t succeed without a dedicated volunteer base filling the key roles above.

 

Benefits of the Model

In addition to fulfilling the DemCast mission (i.e. supporting the election and success of blue wave candidates), volunteers and partners have a lot to gain from participation in this model.

Benefits for Content Contributors:

  • Exposure: DemCast will get your contributed digital creations in front of thousands of people, both on the site and via social media amplification. Contributors who share often on the site will be given the opportunity to build their own custom page to showcase their work.
  • Compensation: There will be no effort to peel revenue away from your work if revenue is your goal. DemCast will be happy to share your Patreon, PayPal or other account information along with your writing, podcasts or graphics without taking a cut. Again – DemCast is the canvass. You are the artist.
  • Increased Traffic: If you have your own site that you would ideally like to direct traffic toward, DemCast will help. DemCast can link back directly to your site in the body of your written piece, include logos/site descriptions, subscription links, etc. DemCast should be a great way to find new readership. For podcasters and video bloggers, DemCast will be a great way to find a new audience and increase your subscription base.
  • Feedback: Through both staff and peer editing, DemCast will provide ways for you to hone your craft through intentional feedback structures.
  • Training on Social Media: A DemCast “Bootcamp” will offer ongoing training for volunteers about how to spread the message on social media more effectively.

Benefits for Social Media Amplifiers:

  • Be Part of a Team: Many Americans are already spreading information about elections, candidates, lawmakers and calls to action on social media. Instead of a scattershot, reactive approach, DemCast will offer an intentional, team-based model that recognizes your value as a digital activist & volunteer.
  • Deepen Your Skills & Broaden Your Reach: Through the DemCast Bootcamp, experts will offer guidance on social media strategies and about how to branch out across additional social platforms.
  • Focus Your Energy: Spend less time resisting/reacting to Trump and more time building momentum for 2020.

Benefits for Candidates and Campaigns:

  • Increase Your Exposure: Candidates who contribute to DemCast via op-eds, interviews & podcasts will increase their exposure to grassroots activists (the ones who like to volunteer and donate to the candidates that take the time to connect with them).
  • Build Your Following: Social media is increasingly important to electoral success, and don’t let high-paid consultants tell you otherwise. DemCast will offer a built-in community ready to boost your online profile.

Benefits for Elected Officials:

  • Spread the Word: Democrats and progressives across the country are doing amazing things in office – conducting town halls, introducing important legislation, providing needed oversight in committees and subcommittees, etc. But it is impossible to break through in the 24/7 media cycle. Press releases don’t work anymore. DemCast gives you a direct line to activists who do care about what you’re doing and want to help you spread the word.

Benefits for DemCast Readers/Listeners/Consumers:

  • Cut Through the Noise: The news cycle is too much to handle. Social media is a wild west shootout. If you want to read less about the daily atrocities and more about the solution, DemCast will be a breath of fresh air.
  • Learn How to Get Involved: DemCast will be plastered with ways to get involved in activism in really practical ways – from writing postcards for the next state-level special election to leaving important constituent comments on regulations.gov. You’ll hear first-hand from people who have worked as Precinct Committee Persons, canvassers and phone-bankers about what their experiences were like – and hopefully they’ll inspire you to do more.

Benefits for Activist Groups:

  • Get Your Message Out: Many Indivisible, Democratic party and other groups across the nation are doing really important local work. The geographic focus of DemCast will help you connect to new volunteers and help you learn about complimentary efforts across your state and throughout the US.
  • Post Your Media: Activists groups are producing amazing memes, art, articles and podcasts. Share your efforts to a broader audience through DemCast.

 

Next Steps

We really need feedback on this. Please CLICK HERE to take a survey about your reaction to the model.

This is an iterative process: the DemCast model has already been reviewed and critiqued by 100 grassroots activists. Their feedback has been incorporated into this version of the proposal. Your feedback here will help to further define the scope and approach.

The survey also asks for your contact information and how you would like to be involved, so that if/when the project launches we can integrate you appropriately. All email addresses will be kept entirely confidential, and will only be used to reach out about the feedback you provide.

THANK YOU!