NYT asks readers for candidates’ direct mail, fliers, text messages

The New York Times
The New York Times is trying to track campaign material that often goes under news outlets’ radar, asking people to submit photos of fliers, ads in local publications and on Facebook, even screenshots of text messages from candidates and interest groups. “In an age of micro-targeted direct mail, Facebook ads and ‘robocalls,’ voters can experience a campaign in very different ways than their neighbors do, to say nothing of the view that reporters traveling with candidates get,” writes the Times’ Derek Willis.

Willis tells me by email that the idea comes from a series of studies in which researchers at Brigham Young University used “reconnaissance networks” to track House and Senate campaigns:

The inclusion of the ground materials like fliers and robocalls provided more context than broadcast ads alone did, and I’ve had it in the back of my mind to try something similar since I first read those studies.

We don’t really know exactly how the materials we collect will be used, because we don’t know what we’ll get. But the goal is to develop a rich sample of ground game materials that could help us tell the story of the presidential campaign, or other contests, in ways that in the past have been difficult for us to manage. As much as television advertising plays a big role in elections, campaigns spend millions of dollars on other forms of voter contact and outreach, and with this effort we’re trying to see if we can capture some of those moments.

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