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Barack Obama still leads the online buzz race, but John McCain gaining some ground

Barack Obama holds his BlackBerry

Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama may be slipping in recent polls by The Times and others, but he's still well ahead in most measures of online buzz, according to new data from Nielsen released today. Of course, he's running for president of the United States, not most Digged politician. But people clearly are digging what he's doing on the Internet.

There were 3.3 million unique visitors to BarackObama.com in July, compared with 1.6 million unique to JohnMcCain.com, the website of his Republican rival. But McCain picked up some ground there, gaining 353,000 unique visitors in the month, compared with 239,000 by the Obama site.

The place where McCain really gained ground was website video streams. Possibly because of McCain's controversial ad comparing Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, total streams viewed on JohnMcCain.com more than doubled in July to 1.01 million, Nielsen said. (The ad was immensely popular online, although it didn't appear on the site until July 31). Videos viewed on Obama's site dropped to 502,000 in July from 967,000 in June.

But Obama continues to be cited more than twice as often as McCain....

... on blogs and message boards, according to Nielsen. From June 1 to Sunday, Obama was mentioned on 0.77 % of all blog posts, comments and message boards, compared to 0.35% for McCain. That's similar to the lead Obama had in what Nielsen calls online "buzz volume" between Jan. 1 and June 3, when Obama was the subject of 0.65% of online discussion, compared with 0.47% for his Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and 0.31% for McCain.

Nielsen, however, doesn't calculate how many of those comments are positive or negative, so it's unclear how much of the buzz is pro-Obama vs. Nobama.

Obama's Internet team has been widely praised for helping him raise record amounts online. While McCain has said he's computer illiterate, Obama reportedly is frequently online, sending e-mails (like with the BlackBerry he's pictured holding above) and text messages -- although apparently not with Scarlett Johansson anymore.

Within days, if not hours, Obama will reveal his vice presidential pick to everyone who's signed up for text or e-mail alerts from the campaign. It's a "a smart and obvious ploy to sign up mobile users for future campaign communications," according to Micah Sifrey at TechPresident.com.Obama VP text message

Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro today would not say how many people have signed up for the veep alert (pictured to the right).

"I assure you there is lots of excitement going on about it," Shapiro said. "This is keeping people engaged and rewarding people for their support."

Obama's campaign has used texting and e-mail since his race for the Democratic nomination began to alert people about last-minute TV appearances, election results and campaign stops, Shapiro said.

"It’s been a great tactic to give us two-way communications with our supporters. Not everybody is sitting in front of a TV screen or a computer all day long," Shapiro said.

It's another way Obama is trying to gain an edge online. According to Nielsen, the Illinois Democrat increased his online ad campaign fivefold from June to July, from 81.4 million online impressions to 417.9 million. McCain also boosted his online advertising, from 23.2 million impressions in June to 31.6 million in July.

While Obama's website prominently touts the VP announcement messages on its home page ("Who will be Barack's VP? Be the first to know"), McCain's site offers no similar feature. A McCain spokesman said today he was unaware of any plans to reveal his vice presidential choice via e-mail and texting.

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photos: Barack Obama holds his BlackBerry in St. Louis last month, before a conference call with supporters. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Texting with my boy Barack, by wellohorld, via Flickr.

 
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