Why the Romney VP App Wasn’t a #Fail

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Gawker‘s Louis Peitzman makes a claim I’ve seen a lot, especially from progressives, in the wake of Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate: The campaign kind of blew it. Not on the substance, mind you, but on the rollout. “I’m not saying this was a complete fail on the Romney campaign’s part, but to pretend that they announced Paul Ryan exactly as they’d said they would — via smartphone app, and then in a joint public appearance — is just silly,” Peitzman writes. “Instead of admitting they botched their plan to obfuscate, the Romney campaign is pushing a Hardy Boys narrative…”

Peitzman is missing something really important. The real purpose of the Romney VP app wasn’t to break the VP announcement. Sure, that’s how they pitched it. But the Romney folks (probably) aren’t so delusional as to think they’d be able to keep a secret all the way up to the roll-out.

The VP app served the same purpose the Obama campaign’s 2008 promise to text its supports its VP pick did: It was an excuse to collect your data. Although it was predictably scooped by the New York Times and CNN, Team Obama was able to collect 2.9 million phone numbers using this gimmick. Those numbers were used for fundraising and organizing efforts later in the campaign. (The downside: A glitch prevented half of Obama’s text-message subscribers from receiving the announcement text.) Download the Romney VP iPhone app and it informs you that “By using this application, you may be placed on Romney for President Inc.’s contact list to receive campaign updates… Romney for President’s regular Privacy Policy shall apply.” Romney doesn’t want you to be the first to know about his personnel moves; he wants your email and mailing address.

Since we don’t know how many people signed up for the VP app—70,000 people have downloaded Romney’s other app—it’s too early to call it a rousing success for Romney. But it’s not right to call it a #fail.

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