CPUSA.org stresses new ways to engage audience

 
BY:Joe Sims| November 21, 2016
CPUSA.org stresses new ways to engage audience

Presented to the CPUSA National Committee, November 19, 2016.

For the first time since the launch of our websites many years ago we have full fledged platform at cpusa.org.  That in and of itself says volumes about where we’ve been, but more importantly where we need to go.

Previously the CP website played third string in our web portal with peoplesworld.org our starting team and properly so. The party website, however, by comparison was stodgy, closed,  and difficult to operate to say nothing of navigate. There were hardly any places for images, video and the search function barely worked. We appeared to be a at best a semi-legal organization if not underground.  Who was our leadership, what did they look like, who were our clubs, what activities were they involved in? You couldn’t find out by visiting cpusa.org. The site was infrequently updated and rarely with fresh relevant material directed at either the actual audience that wanted to engage with us or the target audience with which we wished to engage.

CPUSA.org today is the exact opposite. It is a state-of-the-art website with all of the features needed to engage the broad working-class public.  Our new website will combines video, podcasts, education tools, and action items to offer our membership and the public a  new experience.

This includes what’s called responsive web design so you can use it with ease on desktops, laptops, smart phones and tablets.

Our homepage has action items, where you can sign petitions, make phone calls on a variety of issues and initiatives. There’s a mailbag where readers questions are answered and ways to connect with us via social networks like Facebook and Twitter. There’s also party voices section that gives us the opportunity to regularly allow our clubs and members to say what’s on their mind and also demonstrate what they’re doing. Importantly also, our comments section is turned on – it’s active and people regularly comment and criticize and we’re able to engage with them on issues of common concern.

All of this is complemented by a search function that actually works and allow you to find the material you’re looking for quickly and without having to comb through layers of pages.

So how are we doing?

We have more readers, they stay on the site longer and once there dig deeper into its various resources.

Since our May Day launch all of the circulation data we use to measure our work has improved considerably.  We have more readers, they stay on the site longer and once there dig deeper into its various resources. We don’t want to bore you with a lot of incomprehensible data but just to give you an idea: the old cpusa.org average 700 readers a day. At site launch we had a surge in traffic for few weeks with a doubling of our normal traffic. It died down somewhat in the summer. In late August it’s back up to 1500 readers a day and for the past 3 to four weeks we’re averaging over 2000.

The challenge is keep that traffic up and deepen our engagement – and that is easier said than done.

We’re breaking new ground: so let’s put forward some conceptual items that can lay the foundation for what we would like to see CPUSA.org become.

First and foremost it must be one of the main – if not the main – expression of our public presence. It will be the point of contact and interaction between us and the broad working class public where we present our views, engage, discuss, initiate and help shape the ongoing struggles of our times.

It’s main goal should be to present the party: to give it a fresh face and image deeply rooted in the U.S. lifestyle and culture with a uniquely American sensibility. It has to give shape and form to communist party 3.0 – a party rooted in the fight for 15,  a green sustainable environment, in the fight for black and brown lives, women’s rights, and LGBTQ equality.

The form these must take is equal to the content that is expressed: the challenge is to master the story telling that roots the communist class analysis in not only analytic ways, but also deeply emotively tying the personal to the political and both to the economic. Podcasts, videos, memes, etc all must become a regular way of giving life to the causes in which we are involved and how they affect real working-class people in real time. Part of our mission has to be to give people stories – narrative frameworks – that will enable them to organize their experience into a coherent political understanding. Ideas like “immigrants are stealing our jobs” or “raising the minimum wage will hurt the middle class” are stories – and we need stories that can compete with them.  The new website gives us a much better platform for getting those stories out there.

We must present communist class analysis in not only analytic ways, but also deeply emotively tying the personal to the political and both to the economic.

And that brings us to the following point: the need to radically recognize and reconfigure our understanding of audience as it changes in real time. Consider that the majority of people who come to our pages – both to the cpsua.org and our Facebook pages are millenials ages 18 – 30. They are the mass base of the Sanders campaign, Black Lives Matter – and a large part of Occupy.

We haven’t even begun to consider what this means in terms of what we create, post and how and even where we present it.  But we must if we hope to remain a relevant revolutionary force.

Related to this is the audience we want to attract: because those that are coming – and this is not a complaint – are largely young white men. Needless to say our point here is to develop content with aim of winning a more diverse audience, women, Latinos, African Americans etc.

Secondly in addition to a public face – CPUSA.org must have an educational and ideological mission. And here the watch words must be back to basics. Back to basics but in a new way: We have to contend with the fact that a whole new generation are being radicalized in a whole new way.  They’re coming to Marx, to Lenin to the communist and socialist movement in ways very different that most of us.  And they’re learning it as Lenin once observed in the period after 1903 – in an extremely one-sided and mutilated way.  This is factor in the leftism we encountered over the last years. But this is no more a fault with Lenin and those that came after him than it was for Marx and Engels and those that came after them. But it is an ideological outcome influenced by the residue of 20th century socialism.  Therefore, we have to engage with these comrades and lay a firm foundation on all the major questions, class struggle, democracy, the working class, surplus value, opportunism, revisionism, reform and revolution, racism, sexism homophobia, the theory of the party, – I could go on. The point is that our party and our website has to create and organize this content with a specific audience in mind – not in general but with an eye toward who is being radicalized today and how.

This generation is coming to Marxism as Lenin once observed in the period after 1903  in an extremely one-sided and mutilated way. CPUSA.org must help change that.

Thirdly, the website must become a center of organization. Bobbie has said it must be our new Organizing Department. And it a sense she’s right. The fact is that for last several years – beginning with Obama in 2008 every major national campaign in this country has used the web as a primary organizing tool. That includes Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Fight for 15, Sanders: you name it. But and it’s a big but – we have not mastered the technique for our own work. This must change. Our work, particularly at the local level from organizing parties, film nights, to campaigns for office has to utilize this technology. And we have to help you do it. Wojick said to me the other day, that at the NYT the social media director spends 80 of her time helping others do social media. That’s the kind of effort needed at the local level.

The goal: to prove beyond dispute that online methods are an indispensable complement to local face-to-face organizing and party building.

Becoming a center of organizing must consider a number of issues:

  • First prioritizing peoplesworld.org and its stories in our ongoing campaigns. Building its readership by circulating its articles, recruiting names for its mailing lists, sharing on social networks, and fundraising.
  • Second it must master the art of participating in ongoing campaigns that are initiated by others and building relations with them. It must also consider when where and how to initiate  our own campaigns. Other organizations use such campaigns as primary means of email list building and fundraising. We can do no less while taking care not to engage in sectarian sidesteps.
  • Third: it must give life and voice to our clubs and districts, particularly those who are  most innovative.  We hear nothing – or nearly nothing from many of you.  It’s so important to capture your work and share for others to learn and emulate.
  • Fourth it means prioritizing and developing a regular ongoing relationship with the nearly 5000 new members who are not organized in clubs and districts. The recent phonathon is an example of how important this work is. But it is the barest beginning.  The Ed Department has pioneered in this work in terms of classes and seminars – that must be continued.  But also polls, surveys, text messaging, and online organizing and fundraising campaigns.

Taken as a whole these measures will help us lay the basis for creating the kind of website in 2017 that we can be proud of.

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