HONOLULU - Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle is chasing surfers for their votes in Hawaii - channel surfers.
The Republican hopeful launched a dedicated digital cable channel to subscribers in Hawaii on Monday, adding a new twist to campaign media in her push to give Hawaii its first GOP senator in 35 years.
Her campaign is touting the on-demand channel as the first of its kind for any U.S. Senate candidate, a new tool in a battle to reach voters that already includes TV and radio spots, social media, newspapers ads, mailings and other forms of communication.
Chasing channel surfers
"We think it's really important that we try to reach the people of Hawaii through as many media platforms as possible," said Lenny Klompus, Lingle's campaign spokesman, in Honolulu. "It'll be another platform to break the news."
Lingle, a former Maui County mayor who was governor of Hawaii from 2002 to 2010, is likely to face one of two Democrats in November, Rep. Mazie Hirono or former Rep. Ed Case, after a primary in August. The candidates are hoping to fill the seat of 87-year-old Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka, who is retiring.
The channel isn't like a typical TV channel where viewers tune in and simply watch whatever's scheduled for that moment. Viewers instead get a menu with videos and reading materials featuring Lingle's positions on various issues.
The channel is launching with about a dozen videos, with plans to add more and provide feeds of various Lingle campaign events, Klompus said. It also has a menu for voters to donate to the campaign.
"It's a really interesting experiment and a really interesting idea," said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor who studies politics and media at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va. "But because it's so novel, I don't know that anyone has a clear idea of how effective it's going to be."
The channel is located on the lineup for digital Hawaii viewers between the Fox News and Headline News channels. Some channel surfers might inadvertently think they're watching news coverage rather than campaign video, Farnsworth said.
Klompus said the channel is part of an ongoing advertising deal with cable company Oceanic Time Warner that includes traditional TV ads on six channels. The ads were expected to launch Monday night, and the campaign spent $13,000 on media for this week, Klompus said.
Farnsworth said the channel is a smart bet because Republicans will need every medium possible to win votes on a ballot that will include President Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii. However, the channel could end up taking more resources than the campaign wants if viewers don't keep getting fresh content, he said.
"It's probably a good use of campaign resources, but I think you'll probably get more of a campaign audience on YouTube," Farnsworth said.