May 5, 2017
By Oliver Darcy
Priorities USA, one of the left’s largest advocacy groups, is launching a multi-million dollar digital arm aimed at mimicking the success of right-wing media to reach Democrats who did not turn out for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“I think we have a structural deficit on the progressive and Democratic side when it comes to building robust digital campaigns,” Priorities USA chairman Guy Cecil told CNNMoney, adding, “We have been falling behind the right.”
Cecil contends that the left has in recent years ceded ground to the right in the digital space, paving the road for conservatives to capitalize on things like web video and viral memes to help catapult Donald Trump into the White House.
Priorities USA’s new operation, Cecil said, will create and produce similar digital content, which the group hopes will spread across the Internet to dejected and unenthused Democrats who have become increasingly difficult to reach through more traditional channels.
The target audiences for the content will be identified by Civis Analytics, a partner of the progressive advocacy organization. The analytics firm will look for Democrats who weren’t motivated enough to turn out for Clinton and those who voted for President Barack Obama but opted for Trump in 2016.
“We need to penetrate the siloed media environment that allows people to inadvertently or not find themselves in echo chambers,” Brian Fallon, a senior adviser to the group and former spokesman for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, told CNNMoney.
On Wednesday, Priorities USA revealed the group’s five-member senior staff, which will lead a team expected to expand to approximately 25 staffers in the coming weeks. The senior staff includes Democratic campaign operatives Jenna Lowenstein, Rob Flaherty and Jordan Evans.
The team also includes individuals who have had successes sending content viral. Dave Jorgenson, who spent three years at the conservative news website Independent Journal Review, will be video director. Sriya Sarkar, who formerly worked at Upworthy, joined as a content producer.
“One of the things that is important to us is we are building a digital team that comes from different backgrounds,” Cecil told CNN. “Our goal is to find the very best talent and bring them under one roof.”
Cecil pointed to the outsize influence that right-wing websites like Breitbart and the Independent Journal Review had on the political conversation in 2016. He said the new digital operation effort from Priorities USA was aimed at mimicking a lot of their methods, but stressed some differences.
“We are going to engage transparently and honestly with voters in a way that reflects our values, but in a creative way that actually breaks through,” Cecil said.
The digital operation will also rely solely on social distribution channels and not have its own website at the outset, though Priorities USA has not ruled out the idea for the future.
“This is going to rely on a lot of experimentation, trial and error,” Fallon said.
This isn’t the first time that a liberal group has tried to recreate the success of the conservative news media. Earlier today, BuzzFeed reported that former employees of Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, were fundraising to create the “Breitbart of the left.” David Brock, a major Democratic political operative, also vowed earlier this year to create a “Breitbart of the left” through his purchase of BlueNationReview, which he renamed ShareBlue.