Soup Bowl for a Square Peg

Anyone interested in issues of identity and discourse owes it to themselves to visit HOTSOUP! [their exclamation point, not mine] There are so many things going on there that I could write a ten-thousand word post and not even get to the meat of it.

Instead, I’ll focus on several different elements of the site which are particularly noteworthy over the course of several posts this week.  Broadly, these are the important elements for further examination:

  • Credibility
  • Identity
  • Content
  • Language
  • Audience and Usability

But first, a little bit of background.

HOTSOUP! is a…well, it’s a bit difficult to say exactly what it is. I’ll let them try: is the first online community that joins Opinion Drivers from across the spectrum. The community connects well-known influencers from the worlds of politics, business, religion, and popular culture with influencers who drive opinion at the grassroots and community levels. Harnessing the power of social networking technology, levels the playing field by giving anyone and everyone a voice in how America’s institutions can work better.

Better? No?


Opinion Drivers are the individuals who, every day, influence their friends, colleagues, and peers. They fall into two categories:

  • A relatively small group of Opinion Drivers is the famous personalities whom we read about in newspapers and see on television. They help shape opinion by virtue of their elected offices, access to media, or leadership roles in business and industry. What sets these people apart is their ability to affect public opinion on a grand scale.
  • A larger group of Opinion Drivers is the roughly 30 million grassroots influencers we know through our communities: friends, neighbors, PTA members, firefighters, homemakers, small business owners, and non-profit directors to name a few.

Collectively, grassroots Opinion Drivers are an enormous and growing force because Americans place decreasing trust in old-line opinion leaders such as network anchors and politicians; they’re turning to each other for advice and guidance in these fast-changing times. Where is a good place to eat out? What’s the best car to buy? Who’s the best candidate for school board and for president? More and more, Americans are turning to trusted friends and neighbors to answer such questions and manage the crush of information at their fingertips in the info-tech age. If you’ve ever been asked, “Hey, what do you think about…,” then you are probably an Opinion Driver. Welcome to the community. …CONNECTED BY ONE PLATFORM

That’s right – people have friends, and talk to them about things, because of the “info-tech age.” If your friends talk to you, apparently, you’re an “Opinion Driver,” and in that way you’re just like famous people. The math here is a little weird – what are the other 270,000,000 Americans doing out there, friendless and mute? – but let’s work with that.

Opinion Drivers across the country are losing patience with party lines and PR spin.

I don’t know that I agree with this, but…

Opinion Drivers want access to the personalities who set the national agenda, and conversely, those leaders want direct access to the people who can help them shape public opinion. is that venue.

So the people who are losing patience with party lines and PR spin want access to…politicians and PR professionals? offers Opinion Drivers:


  • “Hot Issues,” an area where well-known and grassroots personalities share their opinions on weekly/bi-weekly issues. Community members can engage in interactive discussions on these opinions through discussion boards, and by scoring presentations and posting their own content on the subject via video, text, and imagery.
  • “Loops,” which community members can create around any issue or interest. These are micro-communities within that allow Opinion Drivers to engage in thoughtful and interactive conversations with people from all over the country. Smart, civil debate is encouraged.
  • “Lifestyle & Entertainment,” which is our phrase for the areas on the site where we offer entertainment-driven content including Book Reviews, Breaking News, Polls & Opinions, and Networking with other members. All of these areas support full-motion video and full interactivity including discussion and voting.

These would be excellent services to offer, were they not available already to Opinion Drivers (remember: that means your friends talk to you). But, unfortunately, HOTSOUP! has been beaten to that particular punch by…the Internet.


Carter, Chip, Joe and Mike, prominent Democratic strategists, and Mark and Matthew, Republican heavyweights, had successful private sector practices that specialized in helping corporate clients find Opinion Drivers. It was frustrating; the rise of the Internet and other societal trends made Opinion Drivers both more important and harder to reach.

And Ron, one of the country’s most respected journalists, was observing his readers’ behavior change and co-authoring a book, Applebee’s America, about this audience and the community-building potential of the Internet.

Despite representing both sides of the political aisle, Internet media and journalism, we all reached the same conclusion: There is no single place for Opinion Drivers to gather online. That was the day we set out to build

So HOTSOUP! utilizes the “community-building potential [potential?] of the Internet” for people with friends who are sick of PR spin and politicians.  The folks behind this site adivse Presidents and CEOs in their day jobs.

Carter, Joe, Mike and Chip are Carter Eskew, Joe Lockhart, Michael Feldman and Chip Smith, the founding partners and managing partner of the Glover Park Group, one of Washington, D.C.’s largest consultancies and were all leading advisers to Al Gore and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns;  Mark and Matthew are Mark McKinnon and Matthew Dowd, who were in charge of advertising and message development for George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. Ron is Ron Fournier, who covered all of the above campaigns for the Associated Press.
But because you’re an Opinion Driver, they want you.

Tomorrow, I’ll get into just what ways they want you. And yeah, it’s actually even dirtier than it sounds.


2 Responses to Soup Bowl for a Square Peg

  1. silbatron says:

    yea this site is so damn annoying — once you figure how to use it, you’ve forgotten the point of why you’re there or why this is different from huff post or uniquely compelling

    they also seem to be trying to create a ‘community’ by asserting that it’s such and hoping people show up to party, rather than thinking about how they could actually facilitate the organic growth of one

    your notes about the politics behind this are probably the most important though in understanding it i’m guessing

  2. […] Toward the end of its debut week, there isn’t much talk at the site. Nor are too many non-”Hardball” news outlets talking about it. Among those who have, appraisals tend toward the grim. […]

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