There's no doubt that much of the 2008 US presidential election is going to be fought out on the Internet -- and specifically through online video. For example, Democrat potential candidate Barack Obama has a channel on Brightcove, along with Republican Sam Brownback, while others such as Chris Dodd (Democrat) are using YouTube. Even Hillary Clinton launched her campaign by publishing a video on her site; though it wasn't embeddable which almost defeats the point.
So why are politicians turning to the new medium? As Jeff Jarvis notes "the advantages are many":
- The candidates may pick their settings
- They control their message "without pesky reporters’ questions"
- They are made instantly cybercool
- They get to speak eye-to-eye with the voters
On that last point, Jarvis writes:
Internet video is a medium of choice - you have to click to watch - and it is an intimate medium. That is how these candidates are trying to use it: to talk straight at voters, one at a time.
But of course, unlike television, voters get to talk back. The web is a two-way medium, and online video is no exception. Sites like YouTube allow for comments (although these can be switched off), and the conversation as a whole, is distributed right across the net. There's nothing to stop a voter (or lobby group) from answering any of the candidates with a video of their own -- either an original production or a mashup of existing footage.
Jarvis gives two examples where this has already happened:
When former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney joined the race for the Republican nomination, conservative detractors dredged up video from a debate with Senator Ted Kennedy in which Romney espoused downright liberal stands on abortion and gay rights. They used YouTube as a powerful weapon...
There is (also) a hilarious viral video of John Edwards preparing for a TV appearance and primping like Paris Hilton, set to the tune of “I Feel Pretty”.
A two way conversation can also be invited, as in the recent example of Hillary Clinton's use of Yahoo Answers.
Blogs, MySpace, Digg and Second Life
Ever since the Dean campaign, blogs have proven to be a powerful political weapon, and now this extends to other parts of the social web. Check out Dodd's MySpace account for example, and witness how the social news site Digg has been used to help debunk myths surrounding Obama's education. Politicians have even ventured into Second Life.
So will the 2008 election be won and lost on the social web?