White House video: what took so long?

So the soon-to-be new U.S. president, Barack Obama, is reportedly going to videotape regular addresses to the American people and upload them to YouTube, as well as to his new Change.gov social-media portal. All I could think of when I saw the headline from the Washington Post is “What the heck took so long?” It’s not like YouTube just appeared yesterday. It’s become a primary video source for millions of people, particularly young people — and heck, even the Queen has a royal channel with videos that people can watch about the British royal family. And she’s not the only Queen on YouTube (I’m not counting Chris Crocker). Queen Rania of Jordan also has a channel, and she uploads inspirational video messages, including the one I’ve embedded here (she’s also extremely beautiful, which I think is a big plus for a queen). It says a lot about George Bush and his presidency that he couldn’t be bothered to even use a free commuications tool.

Canadian political blogosphere FTW!

Came across a good column by Jonathan Kay at the National Post (yes, I read the competition) about the string of victories — depending on how you define the term — involving political blogs and the current federal election campaign. As Jonathan describes, there have been half a dozen cases just in the past month or so in which bloggers have pointed to behaviour or commentary by candidates and other party staff that raised questions about their judgment: a Winnipeg blog called The Black Rod broke the news that a Liberal party candidate believed in 9/11 conspiracy theories; Big City Lib wrote about a Conservative candidate’s inflammatory comments on the Greyhound killing and gay activists; and bloggers turned up anti-Semitic comments from a Green Party candidate.

Jonathan notes that some people believe these kinds of events make the blogosphere more important than the mainstream media, but he doesn’t think that’s the case (and I agree). As he puts it:

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Politics 2.0: Learning the lessons

Matt Bai, who is starting a new political blog next week covering the U.S. election campaign, has a piece in the New York Times today about what might loosely be called Politics 2.0 — the use of blogs and Facebook and other social media as part of a campaign. He says the major parties have tried to adopt the tactics first used by the Howard Dean campaign in 2004, but have missed the point on a number of things:

“It seems clear that the candidates and their advisers absorbed the wrong lessons from Dean’s moment, or at least they failed to grasp an essential truth of it, which is that these things can’t really be orchestrated.

Dean’s campaign didn’t explode online because he somehow figured out a way to channel online politics; he managed this feat because his campaign, almost by accident, became channeled by people he had never met.”

Bai describes how Ron Paul supporters — who had nothing to do with the official campaign — organized their own online fundraiser for the candidate on Guy Fawkes Day and pulled in more than $4-million and over 20,000 contributors in a single day, which turns out to be the largest one-day haul of any Republican candidate to date. Even Ron Paul’s campaign probably doesn’t have a clue how or why it happened.

The point Matt Bai is trying to make is related to my point about online community: You can’t create one, just as you can’t create a “viral” hit, or in fact an online sensation of any kind. You can create what you think are the right conditions for such a thing to grow, and hope to encourage one that already exists to adopt you, but other than that you have very little control. Anyone who claims otherwise is selling something.

Do Facebook users care about politics?

According to the New York Times, the ABC television network has signed a deal with a social-networking site you might have heard of — a little site called Facebook — that will allow users of Facebook to “follow” reporters through the U.S. election and talk about the issues, and also pose questions for political debates that will be jointly sponsored by ABC and Facebook. Not exactly a new idea, as many have pointed out.

Caroline McCarthy of CNET doesn’t think Facebook or ABC News are going to have much success with this idea because, well… Facebook users see “the site as a platform for social recreation, not information consumption.” In other words, they’re too busy goofing around with Super-Pokes and sharing photos of each other staggering drunk at frat parties. I’m extrapolating, but I think that’s more or less what Caroline means.

Is that true, though? I know that Facebook started out as just for university students, but the user base has broadened considerably, I would argue. There has been a tremendous response to issues such as the Burmese army attacks, not to mention Iraq and other U.S. issues. Admittedly, people still primarily use Facebook for social purposes, but I don’t think that necessarily precludes there being a political aspect to it as well.

On the other hand, maybe this announcement between Facebook and ABC is just a lot of blather and not much will come of it. Even All Facebook’s Nick O’Neill doesn’t seem to think it amounts to much.

Nice try, Mr. Clinton — you go first

From TVWeek comes this howler from former President Bill Clinton:

Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of marketers, branders and media executives from around the country, former President Bill Clinton challenged the press to “render complex messages to audiences without turning them into two-dimensional cartoons” as the next election approaches.

Pot, meet kettle.