Web Video

10 Downing Street 2.0

Via an announcement that the British Prime Minister's Office had partnered with Brightcove for its official online video destination, Number10TV, I just came across the new 10 Downing Street website. And I'm very glad I did. It is an amazing sign that politicians not only recognize the impact of technology on politics, but embrace at least certain aspects of it.

Beyond the Beta mark in the banner image, this is obviously no traditional government website. Sites like Flickr, YouTube, and Twitter all have a prominent role on the right sidebar, major headlines are prominently featured in a Huffington Post manner, users can still use YouTube to Ask the PM, and they can sign as well as create petitions. Check out what else is new in the New Website Guide. Also check out the video below introducing the site:

While the French government's website doesn't feature picture or video references to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama as the British site does, it is also worth checking out for its prominent use of video. Our move, whitehouse.gov. (Unrelated shout out to everyone in France not on the men's 4x100m relay swim team.)


MoveOn Learns to Herd the Cats of User-Generated Content

Much has been made about the wonders of user-generated video and other content that average people just spontaneously create for a candidate or a cause. But people in organizations and campaigns mostly think of these outbursts as random and impossible to initiate or influence. That’s why MoveOn’s “Obama in 30 Seconds” project is so important to watch. Once again MoveOn points the way towards how to effectively herd the cats of the viral world.

On Tuesday, MoveOn announces the finalists of the contest on the project’s dedicated website. The basic story, in case you have not heard, is that they asked average people to put together positive ads for Obama in the classic 30 second formula -- only via the web. In short order they had more than 1,000 submissions, which they then set up on a website that served up each of them one at a time for viewers to watch and rate. Each time you went to the site, you would be served up a different ad, or as many as you wanted served to you. Some were ok, as you would expect from any open contest (ever watch the early rounds of American Idol?), but some were terrific. Here is my favorite from my random troll.

The finalists in the voting will then be considered by an all-start panel of Hollywood types and other progressive heroes from Matt Damon to Moby and from Lawrence Lessig to Markos. The very top ad will be put on mainstream TV with MoveOn money. Already they have drawn 4.7 million votes, and they have not even begun the push that will come from having the top dozen examples or so.

The whole process is a deliberate attempt to solicit bottom-up media, structure a method to get to the ones with the most viral potential, and get everyone thinking about positive messages about Obama – and then sending them around the Web for their friends and family to see.

Other progressive organizations and campaigns should take note of this basic formula. It’s building on the truly innovative breakthrough that MoveOn did in the 2004 cycle with its “Bush in 30 Seconds” contest. That was a similar bottom-up video contest but done before YouTube even existed. It was truly visionary at the time.

This Obama in 30 Seconds does not have the breakthrough innovation, but it does refine and improve the process. And thankfully, they are encouraging not a negative spot on them, but a positive spot on us. It’s a much better direction to move towards. Congrats to MoveOn once again.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute


Bridging the Gap between Web Video and Traditional TV

A lot going on in the reimaging video front these days, the frontier where the new world of web video and the old world of traditional TV are butting up against each other, and even melding. A few stories and developments are worth pointing out:

The New York Times has a front page story today bringing the uninitiated up-to-speed on two trends we have been long talking about at the New Politics Institute: the viral nature of online media and the new media habits of the young Millennial Generation. Not a lot new there, but a nice overview with some nice numbers (Young people have tripled their voting numbers from 2004 to 2008 in the 22 states will exit polls so far.)

But there are some other nice stories elsewhere that go deeper. Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej have a very nice column in politico.com that analyzes the shift from soundbite to what they call "sound blast." and they lay out the numbers for web video that are starting to add up to serious impact. An example:

So far, Obama’s videos have been viewed more than 33 million times on YouTube.com — and that's not counting partial views, since YouTube only reports a full viewing as a “view.” His campaign has uploaded more than 800 video clips, and adds several more a day.

If you just look at his ten most viewed videos, here are some astonishing facts:

  • The average number of views for these top ten is currently more than 1.1 million (nearly double the average from a month ago!)
  • The average length of these ten videos is 13.3 minutes.
  • There have been nearly 3.9 million views of the longest of Obama's most popular videos, his “A More Perfect Union” speech on race in America.

By contrast, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s YouTube numbers are nowhere as impressive as Obama's — a sign of her failure to understand and embrace the new medium than anything else. She’s garnered about 10.5 million views, but the average length of her top ten most viewed clips is only two minutes. Several of her top ten videos are actually 30-second TV ads, in fact.

There is a legitimate argument that traditional television still reaches far more people than video online. That is true, but a development that is just happening today may start to bridge that gap.

A new website called votervoter.com is just launching that will make it very easy for average individuals to create 30-second spots and get them placed on broadcast and cable television, starting with a $1,000 buy. The site is run by an advertising company with deep experience in placing TV ads, called Wide Orbit, in San Francisco.

This could be a very interesting development because you could image people banding together outside the campaigns to raise money to place popular online videos on mainstream TV. Given the looser campaign spending limits for backing ads like this, you could see a lot of money getting channeled this way. We’ll soon see.

And soon enough we will be taking a deeper look at some of these developments at our upcoming Reimaging Video event, It’s in DC on April 24th. Hope to see you there.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

How Web Video Nationalizes Local Primary Campaigns and Raises the Value of Oration

Let’s take a moment in this busy political week to marvel at the wonders of web video. It is simply amazing what this nascent medium has done to change the presidential campaign less than 18 months after the debut of the shaky “Macacca” video.

Think about it for a minute. Before this cycle any of the 300 million Americans who wanted to hear the victory (or concession) speeches coming out of early primary states would have to hope to catch a significant snippet on the broadcast or cable news channels or try to randomly come across it on late-night CSPAN. Or they could read about what David Broder or some pundit who was present at the speech thought about it the next day in the newspaper.

These days when the polls close in South Carolina, anyone from any corner of America (let alone the world) can immediately watch the entire Obama speech, unfiltered, unedited, almost as soon as he gives it. Not only that, but that viewer in, say, California, can then send the link to that video to 30 of her friends and family, and half of them might watch it the next day, and then send the link to their network too.

We’re really only now digesting what that capability does to politics. For one, it nationalizes what once was a very localized event – candidate speeches. A good speech is not just for the consumption of the 1000 people crammed into a hotel ballroom or school gym somewhere in the heartland of America. The speech is open for all the country and all the world to see.

And it isn’t just primary victory speeches – it’s endorsement speeches or whatever else the campaign wants to put out there. Obama had well-packaged versions of the Kennedy endorsements and Obama’s response on the campaign website shortly after they delivered them. People hear some television anchor talk about the endorsement or about Teddy’s passion, and they leave the tube and pull it up on their computer for full viewing.

This is not just happening with journalists and political junkies, but with average Americans. Out here in California, I am getting barraged with links to web video in on online version of the old office water cooler. “Did you see that last night?”

One consequence of this is that average people are almost impulsively giving money to campaigns. They see a passionate speech and in the heat of that moment they click on the button right next to the video that says: “Donate here.” The Washington Post blog reported that just after the Obama speech in South Carolina, the website was processing campaign donations at the rate of $500,000 an hour. I just got off a media conference call with Obama Campaign manager David Plouffe and he said they have raised $5 million online in the two days since South Carolina.

The gap between the spark of passion about a candidate to the moment you can cross the line and give money to a campaign has shrunk to seconds. How long would it have taken you to span that gap just a couple cycles ago, back in the ancient days of the 1990s?

Another consequence of this web video development is that the dying art of political oration might be making a comeback. The political ecosystem of the second half of the 20th century did little to reward great orators like America has seen throughout its history. In that broadcast TV world it was much more important for you to package your message into 30 second sound bites.

But in the new world of web video, where length does not matter because 30 seconds costs the same as 30 minutes, your ability to connect with an audience and hold their attention is a huge asset.

I think that is partly why Obama has been faring so well in this environment (and why I have been focusing on him rather than other candidates in this post). Obama clearly has no peers when it comes to speaking ability. And his campaign has been the most adroit on using the new medium of web video. The Clinton campaign has done a solid job with keeping up with the basic web video capability, but Hillary does not have the same flair for speaking.

There’s been a lot of talk about old and new politics. Set aside what that means about policies, etc., and which candidate best embodies it. Clearly one piece of the new politics has to do with using the new tools, and the first among equals in that lineup is web video.

Just pinch yourself and remember that this web video phenomenon, and all its consequences, has only just begun….

Peter Leyden

Director of the New Politics Institute

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