In the Fall of 2006, long before the historical CNN-YouTube Democratic Candidate debate, before Barely Political’s Obama Girl took center stage, and before Hillary Clinton’s user-generated campaign song contest – sources including the New York Times and the L.A. Times already predicted the upcoming 2008 election to be the “YouTube Election.”
Having been a political fanatic since age seven, I was enthralled by the Democratic candidates’ CNN-YouTube Debates (I’ve already watched it twice on TV and hundreds if not thousands of YouTube videos). Who could blame me? I laughed, I cried, I almost threw something at the screen on numerous occasions. The debates had all the makings of classic good television created by ordinary people just like you and me. CNN’s “Your voice to be heard in historic debates” and “It’s all about you” plugs rang true since, in my opinion, the user generated videos outshone the candidates by a long shot. I laughed at the funny voice computer generated snowman with a serious question and the Red State Update. I cried at the tough questions on health care and the father who lost his son in Iraq.
My fascination with CNN-YouTube’s revolutionary platform goes beyond the “good TV” aspects provided by the user generated videos, though. What makes a difference is actually the power this format to bring potential voters into the center of political discourse, a majority of which have previously been left of the democratic process. New technology has clearly created an opportunity for individual voices to be both seen and heard from around the country. Although the debates represented a marriage of traditional media (i.e., Anderson Cooper) and “new media,” it’s clear that political candidates are increasingly realizing the importance and persuasive power of engaging with the public via new methods of communication, social media, and social networking.
The online world has changed drastically since the last presidential election. Back in 2004, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and wikis were either just getting started or didn’t exist at all. Now virtually every candidate has a presence on MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube. John Edwards, for example, is a member of 23 social networks, Barack Obama has gone mobile, and 15 of the 19 campaign websites have blogs. I can’t wait to see the role these new forms of media will continue to play in how we elect our leaders in E-lection 2008. Stay tuned…
/ Ann Marie Warmenhoven