Posts about Politics

RTNDA: the vlog talk

I’ve edited three discussions from a panel at the Radio Television News Directors Association: Zadi Diaz of JetSet explains small TV to big TV. Michael Rosenblum explains big TV to big TV. And the entire panel — also including Elizabeth Osder, Amanda Congdon, and Terry Heaton — say what they would do with a TV station today. Seven minutes of the good bits from an hour-and-a-half panel.

: At today’s panel on the election, in which I took part, a TV station manager got up at the end and gave the old anti-blog screed: He wondered whether he’d come to the National Association of Bloggers. He said that the public likes TV because they like “quality people.” I kept demanding that he define “quality people.” Arrrgggh. But apart from that, a fun panel with Chris Matthews, Joe Trippi, Steve Capus of NBC News, Hugh Hewitt, Angie Kucharski of WBZ, and Michael Turk. Hugh kept telling the TV folks that they should be doing bigger reporting projects with us, the people; I think some listened but that one guy certainly didn’t. Favorite line: Trippi explained that people have less faith not just in media but in other institutions and that the internet enables the authority of the peer.

Question Time for the rest of us

Meanwhile, in the U.K., Tony Blair has finally had to join David Cameron online with a Labour YouTube channel of his very own. (See the Guardian’s review; see also my report from London on WebCameron). Here’s Blair’s welcoming message. And here, looking particularly uncomfortable, he invites questions, some of which he says he’ll answer some on April 23 with John O’Farrell joining him on the small screen:

So, UK readers, what are your questions for Blair? As of this writing, there is not a single video question up on YouTube. But there is this text comment:

You aren’t looking at the camera Mr Blair. LOL. If the Iraq war had never happened you would have gone down as one of the best prime ministers this country ever had. I follow politics closely and I mean that. Unfortunately the Iraq war is what you will be remembered for.

(Crossposted from PrezVid)

The MySpace (OurSpace) primary

MySpace announcing a presidential primary for its members is more than a publicity stunt. It exposes the absurdity of geographic primaries in this connected age. MySpace members share a lot more interests and concerns with teach other than they do with their neighbors; I share more with my fellow internet residents than Jersey residents. But then, the rush to get every primary moved ahead of every other primary also reveals the absurdity of the system. All these states are attempting to get more attention (visits and ad revenue) and influence in the election.

But now MySpace steals some of that thunder, for candidates will now need to spend some effort and, yes, money there to make sure that Obama doesn’t walk away with the virtual election and the subsequent rush of publicity (just watch: the winner on MySpace will end up being announced on network news shows; it would be more newsworthy than last night’s NBC Nightly News report on the voting campaign for Sanjaya).

(Crossposted from PrezVid)

ParkRidge47 on video…again

Breaking news over at Prezvid: ParkRidge47 makes his next video, an interview on YouTube.

Hacking the campaign

TechPresident’s Joshua Levy does an excellent job showing that Barack Obama’s huge numbers on YouTube are likely gamed and inflated. And this makes me wonder whether his MySpace numbers are similarly manufactured. Add this to the anonymous anti-Hillary video made by a political operative and you get a disturbing, or at least unflattering, picture of some of Obama’s supporters. Some are trying to hack his campaign for him.

No one is saying that Obama’s staff is doing this. But it could hurt him nonetheless. That anti-Hillary commercial, coming from a hidden source, smelled of a dirty trick. Somebody’s engineering lies about at least his YouTube viewership. People will wonder how much of his buzz is elusive, the effort to goose it even desperate. See Peter Hauck’s post below asking whether the honeymoon is waning. Remember, too, the unwelcome attitude many in Iowa had to the invasion by hordes of Deaniacs with accents from elsewhere. It may be easy to hack a campaign, but I doubt whether it will be effective.

Last week in California, I was talking with some people who know about these things and they thought the Obama’s numbers were bogus but didn’t yet know how to prove it. TechPresident’s Levy shows how the number of visitors and views just don’t match up. The clearest evidence of fishiness is all this is TechPresident’s own YouTube chart, which they acknowledge looks darned suspicious:

tech president obama chart

But there’s a problem with all these numbers even if they aren’t bald-faced lies. We are so accustomed to the horse-race story in politics, the narrative media loves to push, that we are in a constant hunt for new numbers and new charts that tell that tale. Beware internet numbers, though. This is not a mass medium. It is a mass of niches. And even the biggest numbers are necessarily small. It’s the sum of all those small numbers that is huge. In other words, this is not a medium of winners and losers but of coalitions. Last week, amidst the Hillary 1984 commercial kefuffle, a half-dozen reporters called me working on the exact same story (which indicates a problem with reporting, but that’s a subject for another blog), and one of them asked whether the number of negative Hillary videos on YouTube indicated a loss of momentum for her (Mo is their favorite angle in the horse-race story). I laughed, which was more polite than scoffing with scorn. One person can make 10 anti-anybody videos. A hundred can make a thousand. And all that indicates is the thinking of 100 people, not the mood and mo of the nation. The numbers of views is similarly misleading, if you let them be: I watched the Hillary commercial because it was entertaining and being talked about, not because I agreed with it. No, the press hates this, but there’s only one number that matters — the election-day tally, of course — and that’s the one scoop they can’t have; it’s ours. So whether they’re gamed or not, view all these internet tallies with suspicion. They are for entertainment only, no wagering or governing with them allowed.

(Crossposted from PrezVid.)

Vox pop gagged

ABC squandered an opportunity to get a candidate to respond to video questions from the people. Good Morning America solicited those questions. I submitted one. But they didn’t show one on the air. They should have not only showed one of our questions to Hillary Clinton, they should have put all the videos online so she could answer any and all of them on YouTube.

PrezVid Show: Questions for McCain

When he started his web site, John McCain — to his credit — invited voters to send him questions via YouTube. But after scouring YouTube for videos tagged “mccain,” we couldn’t find a single question. So as not to make the senator feel too lonely in YouTube, I have three questions of my own that I don’t see answered on his site or in his videos:

I urge you all to leave your questions for every one of the candidates. Tag them with the candidate’s name and PREZCONFERENCE and we’ll share the best here . . . and see which questions the candidates answer, and which ones they don’t.

Guardian column: Webcameron & 18 Doughty St.

Here’s my latest Guardian column, a buffed-up version of posts I wrote for Prezvid about Webcameron, 18 Doughty Street, and Nicolas Sarkozy and the conservative movement in small TV in the UK. (Nonregistration version here.)

In a video response to Webcameron, David Cameron’s new-age network of tiny TV, pioneering parliamentary blogger Tom Watson wondered why his fellow liberals don’t have an internet channel of their own. Why, indeed? While in the US, it’s the Democratic presidential candidates who are invading YouTube, in Europe, conservatives are leading with their lenses: Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy in France show their candid sides and answer voters’ questions via video. Even German chancellor Angela Merkel, hardly a LonelyGirl15, is podcasting and vlogging. And at 18 Doughty Street, UK conservatives have their own internet talk-show network. Is the internet providing the European right with its Fox News?

While in London, I visited the eponymously addressed 18 Doughty Street, a Georgian townhouse where founder Iain Dale and a staff of 20 produce five hours of live talk TV a night from a studio equipped with seven cameras and an expansive couch. Their programming day starts at 7pm with news summaries, interviews with politicians, and talk shows about politics, the arts and blogs. Because it is live, it is interactive; viewers can send in messages and join the chat. Next viewers will send in videos; Dale gave 100 cameras to contributors who’ll make a show of shows, a bit like a multimedia Comment is Free. And soon, they’ll expand to America with a rented studio and satellite time.

The audience is not yet huge – one to 2,000 viewers at any moment (more than 2,500, Dale says, and their technology would teeter). But he’s getting the audience he wants, including big media. And he drew a quite large crowd, more than 250,000, watching a commercial message they distributed on YouTube that asked us to “imagine a world without America”.

All this comes at an astoundingly low price. Factual programming on US and UK networks costs about £150,000 per hour. A US network executive recently bragged that his digital studio had reduced his cost to £500 a minute. Dale runs the network with a one-year, £1m investment from YouGov founder Stephan Shakespeare and I asked him to estimate his production cost. Subtracting bandwidth and internet, he calculated £70 per hour. So expect more talk online, much more.

Next, I visited Sam Roake, head of Cameron’s web strategy, to learn about Webcameron. Roake sees this as an opportunity to interact. Each week, the team follows Cameron out and about, and get him to answer five citizens’ questions, three of them voted on, Idol-like, by the audience. “To be genuinely candid,” Roake says, “you have to talk about yourself as a person.” Politicians, he advises, must switch “out of politician mode”. I ask whether Cameron would take his web camera to No 10 with him. “If it suddenly stopped,” Roake answers, “that would be seen as a very cynical move . . . You can’t stop communicating.”

This, he argues, is “a new stage of politics” that is about “sustained dialogue with the public.” Note that this is similar to the rhetoric about blogging I heard from Gordon Brown at Davos: “You cannot make political decisions now without people being included in the decision,” he said. “The age of the smoke-filled room is over.”

I asked Roake to give advice to the American presidential candidates now making small TV and he said they must not see this as broadcast TV. They should respond to voters by name: “See them as people who want to engage with you.” He recommends being “personal, open, spontaneous”. But most of all, he said, don’t script and spin your videos.

When I wrote this on PrezVid, my video blog that follows the US 2008 campaign through web video, Watson’s web producer Tim Ireland chimed in, saying that “Cameron’s early broadcasts were very much scripted affairs” and calling his family setting “window dressing”. It was that setting that Labour MP Sion Simon spoofed in a YouTube video that fell flat, forcing Simon to apologise and giving Webcameron more publicity. All politics is spin. Saying you don’t spin is, after all, spin.

I emailed Ireland to ask him the question I posed above: why are conservatives leading in small TV in the UK? He responded with four words: “Blair, money, timing and spin.” And then he added a fifth: Iraq. Yes, that might explain why Labour pols in the UK and Republicans in the US are rather camera-shy these days. But this, too, will change.