The revolution will be YouTubed

There has been a lot of action on YouTube around the 2008 presidential election: see John Edwards, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama hitting the play button.

Now Pew gives us some context for this with its report on the 2006 election and online. In it, I see the seeds of the revolution: Though TV is still big, the internet and other alternate sources are gaining their share of the spotlight. And more and more people are using interactive media to interact with the election, to take action. Some of the findings:

* Much of the report focuses on 60 million “campaign internet users” — including the 46% of internet users (31% of Americans) who “were online during the campaign season gathering information and exchanging views via email.”

* There is now a growing group of younger voters, 35% of those under age 36, who say the internet was their main source of political news — vs. 18% for newspapers. 15% of all American adults “say the internet was the primary source for campaign news.”

* About 14 million Americans — almost a quarter of those “campaign internet users” (11% of internet users, 7% of Americans) — used the read-write web to “contribute to political discussion and activity.” They didn’t just read. They did: 8% of “campaign internet users” posted their own comment online; 13% forwarded or posted someone else’s commentary; 1% created and 8% forwarded audio or video. Those are the stats that matter most to me: people talking action because they can.

* More than half of those “campaign internet users” are going to web sources for campaign information: 20% to blogs, 20% to international news organizations (isn’t that fascinating — getting local news from abroad), 19% from humor (The Onion, The Dailiy show). . . . Almost half of these people said they go online because “they could get information on the web that is not available elsewhere.” From major news organizations, in other words.

* The public is becoming more media-agnostic than media: “8% of those who watched TV news ‘yesterday’ say they viewed the program on something other than a TV, particularly their computers. . . . Similarly, 38% of Americans say they read a newspaper ‘yesterday’ and 15% of them say they read the newspaper online.”

* From November 2002 to 2006, the share of adult Americans with broadband grew from 17% to 45%. Thus, the spread of online video: 32% of campaign internet users watched video clips about candidates or the election online.

So though we’re still watching TV for politics — which means TV will still be filled with nasty commercials in contested markets — we’re moving to a broad array of other sources — video growing among them — and more and more, we are using interactivity to act.