Why PrezVid?

Since I dove right into PrezVid without an introductory post and mission statement and because I’m talking about the YouTube campaign on Monday with Faith Salie on her public-radio show (which has been on my iTunes subscription list for a few weeks; I’m a fast fan), I thought I should answer the questions: Why PrezVid? And what will PrezVid do? Of course, I have many answers:

First, almost every one of the presidential candidates is using YouTube and internet video to open up a new channel to voters. As I said in my Guardian column, this is an eye-to-eye medium that lets the candidates speak directly to individuals on a small screen instead of from a big platform. It lets them control the message and set the agenda and tone. It enables them to bypass the soundbiting of network news (yes, the messages are still short, but you can say a helluva lot more in two minutes than in 10 seconds and you can control what is said).

Second, voters in the field are taping everything the candidates do. I say this is good; it makes the campaigns more public. Will we have our macaca moments? Oh, you bet. Sometimes, this will reveal the candidates’ true character. But sometimes, it will merely confirm that we’re all human and all screw up. The question will be: how well will media and the electorate distinguish between the two?

Third, this allows us, the voters, to see the candidates in a new light. Of course, they are still controlled and stage-managed. But still, more exposure to them that we get, the better we can judge both their words and their character. See the change not just in what Mitt Romney said but in how he acted in 1994 versus today (more on that later).

Fourth, internet video helps us speak back to the candidates. The politicians are trying to manage this as well: see McCain with his questions via YouTube. But there’ll be plenty of uncontrolled talking-back: see The Real McCain.

Fifth, this will give us all an opportunity to see the campaign commercials that, in recent years, could be seen only in battleground states. I hope this will put a harsher light on filthy campaigning. We’ll see.

So PrezVid will track the course of the YouTube campaign through video everywhere. We will show you the videos we think that matter — from candidates, from citizens, and from remixers. We will look at how internet video affects the campaign and the country. We will offer criticism and commentary. And we’ll have some fun. And we’ll do that both in blog posts and in vlog shows.

  • Vaudeville died when movies came along for (among others) a strange reason.

    Performers would perfect an act and then take it on tour. By the time they got back to where they had started from it might be several years later and there would be a new audience for the old act, or some people would be willing to see it again. This was also true of traveling plays – some actors did the same part for their whole career.

    When movies came along everyone across the country could see the act at nearly the same time. There was no novelty when the live act showed up in the town where the film had already been seen. Actors realized this quickly and knew that appearing in a film was going to end their careers.

    I think we may see something similar with the stump speech and YouTube. Once a speech is online it can be viewed by those interested in the campaign. They will be less inclined to hear it again in person. Certainly candidates can’t come up with a new speech every time (or even every few days), so I don’t know how they will adapt. If they prohibit filming (assuming this is even technically possible) then they lose a potential audience, just like the Vaudevillians.

    What would happen if the leading candidates just withdrew from the public eye for the next six months or so? They could continue to raise money by appearing at sponsored functions, but otherwise they would just stay off the stump. There is ample time to put one’s face before the public starting in the Fall and skipping the next six months lowers the chance of putting one’s foot in one’s mouth.