Advice for MSNBC

If MSNBC had any sense, which it doesn’t, it would have taken every one-minute answer from last night’s ping-pong debate and put them up on YouTube themselves. Then, today, we’d be able to watch each one without feeling as if we were trying to count cars on a speeding train. And, more important, we’d be able to comment on them and embed them in our blogs. We’d see which clips are the most popular, the most talked about. We’d get a new sense of what the electorate thinks, which itself would be news. If NBC also made the video files available, we’d see the post-debate commentary not from the same old made-up faces on the networks but from the people who matter, the voters: us. MSNBC would be part of the conversation, in the thick of it, which is exactly where it should want to be. Instead, the network is acting like the bratty and unpopular rich kid who takes him marbles and harumphs home, ruining the game for everyone.

But it’s happening without MSNBC, of course. There are already loads of clips up on YouTube, put there by dastardly copyright thieves, in NBC News’ view, or by engaged voters and viewers, in my view. And as much as I’m busting them for not doing the internet right, I have to believe that even MSNBC won’t have the bad sense to try to pull those clips and send cease-and-desists to the citizens who are sharing moments from our own democratic debate. (Quick, somebody put a leash on that lawyer!)

The net result, though, is that the discussion is happening on YouTube and on blogs but not around MSNBC, thanks to the network’s rules and to the fact that its clips are not linkable or embeddable and are chosen by producers instead of voters. A true case of cutting off the nose.

The side effect is that the clips are on YouTube but they are not on other networksnews sites. So you could have them promoting MSNBC today along with the viewers but because MSNBC insisted on NO internet usage whatsoever, they’ve given up millions of dollars worth of free promotion and branding. Foolish.

It’s not too late to fix this, though. NBC could put the clips up on YouTube right now (later, they could do this on their new embeddable service). And they could announce right now that they will follow Larry Lessig’s advice and release the next, Republican debate under an open Creative Commons license requiring attribution and links back to the networks’ site. They could say they’re doing this in the interests of stimulating the democratic discussion. But the truth is, it’d just be smart business. If they did that, I have no doubt that they’d get more traffic and more attention and out of that, more money. Instead, they’re only engendering the animus of the voters and viewers online.

Just to show solidarity with the YouTube gang of thieves, I’ve embedded clips of the two funniest moments from the debate over at Prezvid.