Posts about smalltv

Well, if Sonny Bono could win….

Presidential candidates should take a lesson from Al Franken and his YouTube video announcing his run for the Senate. (Well, that radio thing didn’t work out so well so it’s time to get a job.) The video is a bit long but it has the right tone as Franken talks about his and his wife’s poor families and how the government helped them get their starts in life; it is a fine illustration of his liberal progressive outlook. Franken is not cracking jokes; he’s not talking to a big audience on a big camera; he’s talking to one person: whoever clicks below.

The debut of Idol Critic!

Welcome to the debut of Idol Critic, the show that gives you the water-cooler buzz about America’s favorite show. Liza Persky, child of television, gives you a review of the show the morning day after.

I created the show with my partner, Peter Hauck. And to make it, we brought in Mary C. Matthews and Liza Persky, the producer and star behind one of my favorite internet series, 39SecondSingle. I’m rooting for Liza to stay single so she has nothing better to do midweek that sit on the couch and watch Idol.

We rushed this up so be nice about the temporary design at our site. It’s my fault. We’ll have more features coming soon.

What would make us most happy is if you make your own reviews of the reviews of Idol. Put them up on Blip or YouTube and tag them “idolcritic” and we’ll find them.

Make sure to come back next week for episode 2!


Andy Plesser of Beet TV made the mistake of handing me a microphone at Always On, but I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Whitaker, former editor of Newsweek and new the overseer of the future at Washington Post Newsweek Interactive, and my friend David Weinberger, author of the soon-to-be-released Everything is Miscellaneous. Whitaker, part I:

Whitaker, part II:


39 seconds of fame

One of my favorite shows in any medium, big or small — the vlog 39 Second Single — is going to be featured on Weekend Today this Saturday next Saturday, the 17th. It’s a hip Valentine’s thing.

I’m delighted to see this small TV getting attention on big TV. For this is a great example of how talent can emerge in our new world. Mary C. Matthews produces the show; Liza Persky is the star. I feel like I discovered them because I happened upon their show one day on Blip. But that’s the beauty of the internet: We can all discover such talent. The world is our casting couch.

What’s brilliant about 39 Second Single is that it creates a show appropriate for the medium — small, fast, intimate — and manages to hook you in two minutes and make you want to keep coming back each week. I showed it to my class at CUNY and they loved it (Mary came to speak to the class and they loved her, too). The only sad thing is that we need to keep rooting for Liza, the star, to continue her rotten luck at dating because we don’t want the fun to end.

So watch their show. Then watch the show about their show. And first, watch this show about the show about their show:

: LATER: Just as I posted this, I got email from Mary with word that Blip is holding a screening of some of the best series TV on the service this Sunday night. Details here.

: UPDATE: Mary emails that the date on Weekend Today just changed to the 17th. That’s TV.

Guardian column: The YouTube campaign

My Guardian column was delayed a week because of breaking news but it’s in print now (nonregistration version here).

The revolution will not be televised. It will be YouTubed. The open TV of the people is already turning into a powerful instrument of politics – of communication, message, and image – in the next US presidential election. Witness: Democrats Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and John Edwards; Republican Sam Brownback; and more candidates just announced their runs for the White House not in network-news interviews, nor in big, public events, but instead in their own online videos.

The advantages are many: the candidates may pick their settings – Edwards in front of a house being rebuilt in New Orleans; Clinton in a room that reminds one of the Oval Office. They control their message without pesky reporters’ questions – Edwards brought in the video-bloggers from to chat with him; Brownback, a religious conservative, invoked God and prayer often enough for a sermon; Clinton was able to say she wants to get out of Iraq the right way without having to define that way. They are made instantly cybercool – I’m told by the Huffington Post that liberal hopeful, Representative Dennis Kucinich, is carrying around a tiny video camera so he can record messages in the halls of congress; and Democrat Christopher Dodd has links on his homepage to his MySpace, Facebook and Flickr sites, making him come off more like a college kid than a white-haired candidate. But most important, these politicians get to speak eye-to-eye with the voters.

Internet video is a medium of choice – you have to click to watch – and it is an intimate medium. That is how these candidates are trying to use it: to talk straight at voters, one at a time.

Clinton said she was launching a conversation as much as a campaign and wished she could visit all our living rooms, so she is using technology to do the next best thing, holding live video chats last week. Beats kissing babies.

Of course, this can also be the medium of your opposition. When former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney joined the race for the Republican nomination, conservative detractors dredged up video from a 1994 debate with Senator Ted Kennedy in which Romney espoused downright liberal stands on abortion and gay rights. They used YouTube as a powerful weapon. So Romney used YouTube to respond. He appeared on a podcast made by the powerful blog Instapundit and the campaign videotaped the exchange and put it up online, a story that was then picked up by major media.

But beware making a fool of yourself. This is also a medium ripe for ridicule. There is a hilarious viral video of John Edwards preparing for a TV appearance and primping like Paris Hilton, set to the tune of “I Feel Pretty”. Every campaign nervously awaits the embarrassing moment that will be captured and broadcast via some voter’s mobile phone; it was just such a moment that lost one senator his election and with it the Republican majority in 2006. Hours after Clinton YouTubed her video announcement, there were parody versions trying to remind us of the scandals of her husband’s administration. I, too, fired up my Mac and made a mashup comparing and contrasting Clinton’s and Brownback’s videos, counting her issues and his references to culture (read: religion), life (read: abortion), and family (read: gay marriage).

And there lies the real power of the YouTube election: candidates won’t be the only ones making use of this revolutionary new medium. Citizens will too. The Pew Internet & American Life Project has just released a survey revealing that much of the electorate is not just watching but is using the internet to influence politics: in the 2006 US election, 60 million Americans – almost half of internet users – were online gathering information and exchanging views, Pew said.

More than a third of voters under the age of 36 say the internet is their main source of political news – twice the score for newspapers.

More significantly, about 14 million Americans use the “read-write web,” in Pew’s words, to “contribute to political discussion and activity”, posting their opinions online, forwarding or posting others’ commentary, even creating and forwarding audio and video. They aren’t just consuming information, they are taking political action. And now that almost half of America is wired with broadband, they increasingly consider watching internet video to be watching TV. So the influence of YouTube will only grow.

We should only wish that this will diminish the negative influence of old TV with its battle and sports narratives of frontrunners and underdogs, with its simplistic soundbites (though there’ll be plenty of that on YouTube, too), and its nasty campaign commercials (though YouTube will have its dirt as well). But, hey, revolutions take time. And we are watching the seeds of one sprout right before our very eyes.