We have Obama to thank. Well, actually, we have Arun Chaudhary to thank.
About this time last year, the Obama team led by Chaudhary - the young film school professor who took a leave from New York University - was clearly demonstrating the power of the video to wins the hearts and minds of Americans. A new book due out next month explains the political power of You Tube and offers a case study on the Obama campaign.
Obviously, the premise for why politicians used You Tube and other social media channels 2008 still holds today: Skip the traditional news media and speak directly to the public. If you have a compelling message spoken eloquently by a charming and mostly respected figure, the chances are better than 50-50 you can turn sentiment in your favor.
Because the President's video team, which now is led by Chaudhary, hasn't stopped posting videos, we are seeing a continued use of this medium in non-election periods.
Consider that since the President took office, the White House has used the medium in various ways to persuade, inform and to keep the momentum going. Perhaps among the most notable post-inauguration videos has been The President's and First Lady's plea for volunteerism (Which actually is about the 6th most viewed You Tube video on the official White House site).
In California this month, the governor has gone to the airwaves to make his case about the next (and overdue) budget. Schwarzenegger's effort has been countered by paid advertisements by the California Teachers Association, for starters. I feel like I'm in a time warp because I used to think these videos were used only when candidates sought office.
It's almost as if the campaign season is in full swing in California - but we're still a few months away from the next race for CA governor. (Arnold's final year is 2010). It's interesting to note there are some cynics who believe the CA governor is using the video medium in a pull-out-all-the-stops effort to end his term on a positive note with some sense of accomplishment.
So, this brings me to some questions.
Like, are we approaching video overload and saturation? In a world where attention spans are approaching the goldfish stage and we can't wait for the latest technology or social media channel, it would seem the video format - at least through You Tube - might be approaching "old school" status. Most pundits say we're not there, yet.
The other question is "true impact." This is an item closer to my heart since public relations professionals continually must examine social media efforts to provide expert counsel to clients.
So, if the most popular You Tube video on the White House site (the inauguration) shows only 1 million or so views compared to the current all time leader - "Evolution of Dance" video with 122 million views - are political videos really making an impact?
Yes, some would argue, since the Obama campaign videos - either those done by the campaign or by independents in support of the future president - were viewed as least once by a third of the country. Note, the "Yes We Can" music video with celebrities created in February 08 has the second-highest viewership (18 million) of all "News and Politics" videos on You Tube.
How can we measure this? Where is this headed? More on that in a future post.