Obama, McCain Push Web-Video Democracy

Sep 7, 2008  •  Post A Comment

If viral video views were tea leaves, fortune tellers might predict Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will win the election in November.
He’s way ahead in online video views for both the month and the year.
Online video views, of course, are not a predictor of electoral outcomes, but they are compelling evidence of a new trend toward the “clip-ification” of U.S. politics.
The electorate’s thirst for video direct from the candidates is reshaping the media landscape, de-emphasizing the importance of network news oracles. It’s concurrently giving rise to independent news and entertainment Web video of a political bent and boosting Internet audiences for satirical TV clips.
“There is no doubt that this is a new media environment in which the presidential campaigns have to be run, and the biggest difference is in the video component,” said David Chalian, ABC News’ political director.

American consumers are gobbling up political coverage in the form of Web video at a rapid rate. As of Sept. 5, Internet users had viewed videos from the Republican and Democratic conventions more than 9 million times, with 80% of those views coming from the Democratic gathering, according to data from online video measurement firm Visible Measures.
It also can magnify the popularity of relatively unknown politicians, as evidenced by the more than 1.3 million online video views as of Sept. 5 for the speech two days earlier by Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin at the convention in St. Paul, Minn. Also for the week ending Aug. 30, Internet searches for Gov. Palin were nearly four times as popular as searches for Obama, eight times as popular as McCain searches and more than 10 times more popular than searches for Sen. Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, according to Hitwise.
In the last month alone, Sen. Obama’s official YouTube channel has garnered more than 7.8 million views, while Sen. McCain’s has drawn 4.5 million. Over on iTunes, the most popular podcast last week was the one that featured speeches from the Republican National Convention.
The campaigns have different strategies with Web video, as evidenced by their respective YouTube channels. Sen. McCain mostly posts his ads and campaign-produced Web shorts, while Sen. Obama puts up everything from speeches to behind-the-scenes video blogs and voter interviews, said Brett Wilson, CEO of TubeMogul, an online video distribution and research firm.
Mr. Chalian said the candidates are adept at using video clips to their advantage. When Sen. Obama selected Sen. Biden as his running mate, the Republicans quickly e-mailed a clip of Sen. Biden questioning Mr. Obama’s experience to every mainstream news outlet.
“That made it into every single story on every TV network,” Mr. Chalian said. “We have always been reliant upon video, but so much of this campaign is being fought out in the digital universe.”

Since Aug. 24, the number of You Tube videos tagged with “Obama” has grown from 148,000 to 169,000, while videos tagged with “McCain” have jumped from 63,000 to 75,000, according to Trendrr, a free online tracking service. As of 4 a.m. Sept. 5, there were 5,450 videos tagged with “Sarah Palin,” Trendrr said.

Beyond campaign propaganda, consumers are eating up political spoofs and satires. Barely Political, a channel distributed by Web studio Next New Networks, logged more than 15 million views for its satirical videos in August. Sites like TalkingPointsMemo.com and YouTube creators like Philip DeFranco are providing political insight to Web viewers, along with the usual satirical sources, such as “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report.”
“They are drawn to sites outside of the traditional,” said Chad Cooper, director of marketing at OVGuide.com, an online video guide. “They are looking for more twists, more spins, more voices.”
The proliferation of political clips—from speeches to satires—is driving new interest in the election, said Ben Relles, the creator of Barely Political.
“Satire has been a part of politics for a long time and when you look at a site like YouTube, where our videos show up next to Miley Cyrus, we are potentially reaching audiences who weren’t looking for a political video but may click on it because it piques their interest,” Mr. Relles said.

Straight news networks also are increasing their audiences online as the election heats up. Not only did CNN deliver record on-air ratings for its coverage of the Democratic National Convention, it served up more than 500,000 live video streams daily, also a record.
On Sept. 2 during the Republican National Convention, CNN.com served 598,000 live video streams. ABCNews.com drew nearly 21 million unique visitors in August, up 51% from last year.
Mainstream TV news outlets are adapting to the profusion of political Web video by inviting viewers to submit items. They’re also promoting their emerging Web video competition by playing them on their broadcasts and Web sites.
The Fox TV stations regularly include viral videos on their Web sites, such as the Paris Hilton parody of a McCain ad, said Sharri Berg, senior VP of news operations for the Fox TV stations.
“How can you ignore what everyone is talking about?” she asked.
CNN has responded to the clip culture of politics, using several blog, online video and buzz-tracking services to report daily on the political buzz in the blogosphere, said David Bohrman, senior VP and Washington, D.C., bureau chief.
CNN partnered with YouTube earlier this year to hold the CNN-YouTube debates.
“It’s been startling how many people have been watching traditional media as well as diving in and grabbing ahold of new-media versions of everything,” Mr. Bohrman said.


  1. Sure, they are using more clips on the web, but isn’t that just a extension of the mainstream ads (of course without the expen$e)? You would think that Sen. Obama is for sure going to win if you pay any attention to most of the geekier crowd on the Twitter.
    It’s amazing now that one can easily see the things that might have been missed & can jusdge for themselves instead of it being filtered by mainstream media. That, in my opinion is the takeaway from this trend.

  2. Politicians like Obama will always attract people that follow the herd of “listen to what I say and not to what I’ll do or have done”. Fortunately, a majority of these same people are talkers and not doers that won’t vote.
    Quit listening to the media and commercialism of the elections and check out the true facts, accomplishments and track records (stand behind what they are saying) of the candidates.
    True Americans will listen to the truth.

  3. Daisy, you continue to amaze us all. great piece of reporting.

  4. Brian’s comment about “listen to what I say and not what I do” suggests that “True Americans” can hypocritically ignore the fact that Jon McCain ditched and divorced his crippled wife when the opportunity arose to trade her in for a wealthy socialite who would help him to finance his personal ambitions. “True Americans” need to be consistent with family values, rather than selective when it’s convenient to apply double standards. Otherwise, they’re setting a bad example for everyone who is supposed to trust in their integrity.
    Seriously, Brian, you need to take a good hard look at the truth and your self. How can anyone trust someone who has so thoroughly trashed the promise to “love, honor and obey”?

  5. Nice piece, Daisy.
    It strikes me that each campaign uses video in a way aligned with it’s overall strategy.
    The McCain campaign sees linear value, in the form of additional free impressions, and so makes a linear investment. The Obama campaign seems better able to leverage the geometric character of social networks, and so is willing to make a much larger investment to empower advocates to support the cause.
    Prediction: Regardless of the outcome, McCain’s will be the last Presidential campaign to see the world this way.

  6. Once again Rich supports my point. Are you talking about Bill Clinton or has your selective memory and double standard stopped there. Will you go as far as to say you know all the facts of McCain’s situation that you can judge what is the truth and what is fact. This is about running our country and not whether you can get someone to obey.
    Then when you can’t win the argument with facts you start with personal attacks. To tell me to take a good hard look at the truth shows your typical ignorance when it comes to the facts and experience in running the country.
    I will not post anymore to your instantiated remarks as they support my point. Spending more time researching the issues before stating your opinion will help your cause.

  7. Uninstantiated remarks? Excuse me…
    Brian describes Obama’s supporters as ignorami who will not vote, which is presumably the way he contrasts them against McCain’s supporters. He says that Obama tells people “listen to what I say and not to what I’ll do or have done”.
    Now Brian is throwing Bill Clinton into the mix? We hardly have time to go into the deceptions and depravities of all political history, nor is there any point in going beyond the initial comparisons of the presidential candidates and their supporters as Brian initially framed his argument.
    Here’s what Brian doesn’t want to believe about the “hero” John McCain:
    There’s more awful truth about McCain that goes beyond his unforgivable treatment of his first wife, and his son from that marriage. However, that alone is more than enough to disqualify McCain from the office of the presidency in the eyes of the “Family Values” base.
    This is where Web Video comes into play. It is a freely available medium that doesn’t require one to read, and to some limited extent, serves as a substitute for reading. Before the election season is done, web video media assets will be greatly enriched by a lot more truth, and a lot more lies. We can never predict how the public will be influenced by the coming flood of information, dirty tricks, and disinformation. But ultimately we have to believe in the wisdom of the crowds to sort out the chaff from the grain, even when we think of ourselves as smarter, harder working, more effective, or better educated.
    I stand by my judgment on the definition of a “True American”, which is not all that different from what Brian might think it is. We only disagree on the character, honesty, and integrity of the candidates AND the idea that liberals will not vote their conscience this fall. If Brian thinks that he can use TVWeek as his bully pulpit, and order the rest of us around when we don’t fall in line, then he is ill-informed about how the wisdom of the crowds works in the online media milieu, and particularly in the social media video networks.
    If anyone feels that I have offended them, let them tell me specifically where I might have gone astray, rather than telling me to go back to the research center.

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