YouTube providing another political ‘channel’

TechPresident and The Nation in the US highlight an interesting trend in the presidential elections this year, and that is that YouTube is providing a venue for candidates’ speeches that might otherwise get lost in the mainstream media agenda of the day. They point out that Barack Obama’s speech is the fourth most watched video on YouTube, trailing a couple of Britney Spears, a perennial click champion. On Sunday, his South Carolina victory speech was the fifth most watched video on YouTube.

Ari Melber writing for The Nation says, “Barack Obama delivered a riveting speech about America’s moral crisis this weekend, calling for a united movement to overcome the nation’s moral deficit and mounting economic inequality.” But, he adds:

Great speeches don’t matter if no one hears them.

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly says that most voters don’t get to see these speeches, apart from a few sound bits clipped up on cable television, which he reads as a disadvantage for Obama. At the moment, the main themes in the coverage of Democratic race is the bare-fisted brawl between Obama and the Clintons, or Billary as Frank Rich called the power-couple. But YouTube is allowing more voters to hear the candidates’ messages instead of following the ‘horse race’ or the story line out of the day’s papers or political chat shows.

Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic points out that Obama focused a lot of his efforts and organisation on winning Iowa and South Carolina and that he won’t be able to replicate that in the next week to cover the more than 20 states holding primaries and caucuses on Tuesday 5 February. YouTube might be a force multiplier for the Obama campaign. His speeches are getting an audience much larger than they would in past election cycles. His own social networking site is helping drive traffic to the videos. It’s a fascinating development in an already gripping US presidential election.

But I also think this is another example of how the end of media scarcity changes the journalistic and political landscape.

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