Back in December, 2007, in my 6 predictions for 2008, I wrote that "2008 is the year of the broadband presidential election." As I re-read those thoughts last night, and reflected on the long campaign that finally comes to a close today, I found myself stunned at just how influential broadband video turned out to be this year.
Consider all of the following: the Obama speech on race now viewed 5 million+ times on his YouTube channel, the breaking of the Jeremiah Wright rants online which were then replayed countless times, the numerous campaign ads aired online first and then migrated to TV, the YouTube debates with user-submitted video questions, the Hillary Clinton crying episode in NH which helped to resuscitate her campaign, the Saturday Night Live Palin sketches that became a viral phenomena, and so on.
In so many ways, broadband video is tailor made for presidential campaigning; in 2008 that became evident. It allows direct, high-impact communications with a huge, dispersed audience, circumventing expensive TV advertising. It augments fund-raising, the lifeblood of all campaigns, by allowing potential donors to get an unprecedented "feel" for the candidate. It allows the candidate to amplify messages in totally unstructured ways. And, along with other web 2.0 tools, it gives the candidate an always-on channel to stay close to supporters, thereby sustaining their interest and enthusiasm.
But it also upends many of the traditional notions about how to manage and control campaigns. With video capture so pervasive, any false move or off-script moment can become the next big game-changer. The news cycle, once so carefully orchestrated by campaigns to carry their messages into voters' living rooms at prescribed hours is now a thing of the past. In fact, in this election mainstream media outlets took to trolling YouTube and other web sites, scrounging for the latest hot video or tidbit of news. All of these things break a campaign's normal rhythms.
There has been a lot said about "change" in this election. What actually comes of those assertions will become better understood beginning tomorrow. What is for certain however, is that if you're a politician or a campaign manager, the 2008 broadband presidential race has permanently changed the way you'll pursue your craft in the future. For voters that's incredibly empowering and for democracy it's enormously invigorating.
Make sure to vote.