Yesterday came a further positive sign that user-generated video may be elevated from the domain of karaoke-singing cats, faux-skateboarding accidents and exploding soda bottles.
That positive sign was MySpace, NBC and MSNBC's announcement of a new citizen journalism initiative dubbed the "Decision '08 Convention Contest." In it, MySpace users are encouraged to submit short videos answering one of three questions, "Why do you vote?" "Why are you the best person for this job?" or "How will you stand out in the crowd and get the scoop no one else can?"
The submissions will first be judged by a panel of experts from MySpace and NBC, with five finalists revealed for the MySpace community to vote on. Two winners will be selected, one to attend the Democratic convention this summer, and the other to attend the Republican convention.
To learn more about the contest and the motivations behind it, yesterday I spoke to Liba Rubenstein, MySpace's Manager of Public Affairs, who is essentially the product manager for the IMPACT channel, MySpace's hub for civic and social engagement. Liba explained that MySpace has used this type of contest frequently, and to much success. MySpace community members love getting involved and expressing their creativity. The two level judging process is meant to balance the experts' high editorial standards with members' passion and enthusiasm. Liba added that in particular MySpace and NBC are gaining insights about how to fuse traditional media with web 2.0. (And in a classic "doing well by doing good" vein, maybe NBC will discover the next Tim Russert in the contest.)
I like the Decision '08 contest for a variety of reasons. First and most importantly, it allows UGV to be directed to an important social use: increasing citizens' involvement in the democratic process. In this way it continues on what YouTube's YouChoose '08 pioneered by allowing its users to upload video questions in the recent primary debates. It may sound somewhat idealistic, but I really like the notion of broadband video doing its part to strengthen the functioning of America's democracy - even more so as we approach July 4th in this election year.
Further, I think the convention contest provides an example for how others outside the political realm might consider harnessing the creativity and passion of their members to use UGV in a directed purpose. One example that comes right to mind is in the education field. For example, wouldn't it be cool if educators uploaded UGV of themselves in action, explaining and demonstrating their proven teaching methods? I got a glimpse of some of this happening already, while doing a project last summer for the George Lucas Educational Foundation. There's no shortage of other examples.
There has been much hand-wringing about whether UGV can ever be monetized through advertising, a debate that will no doubt rage on. Alternatively, I for one would like to see more energy put into purpose-driven UGV projects like the MySpace-NBC convention contest. While I enjoy the cats, skateboarders and soda bottles as much as the next guy, I continue to believe the UGV medium can ultimately be so much more.
What do you think? Post a comment now!