Posted by: David Kiley on November 8, 2006
As I was watching Election returns last night, I was struck by NBC’s Tim Russert’s comment that this may be the first election that turned on YouTube.com
It caught my attention. What Russert was specifically referring to was the abundance of film clips of Montana’s U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (pictured above)on www.Youtube.com, which seem to have helped bring the entrenched Republican down (the vote tally is subject to possible recount).
I looked up the clips. Oh my! I wasn’t very familiar with Burns, though I knew his reputation as a gruff, old-school Republican prone to saying anything he wanted because he had little worry of ever being dislodged from his seat. The clips vary from anti-Burns ads spotlighting his criticism of out-of-state firefighters who came to Montana to help battle forest fires to a video of him at a picnic talking to his handyman on a cellphone—a little fellow from Guatamala named Hugo, according to Burns, and without a green card. Uh Oh. In another video clip, Burns joked about the fact that Hugo had no green card.
As I searched on Burns, I also came up with clips of Hillary Clinton put up by an outfit called “Bigotwatch.” It had a clip of Senator Clinton telling a really bad joke during a speech about someone named Ghandi—-who——yuck yuck yuck——runs a gas station in St. Louis.
YouTube is turning into one of the most potent public squares in the culture and political wars since Rush Limbaugh first went on the radio. In fact, where did I see webcam video of Rush disgustingly doing his own parody of Michael J. Fox in a Parkinson’s Disease fit of involutary bodily movement? Youtube.com
There’s more. Morning radio/TV personality Don Imus has been excoriating Congressman Joe Barton from Texas for holding up a piece of legislation that would advance research into autism and provide some help to parents of autistic children. One of the most damning things Imus showed on his morning show was video footage of a parent trying to see Barton at his Texas office. He was turned away by a paranoid group of office staff, who called 911 to come and get the parent even though he was the picture of calm and politeness. Where did Imus get the video to show? YooooooouuuuuuuTuuuuuube.com
Memo to those seeking office: From now on, don’t be stupid. Or at least, be less stupid about what you say. No longer can the Conrad Burnses of the world think that they can give a talk at a church picnic back at home without it being available for thousands and potentially millions to see on www.youtube.com. Think of that the next time your buddy asks you give a toast at his bachelor party.
It’s in this context that I think that Google’s purchase of www.Youtube.com was a crafty and brilliant acquisition despite some cat-calls from the cheap seats that they paid too much, $1.65 billion, for a firm with no model for making a profit.
One thing I know is that streaming video is more entertaining and engaging as an ad medium than web text or banner ads. When we want to know something about a subject these days, from Conrad Burns to the new Ford Fusion to Marvin Windows, what do we do? We Google it. Same goes with video now. Whether I want to take in engaging video information or entertainment about Senator Burns, Sen. Clinton, Marvin windows or the Ford F Series pickup, increasingly I will, and I’m not alone, will go to the default branded source of streaming video content—www.Youtube.com—to see what I can see. Evene better, news organizations are crediting Youtube all over the place, and helping to drive traffic.
I hardly know an ad agency these days that hasn’t told me it uploaded its more interesting ads, or “director’s cuts” of certain ads we see on TV, up to Youtube.com. Google, of course, saw this. And already, I sense that Youtube is becoming a verb, just like Google.
I may be proved wrong, but I also have a sense that while www.myspace.com displaced www.friendster.com as the go-to social networking website, and there are rumblings that myspace.com could go the way of Friendster, Youtube.com will remain the leading portal for online streaming video. Caveat: This is based purely on instinct and my nose.
As we head into a wide open, free-for-all, gloves-off presidential election in 2008, with the campaign season starting up by this coming summer, Youtube will be an enormous factor. Those of us who go searching on, say, “Bill Richardson” or “Hillary Clinton” or “Mitt Romney” to see what we can see about these potential candidates, we will, in the Democratic tradition of Google search, find a stack of ads, film clips and parodies of these people. Separating the real from the fake and the ad from the lampoon will be increasingly difficult for the consumer viewer. And you know what—-that will be part of the fun. Let the games begin.