“YouTube Debates” More Gimmick Than Revolution

Jul 23rd, 2007 | By | Category: Internet TV, Streaming Video, Video, Video Podcasts, Vlogs

YouTubeTonight, CNN will be hosting the first of the CNN-YouTube debates of presidential contenders.

Democratic candidates will be answering videotaped questions that were submitted by people via YouTube. Questions were submitted between June 14 and July 22 and then selected by CNN’s political team.

Some are heralding the event as a sort of democratic revolution, putting citizens in charge of the debates.

“The fact that this debate is even happening just goes to show the enormous impact that user generated-content has had on society,” writes Webware’s Harrison Hoffman. “Ten, even five years ago, something like this would have had no chance of happening.”

Just A Gimmick?

While it’s obvious that presidential candidates didn’t have to deal with YouTube videos five or ten years ago, they have had to deal with difficult questions from citizens during debates, suggesting that the YouTube angle may be more gimmick than game-changing. Previous debates have featured audience questions live, which was more direct than having questions filtered through CNN’s lens.

More significantly, the potential video questions have been available on YouTube, giving candidates time to review them, identify the most challenging ones and prepare for them. This reduces the likelihood that any surprises will come out of the debates.

Even YouTube seems to be downplaying the significance of these debates. At the site, the debates get less front-page space than Heinz’s Top This TV Challenge.

Video podcasts, vlogs and other forms of citizen media have the potential to significantly shape the upcoming election. Some would argue that they already are shaping the election, eliminating would-be candidates like former US Senator George Allen (with his “macacacide“).

But, while citizen media is likely to play a major role in the upcoming election, it’s unlikely that soliciting questions via YouTube will. YouTube videos may make citizens’ questions seem more vivid….but they’ll also encourage politicians to prepare “canned” responses.

More coverage at NYT.

No Responses to ““YouTube Debates” More Gimmick Than Revolution”

  1. Eric says:

    I concur. If YouTube were to be a revolutionary forum for debate, it would need to hide the questions from the candidates, and be completely organic, in that the questions are not filtered by a news team or professional moderator. Perhaps a YouTube appointed board of community members could be selected to police the questions for spam, length and obscenity, with that being the only moderation the questions get.


  2. Study Guide says:

    Very interesting way to look at it. You wrote: “Previous debates have featured audience questions live, which was more direct than having questions filtered through CNN‚Äôs lens.”

    True indeed. This fact alone should alert viewers, albeit, I never really considered it before. It’s not really fair if the politician gets to consider his/her answer in beforehand, that’s why live inquires can’t be beaten.

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