Originally published in The Daily Collegian.
Last week several politicians announced their intention to run for the presidency in 2008. Besides talking about their hopes for the future and trying to rally momentum for an election almost two years away, the announcements had something else in common.
None of them did it through a press conference, a Sunday morning talk show or even Jon Stewart’s chair. Instead they all chose to make their announcements directly to their supporters through online videos.
The medium of the Mentos and Diet Coke video has finally come of age. Campaigning on the Internet is no longer a novelty, it’s a standard that every campaign is rushing to embrace.
It started last month when John Edwards announced his presidential intentions in a series of videos and Webcasts events.
Among his guests was tech blogger Robert Scoble, who interviewed Edwards for his podcast.
Edwards has a live video discussion scheduled during this week’s State of the Union.
Now his opponents are trying to keep up and outdo each other.
Hillary Clinton has announced she will host a series of live video chats on her Web site.
Barrack Obama reportedly struck a deal with video start-up Brightcove to create his own “channel” of content on the service.
Even Sam Brownback, who is running his campaign on traditional values, embraced online video for his announcement.
The video-frenzy is part of a larger trend of politicians embracing social media tools like blogs, wikis and podcasts.
There’s a lot of potential for both sides in this new arena. Voters should get to interact directly with the candidates. Politicians will be able to transmit their messages directly, rather than go through the gatekeepers of traditional media.
There is a dark side to all this, though.
Video often makes one-sided messages appears as two-way conversations. In theory, a candidate could deliver his message entirely through videos, without ever having to answer a question from reporters.
Howard Dean garnered excitement when he introduced politics to blogs in the last election.
Four years later not much has changed. Generally it’s only the staffers who blog to rally the base. Candidates themselves do not often blog to reach out to voters.
Candidates seem more inclined to do videos, however, because impromptu speeches and meet-and-greets in front of the camera come naturally. The Internet has created opportunities for new levels of openness in all facets of society.
Hopefully politicians will use these new options wisely to enhance the dialogue between voters and candidates.
We don’t have to just hope though. Social media is available for anyone and everyone to use.
So if you’re not satisfied with a politician, use the Internet to demand more of them.