Thursday, May 3, 2007

Local politics moves (slowly) into Web 2.0

So I'm putting together a story for NPR on the mayor's race in Philadelphia. I've attended a couple of debates, interviewed a few candidates, and talked to people on the street.

Today I sat down to spend some quality time with the candidate's websites and check out their television ads. But on a whim, I decided to check YouTube first. It turns out that Bob Brady, Dwight Evans, Chaka Fattah, Tom Knox, and Michael Nutter all have YouTube channels devoted to their campaigns.

Most feature at least a few campaign ads, and some of the channels included clips of the candidates at various events or doing television interviews. This is great, I thought. This is exactly what they should be doing to reach out to their constituencies.

And then I looked at the numbers. Two of the channels had exactly 1 subscriber. The top rated channel had 30. And while Michael Nutter's channel topped out at over 2600 views, 17 people have taken the time to view Bob Brady's campaign.

In this era where all politics are global, it's kind of funny to see local politicians competing with folks named LonelyGirl15 for attention. Post an ad online and anyone in the world can see it. But you have to give them a reason to.

Put a link to your YouTube channel on your candidate's website. Put the address on campaign fliers. Give people a reason to share the ads with their friends. I'm pretty certain one of the main reasons Michael Nutter's gotten more channel views than the other candidates isn't because his content is more compelling. It's because he's embedded a YouTube video on his campaign website. Now it's easy for anyone who visits his site to share.

In some ways, having a YouTube channel could be a disadvantage. When people talking about what they had for lunch have thousands of page views, it's kind of embarrassing to see your vision of Philadelphia with a lonely number 17 next to it. At least if someone not affiliated with the campaign had uploaded the video it wouldn't look like a feeble effort.

This is the same reason I don't put my feedburner subscriber numbers on the page of this blog right now. Posting a low number for the public to read (hey, it's a new blog) is kind of a self fulfilling prophecy.

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