It's one thing to talk about how user generated online content is changing the way people get the news. It's another thing when YouTube plays a major role in the presidential election. And we're not talking about posting candidates' ads or speeches on the video sharing site. We're talking about YouTube members creating videos asking the candidates direct questions -- and getting answers.
CNN today announced that it will host two debates with questions submitted by YouTube users. Anyone can submit a video through YouTube, and CNN will cull through the entries to pick the videos that will be featured at the July 23rd Democratic and September 17th Republican debates.
Anderson Cooper will host the television debates, and will ask follow-up questions. But the primary questions will come from YouTube. Some of the people who submit videos will be offered a chance to attend the live debate -- which kind of begs the question, why don't they just go up to a microphone and ask a live question. But then you couldn't use visual aids to make your point (isn't the goal to get answers, not to make a point?).
After the debate, the questions and answers will be posted to YouTube. Whether young viewers will be any more likely to watch YouTube clips than a 2-hour televised/web-streamed debate remains to be seen, but it's nice to see some efforts to bring things into the 21st century.