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Futurewatch: Politics

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The live stream tells a story, and the audience watching the stream on Kevin’s internet site clearly sees the story as it unfolds. That is the beauty of streaming media—this one person can show the worn workers who have lost their jobs in a town where the major media outlets might not have a presence. The presidential candidate’s speech can be viewed by thousands of online viewers who are able to virtually attend the event thanks to streaming media. Viewers can respond to a candidate’s speech in real time in an associated chat room. Streaming media created this new world, a world in which individuals can stream media from places and events not covered by journalists. Could Kevin’s stream, along with others like it, affect the outcome of the election? It’s too early to say, but for the first time, such a possibility exists.

New Communications and Fundraising Opportunities
Streaming media tells the story. A number of 2008 presidential candidates are adopting and supporting the technology of streaming media to tell their stories. Mitt Romney streamed from his war room following the Republican CNN/YouTube debate. John Edwards has streamed chats after several debates. In April 2007, MSNBC streamed a Democratic debate live in high-definition from the campus of South Carolina State University. Iowa Public Television presented a live stream of The Des Moines Register-sponsored presidential debates in December 2007. These are just a few examples of the incorporation of streaming media into the 2008 presidential campaigns.

Of course, presidential candidates continue to time their entry into races and other publicity opportunities so that they’ll receive maximum coverage by traditional media. But one dynamic shaping the 2008 presidential campaign in new and exciting ways is the proliferation of alternative media outlets that provide innovative methods for campaigns to broadcast information. Streaming media has come together with blogs to create a new avenue for politicians to raise money and make contact with voters at the grassroots level rather than through multimillion dollar networks.

The growth of wireless internet access and streaming technologies provides new outlets for candidates—as well as journalists, bloggers, and voters—to shape and deliver messages. YouTube and similar sites, along with blogs, have moved aggressively into the mainstream since the 2004 election. The emergence of portable, easy-to-use equipment for converting video and audio into a format that can be streamed over the web has enabled almost anyone to create an online soapbox.

Innovative streaming capabilities create a huge new arena for candidates. Streaming provides candidates with the ability to optimize their messages to audiences, enables them to webcast their speeches to larger and more diverse groups of constituents, including donors, and allows them to examine their audience traffic through web analytics.

Consider the 18-to-30 age group. This demographic—with little inclination to watch the 6 o’clock news—is now immersed in the whirlwind world of politics through the culture of the internet. Blog4President.us (http://blog.4president.org/2008) is a blog that aggregates coverage of all candidates running in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign. Not only is the 18-to-30 demographic affected, but 3 out of 4 Americans now have access to the internet from their own homes, meaning that the impact of streaming media is reaching far beyond the usual suspects. With the current individual limit of $2,300 for contributions to a single campaign, grassroots techniques that enable candidates to create deeper, more personal bonds with these new audiences and larger numbers of contributors are a key component to campaign success.

The spread of streaming video as a campaign tool is also important for the television and print media. Journalists cannot attend every campaign or stop and listen to every campaign speech from beginning to end. Now, journalists and others have a means of covering campaigns more thoroughly and more cost-effectively. Reporters on deadlines now have immediate access to live speeches, live debates, and archived materials to help them file their stories much more quickly and provide this enhanced information to voters in a timelier manner—and even in real time.

Beyond Soundbites
In prior elections, candidates have had only the news media to rely on for dissemination of their campaigns. All too often, the messages are distilled into small sound bites that do not tell the complete story. Basic questions have gone unanswered too long. Who is the candidate, really? What does the candidate wish to accomplish, why, and how? Streaming media technology places ownership of the message into candidates’ and voters’ control. Streaming media enables the message to be distributed in full and optimally shared. Using streaming media, candidates can webcast their speeches over the internet from virtually any stop along the campaign trail, stream content to cell phones, and deliver content easily downloadable to other devices. Along the way, streaming media technology allows an archive of original material to be created that journalists, voters, and other commentators can use in conjunction with television and print media to relay a broader and deeper spectrum of the candidates’ political views.

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