GOTV: Get Out the Video
Not only did Senator Barack Obama change his title from Senator to President-Elect on Tuesday, but the night was used to unveil new broadcast tools. From CNN to Fox to MSNBC, new touchscreens and giant on-set monitors were used to trace the history of voting by state and county as results came in.
While the traditional broadcasters had large screens, massive sets (both virtual and real), and multiple camera operators, the blogosphere and social media sites used armies of one to get out the news of the vote.
Streaming companies also got into the political spirit, offering tools that let the electorate stream content that their friends, fellow citizens, and even global viewers could use to experience the moment. One of the new streaming tools rolled out, the YouTube Video Your Vote, allowed citizens to post videos in a variety of categories.
Not only was there an early voting category, but also one for perspectives on voting, problems at the polls (registration, polling place, or voter issues) and a notable voter designation. Each video showed up on a map of the United States, with a pin in the geographic location of the video, and a color to match it to the particular category.
Over the course of the afternoon and evening the number of pins grew, and by Wednesday morning there were more than 1,200 pins—most of which fell under the perspectives category, but several of which highlighted alleged voter intimidation and polling problems.
Another tool that traditional radio and cable broadcasters used were the behind-the-scenes streams. Foxnews.com had an unfiltered video stream of its newsroom, while a radio station site —Stickam.com—streamed anchor audio feeds for CBS' KNX 1070 Newsradio and KABC Talkradio, both out of Los Angeles.
Elections are also a good time to get brand awareness for a socially responsible company or product. Starbucks joined the ranks with its "Free Cup of Coffee" promotion designed to provide a free cup of tall coffee to anyone who visited a Starbucks on Election Day and said that they voted.
Not only was the Starbucks commercial shown during Saturday Night Live, but it was also shown before and after SNL clips of candidate John McCain and Palin-lookalike Tina Fey that made their rounds on the internet on Sunday and Monday. Unfortunately, election officials in Starbucks’ home state of Washington told the company federal law prohibits payment of money, goods, or services in return for voting.
"Federal law makes no distinction between cups of coffee or a raffle ticket versus a buy-the-vote kind of thing on the other end of the spectrum,'' said David Ammons, spokesman for the Washington secretary of state. "We just told Starbucks, essentially, no good deed goes unpunished. We appreciate the gesture, but it's forbidden.''
"What if we all cared enough to vote? Would our world be a better place? We think so, too,'' the streaming commercial, teased at the beginning of SNL clips and then played in full at the end of the clip. "Come into Starbucks on Nov. 4th, tell us you voted, and we'll proudly give you a tall cup of brewed coffee on us.''
Starbucks responded, as did Ben & Jerry’s who had a similar promotion, by offering completely free product to anyone who asked, within a particular time window.
What about those citizens who didn’t have a television? One Slashdot.com questioner asked how best to watch the election live.
"A couple of years ago, we dumped our cable TV, and don't have much luck getting old-fashioned broadcast where we live," the poster said. "That's fine — we can download or Netflix almost anything we want to see. Problem is, now I want to watch the election live, complete with talking heads, pundits, glitzy graphics, and all the rest, rather than reading about it on a website. So, is there any way to download network TV/CNN/MSNBC in real time — I don't mind paying."
A variety of respondents mentioned that CNN, MSNBC, and FOX all had live streams of breaking news (McCain's concession, Obama's victory speech). A few of those sites also kept pertinent streams noted at the top of the banner with a "watch live" tag as the streams were rebroadcast.
Despite the fact that live streams online were simulcast along with traditional broadcasts, one respondent offered practical advice.
"It might be more worthwhile to head to your local sports bar," the poster said. They'll very likely have the election results on. If your candidate of choice wins, you celebrate; if the other guy wins, you drown away your sorrows . . ."