Obama Brings YouTube to the White House

Mari Silbey —  November 14, 2008 — 5 Comments

It’s unclear how many listen to President George W. Bush’s weekly radio addresses. I suppose reporters tune in, because I occasionally catch an excerpt on NPR, but I’ve never heard of anyone setting up their own podcast feed from WhiteHouse.gov for the weekly words of wisdom. Will that change when President-Elect Barak Obama takes over?

According to The Washington Post, Obama appears to be planning a weekly video address to be distributed on the White House’s own YouTube Channel. During the campaigns both political parties used online video extensively, but we’ve had no real indications until now of how much the government-based “new media” rage would continue post election. A YouTube channel certainly makes sense, but I’m hesitant to get too giddy over the fact that the weekly address will utilize a new medium.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m entirely supportive of an Obama administration that uses YouTube. But I wonder how well the administration will be able to use it. Will the weekly addresses come across as oratory or conversation? Should the President really have an ongoing conversation with the public or should he be operating at an entirely different level? Will the YouTube channel have comments enabled? Will the adminstration ever respond to comments? Will other video sites or bloggers be able to distribute or embed segments? The questions go on and on, and I certainly don’t know the answers. But those answers will determine whether the new YouTube addresses get watched by the public during the next administration, or only by reporters and historians. After all, how much does it matter if you have a YouTube channel, or a blog, or a Twitter account? It’s what you have to say and how you say it that matters.

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5 responses to Obama Brings YouTube to the White House

  1. The only time I’ve ever heard weekly radio address was on The Daily Show / Colbert Report.

  2. …I can answer some:

    Q: Will the YouTube channel have comments enabled?
    A: Yes. of course.

    Q: Will the administration ever respond to comments?
    A: Doubtful actual white staff will, but I imagine they’ll have the RSS feed in their readers, maybe glance at the top rated comments.

    Q: Will other video sites or bloggers be able to distribute or embed segments?
    A: Of course.

    You can also expect the Smithsonian and the National Archives to establish a new method to proper annotate and archive these weekly videos.

    YouTube has already enable machine translation of the spoken audio into text ( which is awesome by the way ) so you can look forward to some nice semantic data too!

    What I don’t know is if video responses will be allowed, that’s up in the air, and I would imagine they will err on the side of caution and wait a bit, see how all of the above goes.

    Like I said over at DLS – After 8 years of secrecy, collusion, dis-information and outright lies, seems almost too good to be true!

  3. I think this is the first real sign that we are living in a post-television world, and more importantly a post-big-media world.

    Two-way communication will be the only way anyone can get elected from now on.

  4. Who thinks this is just another stunt, raise your hand.

  5. Even if it is only 1 way, it is still an improvement – who even watches TV any more. At least with TouTube we get to choose when & where we watch it.

    Of course 2-way feedback is the ultimate but how to do it practically? If it was successful there would be millions of comments which make it difficult to process. Maybe it could be connected to an Internet polling function, etc.?

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