Friday, August 18, 2006

Politicos beware: You live in YouTube's world

August 18, 2006 edition

Politicos beware: You live in YouTube's world
By Linda Feldmann
The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON – S.R. Sidarth never imagined his 15 minutes of fame would come from a sleepy campaign stop in the southwest Virginia town of Breaks. Or that his handiwork with a camcorder would catapult to the list of most-watched videos on the Web's most-trafficked video site. Or that The Washington Post would devote an entire article to exploring exactly what to call the 20-year-old college student's hairstyle - a mohawk or a mullet? (Answer: neither.)
Sen. George Allen (R) of Virginia also surely never imagined that the young man assigned to track his campaign appearances would cause him days of grief, simply by recording a comment that critics have called "racist" or, at best, "insensitive."

But in the brave new world of YouTube politics, almost anything is possible. And just 18 months after its launch, the website is already playing an integral role in campaigns.

Supporters of Ned Lamont, the Democratic upstart who beat Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut primary Aug. 8, discovered that by capturing funny, embarrassing, and otherwise telling campaign moments on video and posting them on YouTube, they could reach voters in a way that's far more entertaining than over-the-top rants by bloggers.

Anyone familiar with the Mentos-and-cola phenomenon - put the candy in the soda and watch it explode - has probably already visited YouTube. But for the uninitiated, YouTube is a free site that allows people to post, watch, and share video clips. By plugging in keywords, as with search engines, users can easily find topics of interest. The searchability is key....