How the parties are turning to the web…

This is definitely turning into the first YouTube election. That’s not Slugger talking, it’s the line from the BBC Newline programme (about 14 mins in). They feature the Reverend Billy video and notes only that some people had a problem with it (no mention of the role Slugger’s readers played in beta testing it, even though they knew about it). Elsewhere, Jeff Jarvis notes why YouTube and online are the way to go…

Update: Mark Devenport has a useful update on the story… (we were starting to feel just a bit invisible there)

The days of doing business by telling customers what they cannot do are nearing an end. If your customers want to watch your shows, listen to your songs, read your news, or play your games, can you still get away with telling them they cannot unless they come to you and use your devices, pay your fees, and follow your rules? That could work in a scarcity economy in which you owned all the stuff and the means to get it. But no more. Business isn’t about control any more.

And neither is politics, though it may take some more than putting up a few YouTube clips to learn that tough lesson. He continues…

Take Viacom. The American media giant – owner of MTV, Comedy Central, iFilm, Paramount, and much more – followed the old rules this month when it demanded that YouTube take down 100,000 clips that viewers had put up there. Mind you, Viacom was quite within its rights, for it controls the copyright to that content. And as a content creator myself, I’m no foe of copyright. It’s also clear that this is a negotiating move on Viacom’s part.

Still, it wasn’t a smart move. And here’s why: the evening before Viacom’s announcement, my teenage son and webmaster brought his laptop to the dinner table – yes, that is what life is like in the home of bloggers – and showed me a YouTube clip of his hero, Bill Gates, being interviewed by my hero, comic Jon Stewart, on Comedy Central’s faux news, The Daily Show. My son had never watched Stewart. Nor does he ever channel-surf the TV. The only – only – way he is going to discover a new show is via the internet, and the best way for him to do that is via YouTube. Yet the next day, that clip disappeared from YouTube and thus Viacom cut itself off from its future audience.

Comedy Central has put clips on its own site and even allows them to be embedded, like YouTube players, on blogs. Fine. But the first problem with that is that the network is speaking to the audience it already has. To attract a new audience – to make up for the free YouTube promotion it has now cut off – Viacom will have to invest marketing money. Control can be expensive. The second problem is that the network, not the audience, is picking the good stuff now. If your audience wants to praise and recommend and pass around your best stuff, why wouldn’t you let them, encourage them, enable them?

Indeed, that’s one reason… as Jarvis notes elsewhere, this is free stuff keeping control means you spend money marketing your message rather giving it away free!!! The scary thing is that the audience decides what floats and what sinks… which as I said above, is tough call for some of our politicos…

Rather than cutting off new distributors and promoters, I say that producers should be finding the ways to take full advantage of the opportunities they present. How can you build new audience for free and grow larger than you ever could when you were limited by your own distribution and marketing? How can you enable that growing audience to recommend and share your best stuff? How can you find yourself in a larger conversation – not just in comments on your site, but in the response videos people make on YouTube and elsewhere? How can you use this new medium to find new talent and new ways to make content for less?

And the key? According to Jarvis: “Find the flow. Then go with it”.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty