Tag Archives: YouTube

Lessons Learned from Obama

Friday morning, I had the pleasure to speak to 25 political activists (Radikal Ungdom) from Denmark who had been campaigning in Florida for Obama. I asked them to share their campaign moments and I really enjoyed their stories from Florida – and a few from Danish campaigns. Furthermore, I learned a lot about campaigning in Denmark. (I have never participated in a political campaign. I have only observed campaigns and worked with politicians when they are in office.)


Here’s an excerpt of my notes on what we can learn from Obama´s use of social media:


Not for Everyone

Now every campaign or politician wants to copy Obama’s masterfully run campaign. All the tools are out there for everyone to use, but I don’t think they’re for everyone. Using the tools in a wrong way is much more damaging than not using them. I think it is one of the major lessons that we can learn from this election. For instance, Hillary Clinton used most of the tools – but she was not authentic (I will explore this more when I have time, please tell me if you have some links covering how to be authentic online/offline).


Take a look at @hillaryclinton on Twitter. Almost 6,000 are following her, but she does not follow anyone. 132,304 are following @BarackObama who’s following 127364. When I signed up to follow him, his campaign signed up immediately after to follow me. That’s a signal of interaction and conversation!


It’s Not Just About the Tools

Furthermore, Obama did not win just because he mastered Web 2.0. He mastered running a campaign integrating all kinds of campaign disciplines: messaging, polling, microtargeting, debating, stump speech, crisis management, media relations, digital communications (social media), and the ground game (GOTV). Most importantly, Obama’s message matched him as a messenger and inspired supporters. And don’t forget his formidable communications skills. Few politicians are as gifted as Obama.


Social Media Tools:

Here’s what we learn from Obama’s use of especially four social media tools:


Cell phone

Text messages are an intimate way for a campaign to mobilize supporters to register or vote. And they increase voter turnout in an effective way; A study from 2006 showed that text-message reminders helped increase turnout among younger voters by four percentage points. In a follow up survey, 59% of recipients reported that the reminder was helpful and only 23% who found it inconvenient. Furthermore, it is cheaper than canvassing and other offline activities.


Therefore, it is an effective tool to reach out to especially young voters under 30 because around 1/3 of this group only have cell phones.


Obama used cell phones as a tool in both the primaries and in the general election for mobilization (not fundraising). McCain text messaged his supporters once; the day before Election Day.



Two Types of Video

 2004: No YouTube


2006: George Allen lost his campaign for the Senate in Virginia (and couldn’t run as president) because of racial slur captured on a YouTube clip.


2008: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announce their campaigns on YouTube:




1. Video by the Candidates

The Obama campaign strategically used its YouTube channel/campaign website and often used it instead of traditional media. For instance, the announcement of Obama’s VP came first on a text message telling supporters that they could watch on www.barackobama.com


  • Speeches
    • Obama’s race speech in Philadelphia in March is among the most viewed clips on YouTube.
    • YouTube only count for those who have watched all of it.
    • As far as I can count from the various clips of the speech around 8 million people have watched this speech in its full length.
    • The speech is 38 minutes long
    • YouTube is not killing the sound bite but it is giving campaigns/politicians a tool where they can explain complicated ideas – as Obama did here.
  • Causal videos
    • Behind the scene – which reporters do not necessarily get access to
    • Campaign Manager David Plouffe’s up dates on video included in emails to supporters. See for example:


2. User-generated video


Vote Different



Yes We Can


Social Networking

The goal of social networking in a campaign is to mobilize supporters/voters to take action offline (call, organize, register, vote). The Obama campaign used its campaign site website www.mybarackobama.com to spread the message of the campaign and gave its supporters a lot of tools that they could use offline.


For instance, a supporter could download a phone list and call from home. Of course the opponent can use the same list, but the benefits of opening up exceed the costs. It is easy to make a few calls from wherever you are, and a supporter doesn’t have to go to the campaign office and take up space!


Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are an effective way to spread the message among already established networks or friends. Studies (see for example Applebee’s America or Influentials) show that we are more likely to trust a friend of ours than a political expert on TV.


Social networking sites have also been a tool to collect cell phone numbers and emails. Furthermore, when supporters have registered on MyBarackObama.com they give the campaign demographic data and contact information which are important as part of customer relationship management (please see end note). The campaign can email or text message directly with personal messages to the individual supporter when and where it is necessary. 




It is hard to completely separate social networking from fundraising and the field organization. Social networking is only one element of fundraising and field organization, but it is the integration of those “disciplines” that are amazing and groundbreaking about Obama’s campaign.


However, Obama’s fundraising effort aided his victory on Election Night. According to OpenSecrets,his campaign relied on bigger donors and smaller donors nearly equally, pulling in successive donations mostly over the Internet.” Obama also rejected public financing when he entered the general election.


Traditionally, fundraising has been aimed at around 50,000 wealthy American donating a maximum of $4,600 to the primaries and general election. The Obama campaign has not, yet, released all its numbers, so we do not know exactly how many donated online. Garrett Graff has estimated that 3,5 – 5 million people have.


From this perspective Obama does not owe special interest anything. (However, the unions might feel he does). 


Obama has built on Howard Dean’s fundraising success in 2004 allowing small donations online. The campaign has wisely integrated a “donate” bottom in emails and on the campaign website so it is hard to miss.


(Garrett Graff inspired me in working on this notes. Met him briefly the day after the election and of course my notes from his classes in the spring and summer helped me as well. Paul Johnson and George Thompson, my current professors in Political Campaign Communication, will also recognize a few of their points. I have retrieved the notion of costumer relations management from Mette Bom´s and Birgitte Raben´s article in the Danish magazine Mandag Morgen MyPresident.com:Sociale medier vinder præsidentvalget”about Obama´s social media strategy. Unfortuantely, I cannot link to it).



My YouTube Test

I am still high from the best class this semester (I don´t dare writing ever….but it was really good and I learned A LOT about YouTube.) Garrett Graff had invited James Kotecki to come to our class. Garrett introduced Kotecki as the guy who makes Garreff feel old. Did you see this in New York Times yesterday? I can´t help asking do you have to be young to do this? Well, I am glad that Charlene Li, Schoble, Jarvis – and others I follow on Twitter and elsewhere are not in their 20s. But I have to admit that everytime I have been fighting with YouTube, I have had the feeling of being old and a tech-illerate (which I am). Thanks Amber – for showing me how to embed YouTube into my blog. Just to prove I can do it – I embed YES WE CAN.

Hardball on EmergencyCheese


As BloggingItIn, I checked the definition of journalism on Wikipedia:

Journalism is a style of writing or communicating, formally employed by publications and broadcasters, for the benefit of a particular community of people. The writer or journalist is expected to take the help of facts in describing events, ideas, or issues that are relevant to the public. Journalists…. gather information, and broadcast it so we remain informed about local, state, national, and international events…..”

Interestingly, the last debate on the discussion page about the relationship between new media and journalism dates back to 2004 and is not reflected on the page in general. Does it need to? Is there a difference between, for instance, what James Kotecki on the YouTube channel EmergencyCheese does and what Chris Matthews does on Hardball?

They are both gathering and publishing information to inform me as a viewer about important events, but Matthews has an old media company behind him who pays him an awful lot of money. Kotecki is just himself using his Macbook to report from a modest dorm room on the Georgetown University campus. Hence, Kotecki was not formally employed by a publication or broadcaster. Does it make him less of a journalist?

 Yes, according to the Wikipedia definition. No, according to Dan Gillmor, author of We The Media, YouTube and blogs are among the tools that “allows anyone to become a journalist at little cost and, in theory, with global reach” (Gillmor, 2006, intro).

What we see is that journalism is moving from being a lecture to a conversation or from one-to-many to many-to-many. Both Kotecki and Matthews are offering news commentary and analysis. I also think shows like Hardball and Countdown with Keith Olbermann are aired in primetime because viewers want to watch parts of the conversation and not just what the Boys on the Bus present to them. According to an article in the New Yorker about Keith Olbermann, the show’s ratings grew nearly 70 percent when Olbermann started his Special Comments, and the show did not make money until this point. (The problem is of course, as we have concluded earlier in this semester, that we tend to participate in the concentric circles of our own political ideology.)

Kotecki is a journalist just like Matthews because he employs the core value of journalism: accuracy and fairness, Kotecki is participating in the larger conversation about the elections and he provides context. It does not matter whether he or any reporter belongs to a formal publisher or broadcaster. But as Jay Posen stressed out at PdF 2008, there are professional and amateur journalists. Both of them belong to the press, and they connect online. “It still works vertically: press to public. It also works horizontally: peer-to-peer. Part of it is a closed system – and closed systems are good at enforcing editorials controls – the other part is an open system,” Posen noted. And there is the main difference between Kotecki on EmergencyCheese and Matthews on Hardball; Kotecki is his own editor, Matthews is referring to an editor. Posen argues that the two systems do not work the same way, but that does not mean they are enemies. The future of journalism is a merger between professional and amateurs and openness with some control.

You can argue that old media like MSNBC has done some critical thinking and background test since they allow Matthews to broadcast his views. On the other hand, I would never have watched EmergencyCheese if the wisdom of the crowd had not let the channel be featured on YouTube. Call to action: Someone should revise the Wikipedia page including the nuances of journalism in the 21st century.

The First Web 2.0 War

I knew it was out there. I have probably not really wanted to look into it. But I have seen way too many You Tube clips and blogs about war and death the last of couple of days. It is more “safe” to read about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in New York Times from time to time in order to keep up dated on the political debate and the war itself.  I am totally on the same path as BeckBlogic Weblog and CMK Dimples Weblog.


Watching You Tube, listening to podcasts like War News Radio or reading blogs like this one and this one, you get behind the political debate and face the people who are really fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do we need those stories? Absolutely – because it gives us unfiltered access to Iraqis, soldiers, spouses, and the enemy. Of course all of them have their own agenda and you should not loose that perspective. Is it good or bad? I do not know what good or bad means in this case. I guess we see more horrified pictures from the front lines, but did anyone expect it to be less bloody? Tangets in a Virtual Playground has a good point in saying human beings have always been fascinated by war and fighting. And propaganda has always been part of wars and winners have defined history. Think about the great story of Thucydides and the Battle of Hastings (1066) recorded in the Bayex Tapestry. Hitler is famous for his propaganda machine and I am not so sure that it would have made a huge difference if he had a Nazi Website as my professor Garrett Graff remarked in class. I am not sure Churchill or any other political leader would have reacted in a different way. I am not so sure this contra-factual discussion is helpful because no matter what Web 2.0 means that the governments and military organizations cannot control the message anymore. Future wars are networked wars. Collaboration instead of control will be the keyword for the military just like for companies and governments.


The Web also gives voice to veterans to oppose the war. Is that good or bad for the American political debate and democracy? In the Atlantic Monthly, Andrew J. Bacevich argues that “empowering groups of soldiers to join in the debate over contentious issues is short-sighted and dangerous” because it implies that wars cannot be fought without the consent of the soldiers. I agree – it is a political decision to go to war. On the other hand, since the president has prerogatives in deciding when and where to go to war (as far as I understand) isn’t it healthy in a democracy that citizens can challenge the decision? And can we in a democracy ask a group of citizens not to participate because they have served the country?


In class we talked about blogging and You Tubing as a psychological way to processing the horrifying experiences soldiers go through on a daily basis. I am actually a bit surprised to see the feelings that tough soldiers express in their blogs and their morbid humour on You Tube. It might change the stereotyped perceptions of soldiers and vets: they do have feelings and they are not afraid to share them with the rest of us.  

You Tube and me

This is a test. Knock knock. I have been trying 100s of time to publish You Tube clips on my blog. It seems like I do not have the Personal Options bottom that I have to uncheck. And when I try to upload video the screen freezes.   

It worked on another computer, but not on my own. I cannot send the clip to Editor. Strange. What´s going on?