Friday, January 20, 2012

Built For Speed

Joshua Tucker looks at insta-YouTube videos posted immediately after debates and asks:
It seems to me that there are a number of good papers waiting to be written on these sort of rapid response ads. Most basically, I wonder how many people see them? More generally, though, I wonder how much potential they have to drive media coverage of the event, and to frame the take away point from the debate. (e.g., I found this add through the Politico website in a story on the debate in, actually, a blog entry as opposed to even a featured article.) Can they exacerbate already existing problems for candidates? Finally, I wonder if these rapid response adds posted on YouTube could function as a laboratory to test out which adds are most effective. So you run a bunch of rapid response ads on the internet, see which ones generate the most traction, and then decide which ones to spend your money on in a TV buy. Obviously, there is a much larger question out there about whether ads matter at all , but for now I’m just focusing on the more specific question of the effects of rapid response ads.
I think the proper framework for this is (as Tucker says) how these videos affect the press, and the way to think of them is that they are a major improvement over the old "spin room," in which the candidates' campaigns would interact with the reporters covering the events. But the real innovation here isn't the videos; it's Twitter. The idea of reporters, pundits, and operatives all discussing (if that's the right word) the debate as it's going on, and not just in a press room at the site but around the country, is certainly something new and different.

Here's my question: does this produce more or less pack journalism than the older coverage, which was (presumably) more dependent on that spin room process?

Generally, I'd be interested in knowing how differences in how mainstream conventional wisdom have evolved over the years. In the 1980s and 1990s (and before, but there were fewer televised nomination debates) it seems to me that post-debate analysis on TV, and especially on CNN, was probably a big factor. In the last decade, presumably instantly published blog posts started becoming more influential. Today, you have that, and the in-debate twitter traffic. Can we see different outcomes over these different eras? Are on-the-scene reporters less influential now? Do we get more, or less, of a consensus on who "won" or lost these things, and on what the big moments were (of course, that's where those videos come in, too)?  What differences emerge in how all of this plays out in the old neutral press compared to the growing partisan press on both sides?

I agree with Tucker: with any luck, we'll get some very interesting findings about all of this soon. Given that there's a very good chance that the nomination debates had at least significant short-term effects, figuring out how they work seems to be a worthwhile place to do some work.


  1. I find it interesting that when I read blog posts that have embedded videos, I invariably find the video (if I look at them) to be less definitive than the blog post describes. But more often than not, I don't even look at the video because I find the posts, in themselves to be more interesting. Which, of course, leaves me open to the spin of the writer. But since I don't have a horse in this particular race, it doesn't matter at the moment.

  2. This primary seems to be largely driven by post-debate-blogs. That seems very new and strange. Every surge and collapse has been driven by debate performance and blogger coverage. Old school stuff like campaigns, money, and tv adds don't feel very relevant.

    At least, that's how it seems to me. But then I read political blogs and don't watch Fox or listen to Limbaugh. They may be the real drivers of the narrative.


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