R.I.P. UGC in this Presidential Race?


Maybe the presidential candidates at this point are so over YouTube that they can’t be bothered to sit through yet another round of user-submitted questions at 10Questions.com. The site was produced by techPresident in conjunction with the editorial board of the The New York Times and MSNBC, and just about every high-profile political blog signed on as a sponsor (even Rocketboom did a video intro). But even with all this political pundrity muscle, only three candidates have agreed to participate, and of them, only one has bothered to answer any of the 10 questions. Maybe the bloom is off the UGC rose in this election cycle.

The idea behind 10Questions was a good one. The site received 217 user-submitted questions, which, by way of popular vote, were narrowed down to 10. The 10 questions were then posed to candidates from both parties who could answer via their own videos. But the execution of its seems to be a bust.

So far only Huckabee, Edwards and Paul have agreed to participate, and only Huckabee has posted any answers. (There is one video answer from Obama, but it’s a clip taken from the MySpace debate and seems to have been just thrown in the mix.) The deadline for candidate responses is Dec. 15, so Giuliani, Clinton et al may just be waiting each other out and plan to post at the last minute — but with only three confirmed as of today, this seems unlikely.

That’s too bad, because there are some really good questions asked by everyday people on topics ranging from Net neutrality to theocracy to the two-party system. There are no snowmen, no shotgun tossing and no Anderson Cooper moderating the discussion. Even better, viewers are asked to vote on whether the candidate answered the question, not whether or not they agree with the answer.

Here’s a question on Net neutrality, and Huckabee’s response.

10Questions was contacted for this story, but didn’t respond.

Perhaps UGC has run its course in this election. Even Liz said the Republican YouTube debate was a snoozer — and she got paid to watch it. Maybe it’s just the realization that whether it’s Tim Russert or your next-door neighbor Tim asking the question, politicians will still do their best to avoid giving a straight answer.

What do you think? Is UGC over for presidential hopefuls in 2008? Fire up your own political thought process in our comments below.

Update: So it turns out that 10Questions did indeed try to respond to me yesterday, but thanks to the magic of the web it was delivered to the wrong email address. Micah Sifry, co-founder of techPresident, called to let me know that John Edwards’ answers are now up on the site. He also said his organization is in active talks with the Obama, Clinton and Paul campaigns and that hopefully those answers will be posted before Friday’s deadline as well. (Obama’s sole answer up on the site was not just “thrown in there,” Sifry assured me.)

Sifry is still a big believer in the power of UGC in campaigns, citing its ability to involve a community. However, he does concede that with the primaries right around the corner, the only thing candidates are thinking about is getting votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Perhaps once the primaries are over, the remaining candidate from each party will recognize the opportunity they have with 10Questions.

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