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Obama’s New Media Guy Shares Learnings

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Speed, detail, taking risks, and just having a camera or five rolling have been key to Barack Obama’s success at engaging people through online video, according to Arun Chaudhary, director of video field production the campaign. But the real key — and the difference from previous elections — Chaudhary said during a public interview at NYU last night, is that people are now used to viewing video online.

“The technology was there three years ago, but I don’t think the right audience was,” said Chaudhary, according to an account of the interview by Nancy Scola. And he said the campaign’s biggest advantage is the foresight it had in taking video seriously, with a team of 50 working on new media, according to Silicon Alley Insider’s report.

However Chaudhary doesn’t think that user-generated content has had a big effect, calling it “an unrealized ideal.” Content sent to the campaign by voters is “a little strange,” he said. (It seems there was no mention of “Yes We Can;” which, while made by professionals, came from interested voters outside of the campaign.)

Some other good tidbits from Chaudhary, formerly an adjunct film professor at NYU, taken from the two reports:

– The popular video from Obama’s victory-of-sorts speech from June 6 at his Chicago HQ “wasn’t deliberately shot low-fi for an extra dose of authenticity.”

– The average viewer from Obama’s YouTube and web site metrics is apparently 45 to 55 years old.

– Longer clips, unscripted moments, and TV experiences were more popular than humorous clips. “The viewing reflects a hunger not to be entertained, but to know something about the candidate,” says SAI.

– If Obama is elected, Chaudhary said he expects video to become even more important, “cutting out the middleman” and giving people direct access to government.

4 Responses to “Obama’s New Media Guy Shares Learnings”

  1. Political harnessing of the capabilities of the internet just follow whatever technology is available at the time. The job of the people in charge is to best avail that technology, but its not a huge secret what is going to be effective.

  2. I’m finding it hysterical that we’ve all adopted the term “authenticity” to equate to shitty production values. Stop and realize how ridiculous that is for a moment. It took a linguist who stopped me after a conference to raise my attention to it (it’s almost as bad as “monetize” becoming a verb).

    Back to Obama- I have to say that I think that he was a beneficiary of timing even if there was some good planning/execution. We wanted a leader that wouldn’t make us vomit in the back of our throats, and he was the least offensive of the choices. It helps that he’s charasmatic and good looking. That’s why his raw footage popped on the “most watched” and Hillary’s most viewed videos were almost always parodies. And I long stopped viewing any video titled Bush.

    So I’m giving Obama a B plus. If he had shown a little Mike Gravel-like energy to social media, he’d get an A. But he didn’t talk directly to people via video (just public speeches), he didn’t interact with online-video folks (like… um… Obama girl), and he didn’t really have a presence except that created by his supporters.

    My two cents.