Obama’s New Media Guy Shares Learnings

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.


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