Is Obama’s Press Conference a Sign of Online News to Come?

Just about every news channel is covering President Obama’s press conference this evening. That’s a lot of coverage for what is essentially a Q&A session. All this attention could be because the world is going to hell in a handbasket and this is Obama’s first formal press outing, but at the same time, it could be part of a new era in live online event coverage.

OK, sure. Obama is a rock star. Online video of his inauguration was watched by millions (bringing some news sites to their knees). His first weekly address as President on YouTube was seen more than a million times, his second nearly a quarter million times and this past weekend’s did more than 130,000 views in two days.

But combine his star wattage with what the news outlets seem to learning from organizations like CBS Sports: Online audiences are additive, not cannibalistic. The reasons for not carrying a webcast of a live event are dwindling (unless you’re like NBC and want to hoard the Olympics). Instead of losing West Coast audiences because of the time difference, live online video has been shown to re-capture eyeballs that might be lost otherwise (see: The Golf U.S. Open, the Tennis U.S. Open and oh yeah, the inauguration).

Also, in the competitive world of news where seconds matter, why wouldn’t a news outlet have footage online, and immediately on-demand (and immediately Google-able) should something newsworthy happen? More and more people are getting their news online, especially audiences under 30. For all those youngsters looking for coverage of breaking events, they’re going to go to the web — give them video.

This makes events like last nights Grammys and the upcoming Oscars all the more antiquated for not having live webcasts. The Grammys had a Twitter feed; why not have video clips immediately ready for viewing as well? If someone is only getting the text news feed and not watching the show, they already aren’t in the audience. Add a few more viewers online by adding video.

If Obama’s online video numbers stay up, perhaps he’ll usher in more than a new era of citizen participation in the political process. Maybe coverage of his events will spur something really important — like watching Hollywood come out to shine, live and online.