Sound bites, talking points and YouTube

Really interesting story at Politico by Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej about how YouTube is helping move us away from sound bite coverage to something more substantial.

“In the 1968 presidential election, the average amount of time given to a sound bite from presidential candidate on the network news shows was 43 seconds. In 1972 it dropped to 25. By 1988, it had shrunk to 9.8 seconds, and in 1996, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs and the Brookings Institution, to just 8.2 seconds. By 2004, a study by USC and the University of Wisconsin found that it had risen slightly to 10.3 seconds, but for all intents and purposes this was hardly much of an improvement.

Until now, all of national politics has operated within the context of those shrinking numbers. Since TV was the only way to reach millions of voters, and the only way to get your message across was to a) buy expensive airtime for 30-second TV ads or b) get free airtime by saying something memorable (and not damaging, unless aimed at your opponent), successful politicians have gotten very good at sticking to their talking points, speaking in sound-bites, and avoiding gaffes or detailed conversations as much as possible.”

My man Obama is proving these assumptions are out of date:

“So far, Obama’s videos have been viewed more than 33 million times on YouTube.com — and that’s not counting partial views, since YouTube only reports a full viewing as a “view.” His campaign has uploaded more than 800 video clips, and adds several more a day.”

In a pre-Internet era, the endless replayings on television of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sound bites denouncing America would probably have deeply damaged Obama’s candidacy. But millions of voters have been flocking to the web to watch his 37-minute response to the controversy.

Our longest newscast on our four state radio networks is 4 minutes. Only three of those being news. Even more popular –with affiliates– are our one-minute “capsules.” Formats which demand shorter and shorter sound bites.

But we now routinely post longer –sometimes complete– interviews with the stories we post to our websites.

I have to believe everyone is better served by new media alternatives.

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