I grappled with whether or not to Blog about this, but it's been on my mind since it first happened on December 27th, 2006. Senator John Edwards announced that he will be running for President of the United States of America in 2008. He made the announcement on YouTube with a video titled, Tomorrow Begins Today.
I'm not a political creature (especially when it comes to American politics). I have no idea if Edwards is a good (or bad) candidate, and I certainly have no opinion when it comes to what he stands for (mostly because I have no clue). I can tell you that I'm impressed with how he made the announcement, what the video looked like (he was in New Orleans with people in the background rebuilding a home damaged by Katrina) and how he urged people to share the video. His main message was that Americans should not wait for the election in 2008, but need to mobilize now.
His message, and how it was released via YouTube, is an important moment in understanding the power of online. Marketers are spending a lot of time uploading stuff to places like YouTube in hopes that it will stick. We hope that people will see our videos, share them, Blog about them and get the word out. We all do this for two main reasons: it's fast and it's cheap.
Edwards could have gone on a media junket. He could have lined-up all of the major news outlets first and then worked his way through the States that need his help the most, while making sure to avoid the media that would put a negative spin on his announcement. From there, the news would be crafted, produced and distributed to the people (I'm talking about you and me here).
Instead, Edwards crafted his own message, produced it with his people and distributed it himself. He told us (the people that can vote him - I know, I'm Canadian and I can't vote, but you get the idea) first and then the media (or so it felt). He got his message out: fast and cheap.
From a communications standpoint, this is a tectonic shift. I know Edwards is not the first to use a channel like YouTube to get a message out, but we're seeing more and more of this. Why go to the media anymore? If you have something to say, there are millions of people right at your fingertips (some of those people also happen to be the media). If your message is important, people will watch it and share it... with interest.
YouTube is not disrupting the traditional media channel. If the nightly news was on and Katie Couric was announcing that John Edwards was running for President in 2008, most of us would hardly blink or even pay attention to this news. When John Edwards makes a video like Tomorrow Begins Today and uploads it to YouTube, he's asking us personally what we think. For years we've waited for politicians to talk to us. Watch the video (yes, it still reeks of political gobbledygook, etc...), but there is something more "personal" about it. This is not disrupting what media has done, this is an entirely new way of informing the mass population.
This is what happens when You get to be the Time Magazine Person Of The Year. People start paying you more respect and attention.