Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: YouTube, YouVote

As college students, we are frequently told that this year’s presidential election is on us. But it’s also on YouTube. Nearly everything, from full-length clips of the debates to the Sarah Palin interview with Katie Couric to the candidates’ campaign commercials, can be found on the popular website that allows users to ‘broadcast themselves.”
It’s great that so many videos are available online because the website is so popular that is has become one of the most efficient ways to reach voters. A 2006 USA Today article reported that YouTube users were collectively watching more than 100 million videos per day. Now, that figure should be even higher. And more than just watching people do crazy things, people are using YouTube to gather political information. One video of Day One of the Couric-Palin interview has more than 2 million views.
Conversely, television audiences have declined, especially among the demographic that is most likely to frequent YouTube. A March 2008 Media Life Magazine article reported that television news ratings among the 18- to 34-year-old age bracket declined this season. According to the article, CBS went down 21 percent, ABC went down 13.5 percent and NBC went down 10 percent in this age group.
The potential problem with YouTube is that it blurs the line between an informational site and a simple vehicle for entertainment. Are people watching the Palin interviews because they care about the issues, or are they simply seeking a laugh? A better question yet is, who cares? As long as viewers are seeing the interviews, and other political content on YouTube, their motivation doesn’t matter.’
Still, because YouTube has such a captivated audience, the Google-owned site could make more of an effort to inform its users. When people read a newspaper, their eye often catches a headline and they wind up reading another story that they might not have otherwise discovered.
If YouTube changed its related video options so that a video about Russian politics accompanied a video about Sarah Palin claiming that she can see the country from Alaska, people might slowly start to expand their viewing bounds.
Even with that change, though, people are still going to seek out the information that they want to seek out. For what it is, YouTube is a great, convenient venue for gathering that information.
But as play counts of the Palin-Couric interview continue to climb on the site, viewers must remember that their vote counts in November.

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