Politics of the Future: Digital and Social Media

What if President Obama held press conferences not in the White House, but on Google Hangout? What if he answered questions asked by the American people, rather than the news correspondents? Earlier this month India’s Finance Minister P Chidambaram did just that. The minister participated in a live video conference that lasted hour, but the conference sparked conversations that lasted quite longer (e.g. #askthefm).

“People have been calling this era of computers, the Internet, and telecommunications the ‘information age’ … What we’re really in now is the empowerment age…This power is shifting…to a new paradigm of power that is democratically distributed and shared by all of us.” – Joe Trippi, author of Revolution Will Not be Televised

President Obama's current Facebook banner.

President Obama’s current Facebook banner.

Today everyone and everything is going social. Barack Obama and Fançois Hollande are on Facebook, and even The White House, the WTO, and the United Nations tweet.Digital media has become a new form of infrastructure. The United Kingdom offers virtual tours of Parliament buildings. The EU website has an Audiovisual Newsroom. Online presence is a public expectation.

The virtual world has a very real influence.The last two years proved digital and social media’s power to mobilize entire nations (i.e. revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria). Minister Chidambaram’s conference is further evidence of a growing desire to not only pay attention to the man (or woman) behind the curtain, but to eliminate the curtain altogether.

 

Ellie Goulding Hosts Album Signing via Google+

I always like finding unconventional uses for social media, and British singer/songwriter Ellie Goulding wins the award for the day: today, she’ll become the first musician to host an album signing in a Google+ hangout.

From what I gather, there will be a form to “gain entry” to the event, and signed albums will be distributed to fans via snail mail. Admittedly, I was never much of a Google+ user, and Google’s effort to de-throne Facebook as the king of social media largely failed and Google+ looks more or less like a ghost town (seriously, when was the last time I logged in? Forever ago?), the “hangout” group video chat feature was one of the better things to come out of it, and I think Ellie has found an extremely creative use for it.

 

Ellie Goulding is no stranger to social media network-based interaction, either. The music video for her song “Anything Can Happen” was made with fan-submitted Instagram photos.

Both the Google+-based hangout and the crowdsourced music video are extremely clever uses of a social media platform, and exactly the kind of fan unconventional, fan-driven interaction that more social media marketing companies should be striving to drive! I’m not personally an Ellie Goulding fan, but much like composer Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir, it is something a broad range of people can participate in without having to travel anywhere, and something that people can point to and say “Yeah, I did that. And it was awesome.

Row, row, row your show, gently down the stream

Online video streaming is pretty convenient, wouldn’t you say?

I now stream most of my entertainment online which is why I haven’t been inside a video store in years. A trip to the video store used to be such a routine part of enjoying TV shows and movies. Now, the concept almost seems archaic – driving to the store, browsing the shelves, waiting in line to check out a DVD, having to return a film to the same location, etc. And don’t forget late fees! Oh, those late fees!

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

What had been a successful business model for years began to erode once the concept of online streaming caught on with the public and the amount of available content became extensive. Blockbuster, once the nation’s dominant provider of home video and video game rental services, filed for bankruptcy in 2010. My independent neighborhood video store closed long before that.

I’ve been a Netflix member for a few years now, and I subscribe to their streaming service. I’m fond of documentary programming and they have an extensive selection of shows from National Geographic, Discovery, and History Channel. I’ve also watched several cable TV shows via streaming – “Mad Men,” “Weeds,” “Louie,” etc.

It’s been interesting to observe Netflix’s business model change as a result of streaming. When I first joined, the company primarily handled DVD rentals. Their streaming selection was limited and it was included as a bonus to members. Now, their offerings are vast and feature many newly released mainstream movies. The service now holds real value, and so I can understand why Netflix recently began offering streaming as a separate service.

And then there’s YouTube. I admit that I’ve enjoyed all the top viral videos along with what seems like the rest of the general viewing public – “Chocolate Rain,” “Friday,” “Charlie Bit My Finger,” etc. I’m amazed that a family video of one brother biting another brother can be viewed 484 million times!

I love the controlled chaos of YouTube. It’s like decades of pop culture exploded and landed on the site. YouTube satisfies whatever random thing happens to enter my head at any given time on any given day – a favorite scene from a movie, a song I enjoyed when I was a teen. It’s rare that I can’t find something.

Again, streaming comes down to convenience and accessibility, concepts the digital marketing agency knows well. If the mantra of today’s consumer of news and entertainment is “I want what I want when I want it,” then providers like Netflix and YouTube are happy to oblige.