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Google Involved in Digital Democracy

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The 2006 elections mark a new era in the way that candidates for various political offices are promoting their platforms to the voting public. Google Video, YouTube, and Google Earth are some of the virtual avenues that today’s candidates are utilizing to reach out to the Internet voter.

Another November election looms on the horizon, bringing with it the usual media circus that Americans have come to know and expect from these political races. Newspapers, radio, and television will become rife with campaign advertising as candidates attempt to sway voters to their respective partisan constituency.

The Internet, however, could have the most significant impact on the 2006 electoral landscape.

But that influence isn’t going to come from the standard campaign material found on the typical candidate’s website. Instead, politicians are embracing a new means of engaging the Internet voting demographic

Online video content.

YouTube and Google Video have long-since been a repository for hours upon hours of video content laden with political satire. In 2006, however, the candidates themselves are looking to carve their own niche in the realm of online video and reach out to digital communities in a new way.

One such man is Mike Bouchard, republican candidate for senate in Michigan.

The Bouchard camp has departed from traditional online campaigning, instead constructing the campaign’s website around a blogging-type format and featuring new video content, conveniently hosted by both Google Video and YouTube, on an almost daily basis.

David All, communications director for the Bouchard campaign, asserts that this type of “2.0 approach” is a pivotal factor in the campaign’s overall modern media strategy. All goes on to add that hosting the video content for free on Google Video and YouTube “makes financial sense.”

This is a growing sentiment among campaign hopefuls in 2006.

Free video hosting, however, is made possible through advertising partnerships. Marketing is the engine that drives the online video machine, but the interjection of politics could create potential conflicts of interest.

For the purposes of debate, let’s consider George Orwell Peterson, a fictitious senatorial candidate.Mr. Peterson is a conservative candidate with a platform revolving around issues such as keeping more labor jobs in the United States and strengthening the national economy by encouraging consumers to only purchase American made products instead of buying foreign.

As a voter in Mr. Peterson’s district, I peruse his website and see that he has a number of campaign advertisements hosted by Google Video.

In clicking one of the video streams, I am greeted with an advertisement from a company that has recently outsourced a great deal of labor to its overseas division. Then in his advertisement, Mr. Peterson outlines how economically critical it is to keep labor jobs in the United States.

A tad bit confused, I decide to watch another video. This time the campaign message is preceded by an advertisement from a prominent foreign automobile manufacturer. Ironically, Mr. Peterson’s message focuses on how vital a role American manufacturing plays in keeping the U.S. economy vibrant.

These are examples of some conflicting messages that could exist between advertising sponsors and political candidates who choose to host video content on Google and YouTube.

How would advertising sponsors react to their ads being liked with campaign messages that could potentially undermine the product?

Let us, however, consider a different scenario. Perhaps a prominent American car manufacturer such as Chevrolet winds up with an advertisement preceding one of Mr. Peterson’s campaign videos. Could that send a false message to the voting community that Chevrolet is a sponsor of the Peterson campaign?

Months later, Mr. Peterson is indicted on charges of embezzlement and tax evasion. Does Chevrolet, inadvertently linked with the campaign, suffer a negative backlash as a result of the criminal investigation and subsequent legal proceedings?

Reports are that Google holds a staggering 25% revenue share of online advertising; so it goes without saying that advertising partnerships play a vital role in the company’s overall financial success. Could a mix of politics and advertising throw a monkeywrench into the revenue machine?

It is yet unclear if the company has an official position or a policy in place to address such issues. All inquiries to the company’s corporate communications department have thus far been unanswered.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.

Google Involved in Digital Democracy
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