Online content makes politics sexier

Expert notes more Americans getting involved in process

NEW YORK - Online video and other content has made politics sexy again for more Americans and has increased their role in the political process, industry experts said here Wednesday.

"It's not Hillary Clinton summoning voters to the Web, its voters summoning Clinton to the Web," said Steve Grove, head of YouTube News and Politics, in a panel discussion at the Time Warner Center as part of Internet Week.

With Obama's 37 minute long "race video" getting over 5 million views online, and the "Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" appealing to people who otherwise might not follow political news, Grove also called this "the first pop culture election since 1992," referring to the year that Bill Clinton was first elected president. After all, "politics is sexy again, you might follow it like you follow the NBA," he said.

Voters want to scrutinize their candidates and are no longer content with simply "consuming" news, Grove argued. Instead, they are demanding the ability to talk to their candidates and to be heard before they cast their vote.

Similarly, Michael Scherer, Washington Bureau correspondent at Time magazine argued that the Internet is "an evolution towards more user input in elections."

In the spirit of reciprocity, candidates are raising a major portion of their campaign funds from online advertising. In February alone, commented Grove, Obama raised $50 million total and $25 million of it online, while Clinton raised $35 million total, of which $30 million came from online donations.

In terms of partisanship online, Scherer remarked on how difficult it initially was to pull Republicans into a YouTube debate. When it comes to using the Web as a political tool, he argued "Republicans are like a little league team, Democrats are like the Yankees."