I was listening to Wolf Blitzer on CNN talking with the captain of the President’s plane, Air Force One. After 9/11, the airplane was fitted with videoconferencing equipment to allow the President to address the nation while in flight. The pilot described a process where the video signal could be sent to the major television networks for distribution to the nation and the world.
If you were designing that distribution pattern today, you’d send the video to YouTube first. Previously, only the the major television, radio and cable networks had the distribution power to reach the nation. To the extent that YouTube can accomodate realtime broadcast and provide an archive for timeshifting, it will become the primary distribution channel for political communication. The media networks will pick up the signal from YouTube for rebroadcast in realtime. They’ll provide context and analysis as a value add, but in that pursuit, they will be competing with a full range of microbroadcasters.
The dominant distribution pattern has been inverted; there were a few people who saw this historical change as it emerged over the last year. Obama, and his team, saw the possibilities of bottom up communication and executed on the insight beautifully. It will be interesting to see how this pattern becomes firmly woven into our culture over the next year.