Countdown Fever


CNN is pulling out all the stops to plug the two-hour CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate Monday night.

"We’re counting down the hours until we make history," said Situation Room anchor Wolf Blitzer of the "groundbreaking" debate, somewhat understating the case. In fact, CNN was counting down the hours and seconds with an annoying on-screen countdown clock that was at 2:56:25 when I tuned in and kept counting down in the bottom righthand corner of the screen (well, almost bottom given the crawl that consumes somewhere between a fifth and sixth of the screen).

CNN’s Andersen Cooper, who is moderating the debate, defended CNN’s control over what YouTube-submitted questions were being used on the debate, which features candidates responding to video questions posted on the site. He said that some campaigns had attempted to stack the deck by having supporters post the same questions over and over–2,899 questions were submitted according to YouTube, responding to critics who had suggested CNN was micromanaging the debate and should have let the online community pick which questions would be used.

YouTube seemed to be getting plenty of plug time on the news channel, with its name joining CNN on the (down to 2:32:22 at this moment) countdown clock and a story in the 4-5 p.m. hour about how "YouTube is emerging as a powerful political force."

The graphic under that story: "Internet Sensation: YouTube’s Meteoric Rise." CNN had the cover of being accurate in its superlatives, but it still seemed like overkill on the debate promotion front. Is the fact that CNN and YouTube are sponsoring a debate of such compelling importance that it requires a countdown clock to tick off the seconds for what must have been hours on the network.

It is also getting a few more eyeballs for its advertisers–in my case Best Western hotels–with the question-submission process.