Current TV is gearing up for its “Election All-Nighter” coverage by partnering with social-media sites Digg and Twitter. In addition to streaming Digg headlines and "tweets" from Twitter on the live channel, the cable network will run Web video from Current.com and 12seconds.tv.
The partnership is Current TV’s second go-round with Twitter, with which it collaborated for its “Hack the Debate” coverage of the presidential debaters—part of the network’s animating mission to engage viewers and tap them as sources of content.
And it’s also the latest example of how much media coverage has changed since the last election, both for traditional news organizations as well as relatively recent startups like Current.
“This is very distinct from prior generations, and we see these sites, some of which did not exist during the last presidential election, play a big role on how people are expressing themselves this election year,” said Current TV’s President of Programming David Neuman in an email interview with B&C. “This change is like an earthquake in American politics.”
Of course, game-changing players like video-sharing giant YouTube—or even Current, for that matter—weren’t around during the 2004 presidential election. Back in the 2006 midterm election, YouTube offered glimpse of the role it would come to play in this year’s contest when it served to disseminate a damaging video of former senator George Allen (R-Va.) using a racial slur. (Related: “The Election Year That Was…On YouTube”)
Current is available nationally on Comcast, Time Warner, Dish, DirecTV, Verizon and AT&T. The channel is also available in the UK, Ireland and Italy.
But traditional media are also hustling to serve a more wired and youthful audience. After both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, CBS News partnered with CNET to provide Webcast coverage after the network coverage ended.
“We’re trying to figure out a way to have a greater web presence,” said CBS Evening News Anchor and Managing Editor Katie Couric in an interview with B&C last week. “I think it was a no-brainer to do it with the convention… The challenge is, how can we have an additional presence when it’s not so obvious?”
Among her network anchor peers, Couric has been especially active online, producing online videos for CBSNews.com and her own YouTube channel.
She envisions a time when “everybody will get everything on a big computer—whether it’s television, the Web—and they’ll maybe have a split screen. It might all be one stop shopping.”
Convergence and Collabortion
Current’s Neuman echoes that prediction, noting that major news outlets like the Christian Science Monitor are already going web-only. “And just like youths in the 1980s and 90s didn’t really know the difference between a ‘network’ such as CBS and, say, a cable channel like Nickelodeon,” he adds, “young people today won’t differentiate between screens; they will want the product to be everywhere."
“I see us moving to the direction where all of our content is a collaboration with our audience, and we have even more partnerships with companies and groups,” Neuman says.
Indeed, user-generated—or, if you will, voter-generated—content has become increasingly prominent in mainstream coverage.
“Young adults and youths are very media savvy and don’t buy the omniscience of traditional news, ‘experts’ or pundits. They want to see and judge for themselves,” Neuman says. “On Current, you’ll see the Patrick Henrys and Thomas Paines of today, and also asserting their viewpoints during ‘Hack the Debate’ and Current News. There is a quite radical, revolutionary and unprecedented video media culture today.”
Says Couric: “The world is changing as we speak. I think it’s an exciting time. I think for some people, it’s a little bit frightening… But I think in other ways it’s just a wonderful opportunity. It depends how you see it.”
Adds Neuman: “There has already been a radical change between this election and the 2004 presidential election, so I can only imagine how much things will change by 2012.”
Additional reporting by Marisa Guthrie