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Sunday, March 16, 2008
posted by jason | 9:06 AM | permalink
One of the more interesting aspects of the 2008 campaign season has been the use of new media, especially embedded videos like YouTube and video channels on websites like those employed by the Romney campaign and the Obama campaign. I had a chance to interview Michael Kolowich from who led video effort for

I actually came across Michael while listening to POTUS 08 on XM radio. He was being interviewed on the Pajamas Media show and I thought it was one of the more interesting interviews I heard in a while. So I found his site, emailed him and he kindly agreed to do the interview. The interview was conducted a few weeks ago, but held up by some things on my end. Despite that, it's a great interview and should be read in concert with his blog post here. BTW, his blog has many posts of great information on the use of web video, if you are as interested in this topic as I am.

1. Describe for our readers how your involvement in the campaign came to be.

Like many of those deeply involved in the Romney For President effort, my involvement was driven entirely by my belief that Mitt Romney would make an exceptional leader for America. I’d worked with Governor Romney in the private sector nearly 25 years ago, and had tracked his career closely ever since. I’d always marveled at his dexterity in problem-solving and his willingness to take on challenges against what seemed like long odds…and succeed.

In the late 2006, with Governor Romney rumored to be readying a run for the White House, I encountered one of his close personal advisors at a business gathering and struck up a conversation about internet video. As a documentary film producer who’s been intensely interested in internet media since the earliest days of the net, I told him, “Mark my words. Internet video will play an enormous role in the 2008 campaign.” Asked to elaborate, I wrote a white paper that later became the blueprint for a tactical video unit.

Mind you, I’d not had any previous experience in politics. But I did know how to tell a story in video and how to make it engaging and accessible on the net. And the next thing I knew, I was sitting at a table with Governor Romney’s top media advisors, charting the course for Mitt TV and a Tactical Video Unit that fed the online channel.

2. In your article and on the interview you gave on POTUS 08 you mention there are negatives associated with Youtube that match the positives.

Describe how those negatives affected your product, and does the cost/benefit ratio of Youtube make publishing content on Youtube a worthwhile venture for the campaigns? (It seems like most of the benefits of Youtube -i.e. embeddable format- can be achieved without Youtube.)

YouTube has been attractive to many political campaigns for several reasons: 1.) it’s an extremely easy platform to publish on; 2.) it’s got a huge built-in audience; and 3.) bloggers and webmasters mostly know how to embed YouTube clips in their postings. Augmenting these advantages was the fact that, by mid-2006, YouTube seemed to be focused on using the presidential campaigns to broaden its appeal and establish a reputation as a serious medium with worth beyond the Mentos-and-Diet-Coke-hack crowd. YouTube gave each of the candidates his/her own “channel” on YouTube – a relatively protected, advertisement-free corner of YouTube to post as many videos as we wanted. So beyond the production cost, the expense of uploading and hosting video on YouTube was nil.

The interesting question, though, was what the opportunity cost of having someone watch a clip on YouTube was, versus having those clips be hosted and framed on our own website. The numbers were quite clear that content – video, text, and photo galleries – were very powerful magnets for visitors to And when people got excited about the content and visited the website, they tended to take action – volunteer, give money to the campaign, forward the links to friends, and sign up for regular communications. That simply didn’t happen nearly as much on YouTube. In fact, on YouTube the viewer of one of our clips was often presented with a lineup of “related” videos which sometimes were attack clips put together by competing campaigns!

So we decided early on to invest in our own private internet TV channel on, called Mitt TV. It was guaranteed to be ad-free, and we programmed it much like a television station, with a constant flow of fresh new material. We built Mitt TV on a private internet TV publishing system called PermissionTV (, which gave us wonderful capability to build custom channels, adjust lineups to reflect issues and events of the day, and look at detailed viewership metrics to see how well videos held viewer interest and attention.

For us, then, YouTube and Mitt TV were never a matter of “either/or,” but rather a case of “both/and.” YouTube is great for capturing the energy and audience of internet search, while Mitt TV was better for engaging, energizing, and activating its audience. Among competitive campaigns, only the Obama campaign seems to have fully understood and adopted the concept of a fully-integrated and consciously programmed internet TV channel (Barack TV came out a few months after Mitt TV, and was initially almost an exact copy), as opposed to a chronological list of video clips. But the benefits of this approach were dramatic.

3. The Romney campaign obviously had a large budget for a venture like MittTV. For local campaigns, like perhaps a state legislator seat or something of that nature, what is possible in terms of video coverage? How would you recommend they approach video on their own sites?

I think you need to view video not just as nice eye candy, but rather as a critical piece of content that attracts, informs, energizes, and activates supporters. Video is something you can feature in e-newsletters, that people pass along to each other, and that keeps people involved and emotionally energized within your website longer than they otherwise would. It helps people sign up, get involved, and give money. Without giving specifics, it cost much, much less to serve up video clips than the average campaign contribution offered on the typical visit by those who watched them.

For the reasons I stated earlier, I don’t think that YouTube or any of the “free” (i.e. ad-supported) channels are the right answer. After all, YouTube is first and foremost an advertising medium, and I think we were looking in 2007/8 at a one-time phenomenon in offering the ad-free channels to the campaigns; YouTube simply can’t afford to be so generous next time around.

So what’s the answer for a smaller campaign? It’s now becoming possible to set up and host a private, ad-free internet TV channel with total creative control for a few thousand dollars a year. Look for a few new video publishing platforms over the next couple of months that will be perfect for smaller campaigns, and watch my blog ( to track those new developments. As for capturing the material, there is a virtual army of video-savvy volunteers who are ready and willing to capture the routine events, just to bolster their portfolios. But find a professional to shoot the very critical material, where professional lighting and audio really do make a huge difference. There is a big distinction to be made between “casual” and amateurish.

4. You mentioned MittTV reached out to bloggers. How did this happen, and what was the reception.

The Romney campaign had a couple of staffers totally dedicated to keeping in touch with and feeding material to bloggers, who were always hungry for fresh material to write about and interpret. And many of the blog postings that resulted contained embedded video. This definitely represented an edge for the campaign versus GOP rivals.

5. How did Mitt do when you had to film him? Was he pretty good on camera? Did he have to learn how to do it smoothly?

Governor Romney is, in many ways, a “natural” on camera. I would marvel at the ways in which he’d scribble a few cryptic notes, tape them to the bottom of the camera lens, and then riff in perfect prose for five or six minutes at a time, in a single take. It is a real gift. Mitt always talked about the fact that a president not only had to be commander in chief, but also what he called “educator in chief”, and he loves to explain how the complex systems of the world work.

Particularly late in the campaign, Governor Romney spent much of his time speaking on subjects where he was exceptionally conversant and comfortable: economic policy, the needed changes in Washington, health care, innovation and transformation, and of course family values. Many commentators talked about “finding his voice”…but those of us who were close to him throughout the campaign know that the voice was there all along.
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Just got this in a Newmax E Mail:
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Insider Report from

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Mitt Romney Hailed as Best VP Candidate
2. Newsmax Scoops Media on Obama Minister
3. Newsmax’s Kessler Guests on ‘The Daily Show’
4. McCain’s Brother Won’t Join Campaign
5. Violent Anti-government Groups Decline After 9/11
6. Media Matters Defends Barney Frank
7. Bush Staffers Working for McCain
8. We Heard: Michael Solomon, Hillary, Obama


1. Mitt Romney Hailed as Best VP Candidate

Two leading conservative commentators have called for presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain to choose his former rival Mitt Romney as a running mate.

Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, said McCain’s choice should be from among “known political heavyweights” who would be accepted immediately as ready to replace the president if necessary, and observed that the list of plausible choices is short.

He discussed several possible candidates:

Joe Lieberman is a friend of McCain, backs the Iraq war, and would likely appeal to independents and moderate Democrats. But he is a liberal on domestic issues, including abortion, and would hurt McCain among social conservatives.
Rudy Giuliani is also pro-choice and would likewise alienate social conservatives.
Fred Thompson is close to McCain, but he ran a disappointing presidential campaign and McCain needs a running mate who is more “vibrant.”
Foreign policy and economic conservatives would “scream bloody murder” if McCain chooses Mike Huckabee, according to Barnes.
Several Republican governors, including Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Charlie Crist of Florida, don’t have the stature needed to enhance the McCain ticket.
“That leads to Romney,” Barnes writes in The Weekly Standard.

“He has run a vigorous national campaign and been vetted by the press and his opponents for the Republican nomination. These are very strong pluses.”

Romney is acceptable to social conservatives, strong in debates, and as a former business executive, could counterbalance McCain’s “admitted weakness on economic issues.”

President Bush favors Romney as the GOP vice presidential candidate, and his former political strategist Karl Rove reportedly favors him as well.

Another Weekly Standard editor, founder Bill Kristol, agrees with Barnes, the Detroit Free Press reported. “Mitt Romney would be good,” Kristol said at the Michigan Political Leadership Program’s recent fundraising dinner in Livonia, Mich.

He added that Romney would bring youth and economic vigor to the McCain ticket.

Romney would just write a few notes, tape them to the bottom of the camera lense and go on for 5 or 6 minutes as a natural!.

That takes A LOT of skill to do that, amazing, he's no doubt very gifted.

I still feel like I missed something.
How did we, the GOP, pick the guy who doesn't pay much attention to the economy?
How did we pick the guy who looks like he would rather punch out the lights of anyone who asks him questions including the media, something a president has to do everyday?
How did we pick someone who will remind us everyday that we, the American people, owe him because he got shot down in his fifth plane, and we better not question him?
How did we end up picking the best Democratic candidate to represent the GOP? I believe at this point with both of their candidates impolding, the Dems would gladly take him.

It just boggles my mind and no I am not going to circle the wagons and vote for the guy unless he changes his tune AND selects Mitt because then I would be voting for Mitt not him. UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 17, 2008 at 10:00 PM  

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