Getting it right on You Tube

BY sevanti ninan| IN Opinion | 25/07/2013
Rather than Twitter and its daily one-upmanship, You Tube has the potential for effective political use. But mastering it requires agility which party social media managers haven't acquired,
says SEVANTI NINAN. PIX: The BJP~s You Tube channel.

Sevanti Ninan     

Talking eagerly about using social media is one thing. Getting it right is another.  

Does the Congress Party have a You Tube channel? Do its people know which one it is? Three or four pop up when you search, and the real McCoy is called  Indian National Congress. The exclusive interview with Sonia Gandhi done by Rajdeep Sardesai on this one dates back to 2005. Hasn’t the lady given any after that?  

You are also likely to get Congress India with a bunch of very modestly viewed Rahul Gandhi videos (less than 200 views) and a whole lot of the party’s Jai Ho films, heavily viewed, but all four years old.  Another called the Indian National Congress Channel seems to be the handiwork of a man called Sathar al Karan whose face features on the masthead. Several videos of Priyanka and Sonia Gandhi, some one year old, others four years old. But high on the first page of Google links would be the Indian National Congress Channel auto generated by You Tube. It puts the most accessed videos first, mostly rude ones uploaded by Congress baiters. 

 Rather than Twitter and its daily one-upmanship, it is You Tube which has the potential for effective political use. But mastering it requires a degree of agility which the social media managers of the Congress party don’t seem to have acquired. Narendra Modi’s Youtube channel and the BJP’s Youtube channel do better. Both draw on the internet TV channel the party has set up called Yuva TV. The latter is busy dishing out aggressive videos which use the ruling coalition’s assertions (including the Aamir Khan ‘kuposhan’ advertisements on malnutrition) to slam the government.  It also has an aggressive video on secularism. All being lapped up by the supposedly BJP-inclined Indian internet population? Not yet. Just some 300 plus views for this one.  

The rules are commonsensical really. Don’t upload entire speeches, splice them under different topics. Ditto with recordings of Google Hangouts. But the Indian National Congress has entire speeches of its three top leaders. The PMO (prime minister’s office) channel on You Tube is more selective. The speech with most views is the one the PM made after Delhi gang rape (16,000 plus views), and one on what inspires Manmohan Singh (5000 plus.)  

Other rules: make all those TV discussions on a myriad channels work for you by repurposing what they have aired. If a politician manages to deflate the anchor questioning him, even better. Sample: “Narendra Modi Mocking at the foolishness of Media Channel Aaj Tak” from the Modi channel on You Tube.  

Does Rahul Gandhi have a You Tube channel? Unsurprisingly for this self-depracatory gent, no. The chuckle-inducing videos of him are to be found on Narendra Modi’s channel. The earnest ones on the INC channel.  

Political parties apart those who want to sharpen the debate on the elections use the same platform and approach. The Association for Democratic Reform has a You Tube channel–National Election Watch. The rules are the same-- if you do not want to make your own videos you upload those segments of TV programmes in which you feature. ADR also links to the videos they have made featuring Aamir Khan, on choosing your politicians well.  

A Brookings Institution research paper lists the elements of clarity required in selecting material for You Tube. Is the intention to provoke fear, or anger, or is it to inspire specific action, as a three-part comradely chat by Narendra Modi seeks to do?  Is the intended audience partisan supporters or those with minds not made up, seeking more information?  

A nimble You Tube operation when adequately publicised among the party’s own rank and file would provide ammunition at the local level to counter the allegedly misleading statistics that the opponent may dish out. We’ve seen various Congress party leaders countering what Modi tosses out on TV. Are those counter statements uploaded on the party’s channel? No.  

Never a slouch in pushing their own use, You Tube and Google have come up with their own toolkits for the political class. One piece of wisdom on offer: “Control the story. Stay ahead of the news cycle by posting videos in response to current events. Media sources will often incorporate your videos into their stories.” 

The classic election operation when this platform was deployed was the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012. They had live streaming of the Democratic National Convention on the party’s You Tube channel masthead. A nice touch.

Finally, both main contenders for 2014 have some way to go in getting the pitch right. Narendra Modi’s populist video projections (riding poker-faced in a public bus, surrounded by bemused fellow commuters, then getting off with commandos in tow) smack of trying too hard. Will the BJP’s Mr Smart learn to play it right? And the Congress’s Mr Diffident learn to make less convoluted submissions? The online audience is not a captive one.  

Reprinted from Mint, July 24, 2013

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The new term for self censorship is voluntary censorship, as proposed by companies like Netflix and Hotstar. ET reports that streaming video service Amazon Prime is opposing a move by its peers to adopt a voluntary censorship code in anticipation of the Indian government coming up with its own rules. Amazon is resisting because it fears that it may alienate paying subscribers.                   

Clearly, the run to the 2019 elections is on. A journalist received a call from someone saying they were from Aajtak channel and were conducting a survey, asking whom she was going to vote for in 2019. On being told that her vote was secret, the caller assumed she wasn't going to vote for 'Modiji'. The caller, a woman, also didn't identify herself. A month or two earlier the same journalist received a call, this time from a man, asking if she was going to vote for the BSP.                 

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