Think tanks using online video to expand reach, appeal

More think tanks are starting to use online video as a way to generate interest in their efforts among a broader audience.

More think tanks are starting to use online video as a way to generate interest in their efforts among a broader audience.

Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank that describes itself as an organization dedicated to "advancing free minds and free markets," recently started running online videos on its newly launched online community, Reason.tv, featuring Drew Carey, the comedian and host of The Price is Right.

Nick Gillespie, Reason magazine's editor-in-chief, says the five- to 15-minute videos will debut every two weeks for the "next year or two" and will cover such topics as traffic congestion, eminent domain abuse, medical marijuana prosecution, and immigration.

Gillespie says using Carey will cause people who may not be interested in political magazines or discussions to look at the think tank and its efforts in a new light.

"If they trace [the video] back to the source," he explains, "you can get people interested in politics because they'll realize this is about human beings as opposed to stuffed shirts just discoursing in a smoke-filled room in Washington, DC."

Gillespie says video more effectively communicates a message than text. "We're trying to use video to dramatize the human quotient in the policy areas that we cover," Gillespie says. "Images are enormously powerful in connecting with people."

Forging a connection is what online video is doing for the Brookings Institution, notes Melissa Skolfield, the think tank's VP of communications. Brookings recently relaunched its Web site, giving videos prominent placement on the home page.

"It does broaden our appeal," she says. "We have a diverse global audience, so our challenge is to simultaneously serve a lot of different people, and that's the challenge it's helping us with."

Brookings uses the videos to highlight policy discussions it has in DC, such as the one it recently did with the Dalai Lama, and to respond to breaking news.

"It's the quickest way to respond to breaking news and to analyze current events," Skolfield says.

Key points:
Online video can broaden the appeal and audience of a think tank beyond the political aficionados

Online videos can more effectively convey the impact political issues have on citizens than written documents

Online videos can expand the presence of a think tank online with videos appearing on a variety of different sites

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