YouTube channel for Congress builds dialogue, transparency

A YouTube channel for Congress with separate "hubs" for the House of Representatives and the Senate launched January 12. While some members of Congress already maintained YouTube channels, the new space centralizes all the videos and allows users to search for their elected officials by clicking on a map.

In the news
A YouTube channel for Congress with separate “hubs” for the House of Representatives and the Senate launched January 12. While some members of Congress already maintained YouTube channels, the new space centralizes all the videos and allows users to search for their elected officials by clicking on a map.

Drew Hammill, press secretary for Nancy Pelosi, says that the hubs are popular among Congress members as a way to increase transparency and communicate with constituents on key issues, and can be used for various purposes, such as immediate information, clips of press conferences, and recorded messages.

“There has to be... communication between... Congress and constituents in a way that younger generations are using,” he says.

Why does it matter?
Mindy Finn, partner at Engage and former director of e-strategy for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, points out that weekly YouTube updates can help members of Congress provide more insight into everyday work, as well as establish a sense of immediacy. For example, following a press conference, they can post a video with key messages, rather than waiting for a follow-up interview.

She adds that, “If there is something they do that... their constituents aren't happy with, they may be offered more forgiveness because people will see... positive steps they have taken.”

Rich Meade, MD at BKSH & Associates Worldwide, says members of Congress must put out “relevant, timely... information” on YouTube, or the program could “fade very quickly.” He adds that the channels are unique now, but could grow stale, so Congress must continue to think of new ways to reach constituents.

Five facts:
1
YouTube, which launched in 2005, attracted 99.5 million viewers in October 2008, who watched 5.3 billion YouTube videos overall, according to comScore.

2 ComScore also found that among the 18- to 34-year-old group, more than 80% watched online video, with each watching 4.8 hours of online video each month.

3 The “Welcome to Congress, YouTube” video, in which Nancy Pelosi and other legislators introduce new hubs, garnered more than 185,000 views in its first three days.

4 At press time, the Senate hub had 1,345 subscribers  and had been viewed 21,641 times, while the House hub had 2,216 subscribers and 33,341 views.

5 Last year, more people watched Tina Fey's Sarah Palin impression, which first appeared on Saturday Night Live, online at Hulu.com or NBC.com than on TV.

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