Last night, in a post titled My brother thinks he's a chicken, I wrote that, "It is in the area of engaging our communities to solve problems and have better cultural resources that the new media platforms can be hugely useful ..." Too often we rank-and-file public broadcasting station managers struggle to grasp a business model for online, one that on a paid content basis seems like a stretch for us. So I think that the answer is rededicating ourselves to local service and to look to the kinds of support that reward value relating to mission rather than a listener or viewer transaction.
So I was delighted tonight to find Jessica Clark's closely related research report with this title published by Pat Aufderheide's Center for Social Media at American University. Should have known they'd be working on something like this. Very useful work. Link to PDF.
Update 30 Jan. 2007:
Click on the continuation link immediately below to read the executive summary. --Dennis
This study describes ways in which users are employing popular commercial online digital video platforms, such as YouTube, GoogleVideo, and MySpace, to create, exchange, and comment upon information for public knowledge and action.
These new platforms provide a site to test the proposition that new publics are being created around open media spaces on the Internet. These emerging video sites are enormously popular, potentially attracting new viewers to issues familiar to advocates and potentially creating new networks of concern.
The study was executed by visiting the three most popular video platforms and examining the first two pages of search results returned in response to 10 keywords related to political and social issues, such as "net neutrality" and "bankruptcy."
In all cases, videos made with the obvious intention to contribute to public discourse were found on these subjects within the crucial first two pages, although videos addressing public issues predictably were much less popular than videos designed for entertainment purposes. Most were produced or posted by individuals; only 33 percent of those videos examined were produced by identifiable public organizations, including mainstream media outlets, nonprofits, educational projects, and government agencies. Public Service Announcements (PSAs) were the most common format produced by public organizations. Some 4.5 percent of the other videos were produced by advertisers or film promoters, while others reside in a gray area between professional media and user-generated content (UGC).
Some public-issue, topical campaigns attracted significant attention and resulted in action, especially if they used humor, music, melodrama, scare tactics, celebrity endorsements, or personal narratives. Campaigns also evidenced the key role of interaction and response in creating new work. In public-issue work as elsewhere, users are critiquing, celebrating, or mashing up both mainstream content and the videos produced by other users.
Verification, accuracy, and legitimacy are open issues in these emerging public spaces. The quality of information ranges widely, and some clearly inaccurate and inflammatory work is showcased on an equal footing with other videos.
Early evidence of emerging public spaces within these open sites suggests that media makers, advocates, and policy experts who wish to engage new publics and encourage new voices to contribute to discussion have many opportunities. In order to use them, users need to explore successful models for "viral" videos, develop common tagging and indexing terms and methods, and track fast-changing social networking practices among new users. As well, users concerned with public engagement may want to use commercial online sites to lead people to nonprofit online sites (see appendix), where more targeted efforts to create productive public engagement with online video are taking place.