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Dodd's Army, Armed With Cameras

Jeff Jarvis

Chris Dodd is trying to break out of the mold of YouTube's candidate Spotlight videos. In a video up today, he pushes voters to take their own video cameras and approach their senators and congressmen, asking them to talk about Iraq and to give their stand on the Dodd amendment, which would require starting to pull out of Iraq in 30 days, and then putting those videos up on YouTube.

Citizen journalism meets voter activism meets YouTube.

I just spoke with Chris Dodd's internet director, Tim Tagaris, who said, quite rightly, that the candidates' Spotlight videos thus far have been about nothing much more than telling everybody what you think. Or there's Clinton's stunt (which I'll take over the boring, safe, ultimately pandering blah-blah of the others').

Tagaris said Dodd's campaign wants the voters' videos to be more popular than the candidates'. And they want to enable voters to have direct impact on legislation and policy. And, no, they don't know whether this will work. Tagaris recognizes that going out and approaching politicians is much more difficult than sitting down in front of your web cam and blathering.

Tagaris said it was a real challenge to cram into 2:15 the candidate's challenge, his explanation of the Dodd amendment, some swipes at how we're seeing the campaign through YouTube thus far (Hillary, Obama Girl, Edwards' hair), and an explanation of how to shoot and upload videos. Sound bite: "They say they talk about haircuts instead of troop cuts, sound choices instead of energy choices, Paris instead of Baghdad because they say that's what you want to talk about."

Dodd has been more open and expansive with his Internet video strategy than most of the candidates. They've webcast staff meetings. They broadcast live interaction with staffers during the debates, getting 9,600 viewers during the second debate. (By contrast, 18 Doughty Street, a nightly, five-hour political talk network in the UK gets a max of 2,000 viewers at a time.)

Dodd himself is also more relaxed in front of the small camera. Tagaris said he's "comfortable in his own skin." I asked how Dodd would react when other candidates sent citizens with cameras after him. Tagaris said it happened when Citizen Kate nabbed him in a hallway. Indeed, Dodd was relaxed and charmed and charming. Edwards, by contrast, was scared to death of Kate.

Tagaris said they're trying to put more and more video from behind the scenes of the campaign online, much of it increasingly live. "Real and fast," those are his bywords.

I asked whether this openness to YouTube came in part because the Dodd campaign has less money than others; it's a way to get attention for nothing. Tagaris said that Dodd's campaign is merely "the first one to do something everyone's going to do, no matter how much money they have."

By Ed O'Keefe |  June 27, 2007; 1:39 PM ET Chris Dodd
Previous: Yet Another 'Crush' on Another Candidate | Next: John Edwards' Coulter-Related YouTube Efforts

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