Looking into the crystal ball . . .


eMarketer predicts YouTube will decide the 2008 election

I’m not much for predictions. I prefer to study the recent past for clues about the direction in which things may be headed. But as a mainstream media employee it is neither my job nor my professional instinct to predict. This is because I am always positive when I am wrong, at least on the facts, because the audience catches mistakes and demands corrections. And it’s darn near impossible to be recognized as “right” on big issues, like whether or not there were WMDs in Iraq before we invaded. Plus, even if a journalist is somehow proven correct on such a big issue, what does it matter? For instance, Editor & Publisher magazine recently lauded Jonathan Landy, a correspondent for the McClatchy media empire, for being skeptical — properly so, it turns out — about the WMD issue, and for being doubly skeptical about the similar drumbeat for war that we can hear relative to Iran. Did being right do Landy or the U.S. any good with respect to Iraq? No so far as I can tell. Maybe Landy got a bonus or a parking spot but it didn’t change U.S. history, nor did it do the Iraqis much good. No one is even sure how many of them have been killed since their liberation.

But I digress.

Harmless predictions are always fun and in that vein the trade zine eMarketer has made its Ten Key Online Predictions for 2008. I am intrigued by number five: “YouTube decides the election.”

That is a pretty bold statement and indeed even the eMarketeers backpedal a bit in the expanded discussion of its top ten, specifically:

“YouTube will play a decisive role in the 2008 US presidential election by either airing a user-submitted clip that embarrasses a leading candidate or setting the tone of the campaign through its series of sponsored debates.”

That strikes me as entirely consistent with how politics get done. The competition is about not committing mistakes while looking for those tiny bits that capture the public mind and build a positive image for one candidate, perhaps at the expense of another. That is a prediction that we can check in November 2008. Stay tuned.