My piece out today on frustrated internet activists in the Republican Party begins with a story from Michael Turk, a conservative activist who ran the eCampaign division at the RNC after the 2004 presidential election. In short, the RNC killed an exciting opportunity for web video just as it began to get some coverage because it badly misunderstood the conventions of the genre. (See the piece for more detail.) That episode presaged the current state of affairs. Four years later, Barack Obama used and is using web video as one of many technological tools to reach out to hundreds of thousands of his supporters, while John McCain had a lackluster YouTube channel and generated little excitement around his web operations.
But it isn't just Obama who is capitalizing on the power of web video. It's the left more generally. Consider The Young Turks. A radio show originally on Air America and now on XM satellite radio, The Young Turks has been broadcasting on the web since the pre-YouTube era. Now that it operates a YouTube channel, it is absolutely killing the game. Just this week the channel passed 50 million views, with 32.4 million views coming in a period that maps with the election cycle (January to October 2008). By comparison, the John McCain YouTube channel has just 25.7 million views in its lifetime.
A progressive satellite radio show did better traffic online than the Republican presidential candidate. The Republican activists that I spoke with have a seriously uphill battle.