Oh my God, I can't believe it. A politician finally did online video right. Of course it was John Edwards.
I got an email from Edwards' One America Committee, signed by John himself. With the subject line "End Poverty" (ok, obviously a last minute subject line that could have been better).
I open the email and there's a really long, pretty boring email. To be expected. But theres's a big picture of Edwards with a large-type quote that catches my eye: "We can end poverty in 30 years." There's a link: "Listen now," with an attractive arrow.
30 YEARS! And I just posted yesterday about how no Dems will touch the long-term. Shame on me!
I click on "Listen Now." It takes me to this awesome graphic of an old TV set. I think it is the exact model I grew up with -- so maybe that means Edwards is alienating the youth constituency.
Anyways, the whole thing is perfect: Edwards is a little off center, the video is a little too crisp, he's in front of a cheesy flag that's obviously been chosen to be the exactly right amount cheesy -- just perfect.
And he's actually talking like a human being! Thank God almighty, a Democratic politician has figured out how to talk like a real, regular human being.
Not once -- not even once! -- does he raise his hand and do the Bill Clinton / Politician gesture. (Bill was its only legitimate user, because he invented it. But now whoever uses it: they're just screaming "kick me I'm a politician!").
It's just as though, in the middle of his busy day, he stopped to tape this little podcast, and did it in one, casual take. Nothing to vet by the comms director here, this is coming from the man himself.
Better still, he speaks explicitly to the members of his "online community" as though he knows them -- as though he genuinely appreciates them.
I could be cynical and wonder how hard Edwards, the most talented politician in America, has to try not to sound like a politician. But I know from the Kerry campaign that both he and Elizabeth Edwards take this online stuff seriously. I'm convinced that this is a simple case of John Edwards understanding that there is an enthusiastic base out there who supports him and his anti-poverty fight. He seems to genuinely want to reach out, thank them, and let them in on what he's up to.
It's the perfect approach and one that his online base will very much appreciate.
My only criticism of this outreach is that perhaps the email should have simply been a transcript of this video. The fact of video in emails is that only a tiny fraction click to watch. Maybe they'd want to take out some of the aaaaaaah's (which are what made the video perfect, by the way), but that's it. They should have just sent it out as is.
Edwards is kicking ass online. His success isn't coming from new technology. Or from courting bloggers. Or from buying email addresses.
Rather, he is succeeding because he is using this new medium to reach out and make a real personal connection with his supporters. After several years in this business, I still don't know why it is so hard for these politicians, who rely on the votes of real people for their jobs, to simply reach out an connect with real people. But it is the most difficult thing in the world for them.
So there's one an example of how to podcast well. Bravo.
And, just for balance, here's an example of how to do it absolutely terribly:
(It's a confusing page, but notice you can click on "Direct Download" to skip the podcasting subscription process. That's another big difference to notice: Edwards' video is so much more accessible, where Warner's is blocked by cumbersome Podcast orthodoxy.)
To all the '08 hopefuls, take your lesson.
And don't forget, you can vote for your favorite next-president at RootsPrimary.org.