The Impact of 2010’s Live Streaming State of The Union Address

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As if you were not already aware, tonight’s State of the Union is bound to make history—perhaps more for its presentation and interactivity than for the contents of its message.

A few weeks back, I breathlessly raved about how YouTube was going to live stream the landmark court case on California’s Proposition 8—and I was specifically excited about what that kind of thing might mean for the future (and legitimacy) of online video.

Of course, the Supreme Court decided to steal my joy—and invalidate my article—by striking down that decision, ruling that the proceedings could not be streamed on YouTube.  I was a little bummed.

Today, however, I have a second chance to wax poetic about a major event streaming live online and what it might mean for the world of online video.  And ultimately… this is maybe even a bigger deal than the court case would have been.  Because it’s the State of the Union, streaming live right now!

And it’s more than just YouTube participating in this little online viewing experiment.  UStream will show CBS’s coverage.  Hulu will join YouTube in streaming the address.  And a few networks are hosting live viewings on their websites, including C-SPAN and CNN.  Oh, and the site will be showing it as well.

So there are plenty of choices for online viewing of President Obama’s speech tonight, along with the usual television viewing options.  I, for one, am watching it online… simply because I finally can.  I cant conclude just yet what that experience will be like—or if it will even be different at all.

But I’m greatly encouraged by this move.  This is the Obama Administration (and really, the U.S. government) kind of giving the seal of approval to live streaming online.  If streaming online wasn’t already legitimate—I’ve caught significant portions of The Masters, March Madness, and even NFL games online—it is now that Obama has weighed in.  And that can only be good news to people like the fine readers of this site.

There’s also an added element over at YouTube that promises to make this one of the more interactive State of the Union events in history, and it’s called CitizenTube.  The President is encouraging viewers to respond to his address via CitizenTube, by posting questions to the site.  He will then respond to some selections pulled from the submissions directly on the site as well (apparently there will be a voting system enabled on the user-submitted questions, allowing the top vote-getters to be personally addressed by the President).

CitizenTube, and the interactive function it brings to this annual address, marks just yet another reason this State of the Union will be unlike any other.  It’s the first that you can watch live online, and also the first you can personally respond to (while having at least a mathematical shot at having the president see your remarks).

I have no idea what this means in a specific sense.  I don’t know that there are any solid predictions I can make about what this might lead to.  I suspect we’ll see more and more high profile events stream live online, such as Senate hearings, global summits, and court cases.  But in a general way of speaking…  it should only serve to make online video a more prominent alternative to traditional content sources. As someone who talks to old school business owners about online video on a regular basis, I can assure you that there are still millions of Americans who aren’t sure this YouTube thing is anything but a fad.  Having the President’s State of the Union address stream live on YouTube is going to go a long way toward helping those business owners see online video as more of a necessity than a passing fancy.


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