We haven’t seen a whole lot of former Vice President Al Gore lately. He has been relatively quiet since his 2000 presidential run and his endorsement of former Gov. Howard Dean in 2004. There was some conjecture that he might even throw his hat in the ring in 2008. During a keynote at the 2007 PRSA Conference in Philadelphia, the late host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert, pointed out that since losing his bid for the presidency, Gore has won an Oscar, an Emmy and the Nobel Peace Prize, and sits on the boards of numerous corporate giants, including Google. Russert joked that the Oval Office might actually be a step down for Gore!
This cycle, it seems that the former veep has gone from counting chads to tracking tweets via the global TV network Current, which he owns with business partner Joel Hyatt. Current has been on the air since 2005 and provides a variety of short programs, or “pods,” created by users called VC2 producers, as well as longer programs produced by the network.
This month, for the series of Presidential debates, Current TV teamed up with Twitter (despite Gore’s lack of a Twitter account), to create “Hack the Debate,” perhaps the first real attempt at interactive TV (something I’ve been promised since MTV launched in ’81).
Here’s how it works: As you watch the debate on Current TV, you see a real-time Twitter feed on the bottom third of the screen. Anyone can participate simply by “tweeting” with the correct tag (#current). As new “tweets” roll in, the others fade out and disappear.
Not to be left out of the mix, NPR announced its own Twitter debate tag (#factcheck). People were asked to use the tag to report inaccuracies in the pundits’ answers and to offer a link to an original source with the correct information. The American people had access to the truth a moment later.
These two examples raise an interesting shift in journalism, media consumption, influence and engagement. The traditional lines were totally blurred here. Although TiVo and I tracked the debate on television (can’t live without pause and rewind) and I listened to a traditional journalist pose the questions, I watched the debate primarily online, where I was more ENGAGED, CONTRIBUTED to the conversation and even found myself INFLUENCED by information from OTHER VIEWERS – not the traditional peddlers.
Here are some other interesting uses of Twitter that I’ve noted during this election season:
- Twitter launched http://election.twitter.com, which is specifically designed to aggregate tweets about politics, Campaign 2008 and the four main candidates.
- C-SPAN launched Debate Hub (http://debatehub.c-span.org), complete with a Twitter roundup, a blog aggregator, and searchable AND editable video clips. C-SPAN has also been quite interactive with viewers on Twitter (http://twitter.com/cspan) by proactively engaging and thanking them for tweeting, blogging or embedding its content.
- In advance of Gov. Palin’s visit to Los Angeles last weekend, the California Democratic Party asked people to send her questions via Twitter. Those who used the words “Ask Sarah Palin” in their tweets may have found their questions displayed on a roadside electronic billboard that the party set up in L.A. They also used Ustream.TV to Webcast live video of the billboard on their site, www.cadem.org.
I must admit that some of this activity resulted in a bit of information overload. However, it actually made the debates – dare I say it – fun! So, as next Wednesday’s debate between Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama gets underway, don’t just sit down in front of the television. Fire up your laptop and join in the conversation. Oh, and a warning to those who follow me on Twitter: turn device updates “off” – I plan to tweet at a furious pace!
David Almacy (@almacy) is vice president of Waggener Edstrom‘s Studio D group. Ian Benson (@imb3), digital experience producer for WE Studio D, also contributed to this post which originally appeared on WE’s Studio D blog.
Update: Former Vice President Gore launched a Twitter account (@algore) on November 6, 2008 with just over 23,000 followers as of January 2, 2009. However, he’s only following one (@current, of course) and just nine tweets to date.