Yesterday, as the Republican presidential debate took place via YouTube, the Democratic National Committee quietly launched a rather notable Web 2.0 initiative itself. FlipperTV is a new service from the Democratic Party site that offers a growing library of video clips of the Republican candidates on the campaign trail. Users are encouraged to take the video and "use the footage as they wish." Wink wink.
In an era when home-brewed YouTube videos are more entertaining than 90 percent of network television, the DNC's strategy seems obvious. Why pay high-priced advertising companies to create mudslinging attack ads (that could blow up in its face) when you have millions of supporters with the technology to make their own videos and take responsibility for the content. The site even suggests that we "hold these candidates accountable for their comments and actions."
A fair amount of the video offered is the C-SPAN equivalent of EdTV, but for video source material on Republican candidates, the scope of the offerings is significant. Unfortunately, only four leading Republican candidates are featured--Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson. Admittedly, those guys are fun to satirize, but they don't hold a candle to Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, or Alan Keyes (is he still running?). I suppose there's not much reason for Democrats to attack those last three...yet.
FlipperTV is a good idea. The most famous ad of the 2008 presidential campaign so far has been the homemade Hillary 1984/Vote Different video for Barack Obama, created by Phil de Vellis (aka ParkRidge47 on YouTube). However, the Democratic Party site doesn't make it easy for us to download and edit its video content.
The Republican candidate videos are presented through a Flash interface that has been licensed (or donated) from blip.tv, and it works very well...for watching. However, if the point is to download source video to mix it up, it's curious that there's no download functionality, nor any video source files like AVI, MOV, or MPG. Instead, there's compressed FLV movies that require a separate application or Firefox add-on to download.
Also, while users are encouraged to download as much video as we would like, there's no way for users to upload their own creations. Perhaps the DNC has learned a lesson from MoveOn's ill-fated Bush in 30 Seconds campaign, which became infamous solely for a pair of ads comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler.