For those of us in the United States, Wednesday night is the first of three presidential debates. It is going to be a big night on television as millions tune in to watch Republican nominee Mitt Romney debate President Barack Obama at the University of Denver (News - Alert). However, it may not be as big as people think. This is not because the audience will not be large. It is because thanks to the three largest Internet portals — AOL (News - Alert), Yahoo and Google, to be precise, in conjunction with the Commission on Presidential Debates —will be streaming the event live. In many ways this will be the first debate that showcases the full virtuosity of the Internet age.
Not only will each portal stream the debate from their sites, but they are hosting a platform called the "Voice of" that will allow users to learn about—and weigh in on—the issues. In other words, people will be able to watch and speak up while the debate is going on and will not have to wait for the pundits and spin doctors to tell them what they just heard or what they should think about it. Real democracy, in real time.
Here is a brief rundown of what will be going on as the Internet giants seek to hone in on what has been the preserve of the networks and cable TV news channels:
·Yahoo News will host pre- and post-debate coverage and analysis with its partner ABC News.
·YouTube (News - Alert) will be live streaming the debates at its YouTube Elections Hub via the ABC News YouTube channel.
· AOL, will use its local Patch, Daily Finance and live streaming site Huffington Post (News - Alert) Live.
"We think this is a huge opportunity to have cross-pollination across all of our brands," said Chris Grosso, general manager of AOL Homepages. "That means getting AOL.com users to use Patch, and getting Patch users to use HuffPost Live, and getting Huffington Post users onto Patch."
Prior to the debate, the "Voice of" sites will offer viewers the chance to not just read about the major issues but register their opinions, and compare them to others visiting the sites. While not exactly a vote or a poll this getting close and the networks had best take notice. The U.S. may be in the 19th century when it comes to automating the voting process but we certainly are 21st Century when it comes to enabling average citizens something more than a passive role in watching the presidential race.
It will be fascinating to see what impact this effort has on the ratings of the networks and MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. This is a potentially disruptive and beneficial development. Seems maybe Gil Scott-Heron in his debut album got it right, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” By all means check it and “Voice off” on Wednesday night. If nothing else it will be entertaining.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi