Would You Sing In Front of Your Hometown?

You could argue that regular everyday people have done more to popularize/legitimize online videos than anybody else, but it still is mainly a business of shooting videos that get seen on YouTube and Facebook, and generally disconnected from the community where the user generated content is really, well, generated.

Online video will turn a corner with consumers and advertisers when it really has consistent local impact.

Probably the “Oh Say Can You Sing?” video competition sponsored by The Daily in Council Bluffs, Iowa won’t be the crowning proof of that, but it’s going in the right direction.

It’s asking its 12,500 readers and friends to consider sending a video to the paper showing them belting out a patriotic song.

The paper has had online contests before. “Now we have a regular calendar of them,” says Dan Collin, the director of advertising.  “We put far more effort into it than we did at the beginning.”  But this is the first video contest and he’s excited by this idea. But he also says, “I hope we don’t fall on our face.”



The winner, chosen by reader votes, gets a recording session at Ware House Productions in Omaha, Neb., just across the river, where Warren Buffett, who owns the paper, lives.  

There aren’t many other rules, says John Schreier, who runs the Website, and secretly worries that some videos might be long. “There are eight verses to ‘America the Beautiful,’ ” he notes, though as I told him, people hate long videos, regardless of patriotic vigor or even Sinatra-quality phrasing.

And they just don’t know who will enter. “Who knows? We may have some real talent out there,” Collin says. What worries him is that they don’t.

Of course, there’s an unseen hand at work here, too.  The Daily Nonpareil and as many as 3,000 radio and TV stations and newspapers use a St. Louis-based company, Second Street,that provides the software through a division called UPICKEM, to store the videos and count the votes.

It was at a Second Street seminar that Collin heard about a station that sponsored an online “Sing Like Carrie Underwood” contest that got him thinking about doing something special for Independence Day. It seems like the overwhelming majority of Second Street-connected contests are not about videos but I’d venture to guess, that’s where the future is going, and online views, too.  

For example, Kelly Travis, the marketing director, talks about a Lip Dubbing contest sponsored by a Fox station in North Carolina that got 40 high schools involved, and resulted in 2.2 million votes. No doubt there were lots of ballot-stuffers but those kinds of numbers obviously say something about engagement, too.  

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