If Periscope or Meerkat existed when Mitt Romney gave his disastrous “47%” speech in Boca Raton during the 2012 campaign, it’s quite likely an aide would see what was going out live over the Internet, and gagged him with a luncheon napkin just to shut him up.
Instead, sometime later Mother Jones released the secretly recorded video that proved to some Americans that Romney favored only the privileged. Had it been “live,” the same thing would have happened, only instantly and probably with even more attention.
But Periscope didn’t exist, and now it does and the presidential sweepstakes are just getting going. Live streaming video could change everything. Because everything will be live.
Former Obama White House communications chief Dan Pfeiffer wrote recently that he watched Jeb Bush on the sorta-campaign trail in New Hampshire, while on his phone at the grocery store. Now, he’s a wonk, but for good or bad, a candidate’s big rally, or his/her ridiculous mistakes, are going go wide, immediately. When Hillary Clinton finally speaks to the press, there is going to be more live coverage than ever. It might not be pretty.
It’s easy for media pundits to imagine the wildest scenarios. But Tim Treanor, who runs a Washington company, OVS Media, that live streams government and trade association at events, thinks 2016 will just be the warm up for real, regular, intrusive live coverage by 2020. Besides doing live video for a living--over 600 of them--Treanor worked on two earlier congressional campaigns and a mayor’s race and was a partner with Chris Sauter who was President Obama’s first media consultant in 2000 when he ran for Congress. I think he see things a little less glamorously.
“Periscope will definitely change the way the press operates,” Treanor says, because, for one, journalists may skip events and watch somebody else’s feed, and possibly because editors not on the campaign trail will be able to get a real-time glimpse at what’s going on.
But of course, the politicians and their aides will always be on.
And that’s the rub: “Opponents will have a stream of live recordings,” Treanor said. Those gotcha followers who look for the big gaffe will get a lot of help.
But Treanor believes that in this election cycle, Periscope and Meerkat will really have impact on supporters and fund-raisers. Like never before, campaign leaders will be able to communicate, live, with significant supporters in any city.
On a practical matter, though, he thinks live streaming will have its moment one election cycle from now. “The next wave are the professionals,” he predicts. “when the content creators and ad makers get Periscope and Meerkat into their tool kits.”
Not totally off the subject, he says traditional advertising and marketing will continue because that model has a built-in commission for the political operatives. (It is a business, after all.)
But at an Interactive Advertising Bureau conference the other day, IAB President and CEO Randall Rothenberg, who once was the politics editor for The New York Times Magazine, was absolutely sure that some big political bombshell is on the way. “You’ll see,” he told me. “It’s going to happen sooner than later, and it’s going to be big.”
Mitt Romney should be happy he's out of business.