Commentary

Politicians Turn To Social Media To Gain TV Time

Maybe every politician should have their own network. But will they hire reporters to do their own journalism?

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders now does a few interviews in his Washington, D.C. office on Facebook Live -- with scientist Bill Nye, Al Gore, Mayor Bill de Blasio and others.

And then there are televised town hall meetings. Sanders had one in January about his Medicare for All proposal -- 1.1 million saw it live, and another 1.6 million tuned in the next morning. His staff gleaned that the audience was mostly men 25 to 34.

During the presidential election, then candidate Donald Trump also used Facebook Live for a faux newscast with Trump associates fronting the effort. This wasn’t a “conversational” thing with guests -- just a faux TV newscast.

And it didn’t last long.

That said, don’t look for many politicians to start up real ad-supported TV news and/or commentary sites for profit. Think more of an elaborate social-media platform.

Detractors may call it political marketing. Don’t worry, consumers can see through this -- taking the good with the questionable. Also expect this kind of stuff to substitute for actual political TV advertising -- much of which finds its way to local TV newscasts, anyway.

That viewing isn’t generally time-shifted, and content is seen live. Which is still valuable.

This politician-based social-media content won’t be sexier TV stuff. It may just be meat and potatoes. Sanders, in New York magazine, said: “We look at media in a different sense. We try to figure out what are the issues that impact ordinary people, and how can we provide information to them.”

We get it. These Facebook Live video things won’t be a headline grabber in the traditional sense. But can it reach its ultimate goal -- finding people outside their well-established echo chambers?

Could be. We know one higher-placed politician who draws a crowd with much less media time — and characters. 

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