Say what you will about their grand business strategy, there are some things Yahoo! does very well. Today the company announced that after less than two weeks more than 1 million people have viewed more than 4 million videos on the Yahoo! Democratic Mashup, the site that "mashes up" interview questions and answers with Democratic Party US Presidential candidates.
Yahoo! Answers is one of the companies biggest, if unsung, successes - I'd argue that the Presidential Mashup can be mentioned in the same breath, albeit as a short term project.
Here's how it works. Site visitors select candidates and topics they are interested in and a playlist is assembled for the embedded multi-file Yahoo! Video Player. The questions are all asked by TV interviewer Charlie Rose, except for a wildcard question for each candidate from Bill Maher. Because of the huge market penetration of Yahoo! ID, the company was able to extract all kinds of demographic information from site viewers. The company said today that "Thirty-nine percent of the audience represented the 18-35 demographic. That means our debate attracted about 429,000 18- to 35-year-olds. ThatÄôs more from this demographic than any debate so far!"
Take that claim with a grain of salt; the July YouTube/CNN debate was reported to have had 2.6 million viewers in one night, according to Nielsen Media Research. 407,000 of those viewers were believed to be in the 18-34 year old sweet spot, fewer than Yahoo! is reporting over their debate period. Either way, it's safe to say that both debates were wildly successful in scoring eyeballs.
The pure web play by Yahoo! had some unique qualities to it, though.
Hillary Clinton clips were far and away the most viewed on Yahoo! but site visitors preferred Barack Obama. The project is a great example of Yahoo! properties like Yahoo! Video and People of the Web, combined with celebrities like Charlie Rose and Bill Maher and media partners Slate and the Huffington Post - something Yahoo! is better positioned to pull off than almost anyone else online. Other projects like this would have leveraged MyBlogLog as well, but on a voting-related site it would presumably have made visitors uncomfortable to see their faces displayed next to their candidate playlists.
While Charlie Rose sounds silly calling this Yahoo! project "the first online debate," the Republican candidates sound sillier still arguing whether and when to participate in something as marginally unscripted even as the YouTube or Yahoo! video debates.