Candidate Dialogue, featuring US presidential candidate John Edwards. The townhall meeting style event was a joint presentation between MySpace's Impact channel and MTV's Choose or Loose site aimed squarely at one-upping the CNN/YouTube debate held in July (and coming again in November).Today was the first MySpace/MTV
Rather than a full-on debate, MySpace and MTV opted for a series of townhall-style meetings with a single candidate at each. The first, held today at noon ET, featured Democrat John Edwards and was broadcast live from the University of New Hampshire. I got to catch the last 40 minutes of it.
The video was streamed live via Windows Media to both the MySpace and MTV election 2008 web sites and was simulcast with a Spanish translation on La Vibra. Edwards fielded questions on ten topics ranging from health care and the environment to terrorism and the war in Iraq. Most of the questions were asked by members of the studio audience in New Hampshire, but the hosts would jump in occasionally with follow-ups from MySpace users who sent in questions during the broadcast via MySpace IM.
One of the most innovative features of the debates was the real-time feedback widget that allowed web viewers to vote on whether or not they thought Edwards had good ideas. There was a fresh widget for each topic and they provided instant results that were updated on both the MySpace and MTV pages and the hosts even gave updates to Edwards during the course of the dialogue. That sort of interactivity and audience engagement could be helpful at making young people more interested in politics.
Unfortunately for Edwards, he scored an overall 94% favorability rating. That's unfortunate, because I think it indicates that he was likely preaching to the choir. With a traditional debate with multiple candidates people can compare and contrast, so presidential hopefuls are probably more likely to reach voters who aren't already in their camp (like their MySpace friends). But with a single candidate, especially this late in the primary campaign, you're really just shoring up support with your base. For a candidate running in 3rd place like Edwards, that's not the greatest news.
It will be interesting to see if MySpace (or the Edwards campaign) releases any viewership numbers. My guess is that over the course of the series, viewership will generally correspond to the number of friends each candidate has.
Still, the first MySpace/MTV Candidate Dialogue was very well run, and I think for young voters, seeing their peers ask questions directly to candidates is empowering. I also applaud MySpace and MTV for their efforts to register voters.