CNN/YouTube Presidential Debate – A Triumph for Web 2.0

Throughout the blogosphere, people are commenting on last night’s unconventional political debate hosted by CNN (with a particularly great wrap-up by CNET News.com). In case you missed it, what makes this debate noteworthy — even on an internet marketing blog — is that all the questions were those posed by ordinary Americans posted on YouTube.

While the answers elicited in the debate weren’t that radical, filled with the usual political jargon and runarounds, the questions themselves were personal and direct in a way that those asked by an “expert” host generally are not. The questions covered a spectrum of issues on voter’s minds — from war, to healthcare, to cultural stigmas and some probing questions about candidate’s living habits and families. The faces of ordinary people speaking in plain language about issues passionate to them added a tremendous human element often missing in these kinds of debates, and the astonishing response by users (over 3900 questions were submitted) shows just how important grasping the internet will be to capturing the minds of a growing voting population.

The particularly Web 2.0 element of this whole event, is that long after it happens, it will be blogged about, responded to with more YouTube videos, talked about in chat rooms, forums, and over countless conversations in IM. And, pointing to the curious role that Google has in all of this, try a search for “Youtube CNN Debate” and you’ll see a great example of universal search.

It’s fascinating to watch the web and traditional media continue to butt heads, converge, and ultimately experiment in what media is inevitably becoming. This latest political forum was a great product of this work-in-progress, acknowledging how key the internet is to the lives and opinions of millions.