Friendster community 'gets political'

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Friendster, a social networking Web site with about 33 million members, partnered with video technology provider ViTrue Inc. to run a two-week user-generated political ad contest called "Get Political!"

The contest, which asks users to create and post ads about issues and candidates for the midterm elections, ends today. At the time of writing nearly 70 videos were posted, and the contest had drawn 1.5 million site views.

"If you look at Web 1.0, it was about using search and banner ads to get your brand out," said Reggie Bradford, founder/CEO of ViTrue, Atlanta. "Web 2.0 is about brands building their own relationship with their users."

By providing an outlet for U.S. political discourse, the contest extends the stated mission of Friendster, San Francisco, which is to emphasize real-world friendships and communication. Posted videos support Republican and Democratic candidates, several include negative comments about President Bush and the Iraq War and still others call for supporting the troops.

The 4-year-old social hub is backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Benchmark Cap. It will award the top six video creators one of six prizes: $2,500 in cash, a $1,000 Sony video camera and four $300 video iPods.

Videos are reviewed by Friendster staff to eliminate pornographic or copyright-infringing material. Mr. Bradford said that 5 percent to 10 percent of the videos submitted don't make it onto the Web. Hosting the contest are a Friendster portal at http://www.friendster.com/video.php and ViTrue's online video sharing community Sharkle.com at http://friendster.sharkle.com.

"Friendster's goal is to rally their 30 million-plus users to post videos and interact with the site and each other," Mr. Bradford said. "The 2004 presidential election demonstrated the importance of the online communities in political campaigns, and this initiative takes that phenomenon to the next level."

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