MySpace enters debates fray

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MySpace’s debates site, touted the "official online companion" due to its partnership with the CPD
MySpace’s debates site, touted the "official online companion" due to its partnership with the CPD

MySpace has partnered with the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to create an online portal for the presidential debates.

The site, MyDebates.org, is slated to launch on September 26, a couple of weeks before the first debate. It will include real-time video streaming from the events and polling, as well as interac­tive tools that let consumers participate.

“With this new site, the CPD hopes to extend the reach and the youthfulness of the debates,” said Liba Wenig Ruben­stein, manager of public affairs for Impact, MySpace's political channel. “We wanted to make sure that the debates are put to good use by voters and that there is an easy way to help voters identify the issues that are important to them.”

The site is not initially being mon­etized by CPD or MySpace, Rubenstein explained. “In the spirit of openness we are not selling ads around content and community,” she said. “But for advertisers in the future, it will establish a community of online viewers who are more engaged in the political process.”

Immediately following each debate, MyDebates.org will host videos of the debates, which will be bookmarked by issue for easy searching. MySpace users can also share, comment and rate links in the Video Clip Player.

In addition, MyDebates.org will fea­ture real-time video streaming and, as the candidates are speaking, “issue icons” will light up as candidates discuss specific main topics. Viewers of this interactive site will be polled throughout the debates and will be able to respond to these multiple choice questions or by giving a thumbs up or down.

“Our educational partnership with MySpace builds on the unique power of digital media to further engage voters on the issues and help ensure their voices are heard in new and effective ways,” said Janet Brown, executive director of the CPD.

Last August, YouTube partnered with CNN to host Republican and Democratic debates during the primaries. Citizens could submit questions directed at the candidates on YouTube. The MySpace site takes this tactic one step further. Vot­ers will be able to interact in real time as the debates go on. Visitors to the site will have the option of downloading a personalized application that will stream the debates from an embedded location such as within a blog, social network or Web site. The application also lets citizens playback the video to track a candidate's perspective on different issues.

There has been a long series of initiatives aimed at making the presidential election a more interactive and engaging experience. According to Nielsen Online, 89% of US adult online users are registered voters, and the topic is popular online. February saw the second- and third-largest traffic spikes for the news and media category, during Super Tuesday and the follow­ing day when results were announced, according to Hitwise.

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