YouTube is quickly emerging as a new tool for strategic communication. Uses include promoting documentaries by posting trailers and news clips (see this post on Jesus Camp), reaching bigger audiences with community-based or advocacy media (see this clip by PR Watch), amplifying the views of scientists working to defend evolution (see this lecture by Ken Miller,) and magnifying the arguments of politicians via news clips or political ads that otherwise would have only reached "live viewers." (See for example these clips on Senator Inhofe's claims about coverage of global warming, and the response from journalists and rival political leaders.)
And now the U.S. government has gotten up to speed with You Tube. As the American Observer reports, the White House Office of Drug Control Policy is targeting teens by posting the agency's latest anti-drug commercials on YouTube (Go here to view.)
The government's actions resonate with a discussion I had this morning in the course I teach here at American on Communication & Society. Whenever a novel use of the Internet like Napster, YouTube or MySpace is introduced, there is a lot of optimism about how it will reverse the balance of power in society by catalyzing participation from new groups, creating new forms of expression, and/or by reaching new audiences with independent messages. But almost without exception, these major new media have quickly been bought out by large corporations (i.e. Napster by Bertelsmann, MySpace by NewsCorp, and YouTube by Google). And very quickly, corporations, news organizations, advertisers, and the government figure out how to reach these formerly "independent media" audiences with the same old advertising appeals and messages.