As promised here are the videos that were the most influential & important to this most recent voting cycle:

4.  The Rev. Jeremiah Wright. 
This was Barack Obama’s big early test. If there was anything that would threaten his candidacy, it is the image of The Scary Black Man coupled with a statement that was seemingly test-marketed to most offend moderate white voters: “God damn America.”

For a couple of weeks this past spring, you could not turn on a cable news channel without hearing this phrase in this voice. The video was emailed multiple times to pretty much anyone with an e-mail account. And the impact was stunning.

It forced the Obama campaign to play defense, to stammer out explanations and excuses that paled in comparison to the “God damn America” quote. Suddenly, it seemed as though the national consciousness was set to relegate Obama into the category of America-hating radical. Unelectable.

…and then came even more tapes of Jeremiah Wright. And then he compounded the problems by going on TV and acting crazy and blasting Obama.

Barack Obama Pastor Jeremiah Wright NEW TAPES!!!!

Jeremiah Wright – God Damn America – Obama’s Spiritual Mentor / Pastor

…but all of this set the stage for a crucial event.

3. Obama’s Speech on Race. 

This 37-minute turning point in our national discourse took place in Philadelphia, on March 18.  Obama’s remarks were honest and unflinching. He acknowledged problems and the failed solutions that we have thrown at this problem. 

The main comment that came out after this was: “He talked to the American people as if we were all grown-ups.”

In a year when we’re all feeling like we need someone who himself is a grown-up, not a petulant, willful child (despite the fact that Limbaugh attempted to smear Obama as “the little black man-child”) Obama struck the perfect note with this speech. It set the stage for the national image of Obama as a man who stands on his own hind legs, speaks the truth and doesn’t come apart under pressure.

More than 5 million people watched this clip.  And we started thinking, “This guy could really be different.”

2. American Stories, American Solutions: 30 Minute Special

And this piece confirmed that not only was Obama different, he was special; he could speak to the problems and concerns of ordinary people in a way that transcended typical campaign rhetoric.  It literally opened with the amber waves of grain, and the string music really made you feel that something was transpiring here that was touching, and important.  I twittered at the time that I thought that Obama’s cinematographer should be nominated for an Oscar.

This half-hour special ran on 7 channels the week before the election.  Some of my (more left-leaning) friends have said that this left them a little cold.  They were apparently looking for real wild-eyed liberal anger.  I think that it hit the right note again – in a campaign that had to be perfect to get a black man into the White House, it was yet another move that demonstrated to the twitchy electorate that this was a candidacy that transcended race, and was really about voting for the man who addressed the serious issues that we all face.

More than 1.8 million people watched this online, while 34 million watched it on TV.  Strictly speaking, this wasn’t so much a viral video hit, but it certainly was not a standard campaign ad, so I’m sticking it into this list.

1. The Election-Night Victory Speech

I’ll just let this one speak for itself.

The closer for all of this is the report today that, perhaps due to the proliferation of this kind of content on the internet, our attention spans for online video are growing longer. Which is good news for indie and non-traditional content creators – since if the audience’s attention span is growing longer (average of two minutes longer), that means a corresponding increase in the possibility of monetizing that attention span.  Viewers of 30 minute shows will currently tolerate about 2 minutes of ads per show.  If we manage to get that up to the standard 8 minutes of broadcast TV, we just might be able to monetize this mess.

Internet users are also branching out as far as video content is concerned.  According to the NYT, on the, the most popular video content has been political coverage.  

Sites hosting video content, such as Blip.TV, have seen their average video length increase by about two minutes in the last year. 

Studies have also shown that viewers usually jump around videos in a
“non-linear way”, thus leading video providers to present a wide range
of options of what to watch after a video is finished. 

The New York Times says that this is because viewers are actually able to pick & choose what they want to watch, and when they want to watch it.  It’s the TiVo Effect, translated over to online.  I have certainly started watching more TV since I got the TiVo. Rather than just doing the random “video walk” around the channels, I check t
o see which of my faves has been recently captured, and then sit down and let it play.  I pause it when I want, or even pause and come back to it in a day or so, if I don’t find it all that compelling.

The Times also finds that the twin drivers of online traffic – relevancy and usefulness – are at work behind the scenes for internet video.  There’s a much longer post gestating about that one, but I’ll leave you with this bit from the excellent Times story:

Certain shows, like how-to programming, keep audiences for a long time. “If someone
says at the beginning of the show he will make a chair, he spends the
next 20 minutes making it in his garage, and then he sits down in the
chair, people will watch that all the way through, and they love it,”
Mr. Hudack said.

There is less interest in longer sitcoms and dramas made by
amateurs, Mr. Hudak said. The issue is that independent filmmakers
don’t have the resources and skills to make something that is
compelling for much longer than five minutes, he said.

Many sites are finding, in fact, that users want to construct their own video programs out of parts.

“The consumer shows up with a partial idea in her head about what
she wants to watch,” said Adam Berrey, a senior vice president of
Brightcove, a video technology firm. “She moves from video to video in
a nonlinear way.”