Speeches are the computer punch cards of communication. In a world where you can summon up an entire television series online, use interactive tools to understand trade patterns, and engage in multi-person video chats, reading a pre-prepared text of 7,400 words for over an hour, interrupted by applause every other paragraph, is just outdated.
The Obama team hopes to combat the anachronism of the medium with another edition of its “enhanced” State of the Union address, which combines the speech with prepared statistics, graphics, quotes, and social media chatter, in the hope that this mix of extra information and online interactivity will attract viewers the speech might not otherwise get. I’ll embed it here when it goes live; while the spin will be for Obama, I have the feeling it’ll be the most useful live coverage of the speech itself. At least you’ll be able to see the footnotes behind the rhetorical flourishes.
Of course, prime time on television is still nothing to sneeze at: Last year, 37.8 million people watched the State of the Union—though 48 million watched in 2010. Last year, according to the White House, 800,000 people watched the enhanced State of the Union live, and some 2 million viewers have seen it on YouTube. Given the surging demand for online news and the growing audience for online video, it’s no surprise that the tech-savvy Obama White House keeps putting out this product.