Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech is the most popular video in the world today, drawing an unusual 1.2 million full views in its first 24 hours on YouTube – double the views of the next most popular clips. YouTube only counts visitors who watch an entire video, so hundreds of thousands of additional visitors probably watched part of the 37-minute address.
While commentators and Democratic leaders predict that "A More Perfect Union" will ultimately be seen as a historic contribution to American race relations, it is already making history in YouTube politics. At this pace, it will be the most watched contemporary political speech in Internet history. In about a day, it is already the second most viewed item on Obama's innovative YouTube channel, which boasts 810 videos and 13 million channel views. (For comparison, that is nine times the views of Clinton's channel and 21 times the views for the McCain channel.)
Obama's all-time top video, a 4-minute response to President Bush's State of the Union recorded exclusively for YouTube, ultimately drew 1.3 million views. An Obama aide tells The Nation that video took about two weeks to reach one million views -- this longer Philadelphia address broke one million views in a single day, with visitors voting it the top rated and most "favorited" video on YouTube. And over at MSNBC.com, an excerpt of Obama's speech was also the most popular clip, drawing over 360,000 views.
Obama has staked his campaign on the premise that we cannot solve the country's problems through the old, broken model of divisive politics and scandal-driven, never-ending media battles. From improving race relations to ending the war responsibly, he is offering voters honest and nuanced ideas over soundbites. And a record-breaking number of people continue to embrace this unusual political proposal -- often routing around the media filter to hear from Obama directly.
Update: In traditional media, big speeches are largely treated as a menu for ordering a few appetizing soundbites. That's why Joe Klein understandably worries that:
Most people will never hear the elegant complexity of Obama's speech in full...though they certainly should. As others have already said, it was the best speech about race I've ever heard delivered by an American politician.
Yet as this video goes viral, tapping many months of the campaign's decentralized organizing, literally millions of people will see the speech in full. An Obama Campaign email urged supporters to send it to everyone they know, while MoveOn and ColorofChange called on their large membership base to circulate it as well. YouTube stats indicate that many viewers are finding the clip from links on Obama's site, in addition to general interest news sites like the Huffington Post and Crooks & Liars.