Hyperpartisan: Inside 'The Message,' the tiny left-wing viral-video conspiracy that wants to bloody Romney 2012
Page 2 of 2
The purpose of The Message, according to its founders, is to partner with creatives—writers, actors, directors, musicians, etc.—in producing original, partisan features about the "social, political and cultural topics of the day," while also curating like-minded content from around the web. The Romney video, for instance, featured professional actors and was directed by Jace Alexander. The ultimate goal, the founders say, is to engage potential voters while sparking debates that resonate with influencers both in Washington and the media.
"The idea of, how do progressives actually use the medium of video, whether with voters or young people or people disaffected by the process, in ways that aren't just people barking at each other on cable?," said Burns. "That's where I think the real power of the concept is."
Chenfeld declined to specify how much he was spending on the venture, which actually isn't a venture in the sense that there's no goal of making money. But he did say he hoped The Message would pique the interest of other deep-pocketed individuals or organizations who would be interested in contributing funding. In a best-case scenario, he said, it would eventually have a full-time staff and maybe even a business plan.
"To the extent that this thing could be self-sustaining would be great," said Chenfeld. "I don't think that's impossible. My goal on this is for it to have an impact, for us to fill this niche and for me to no longer have to pay for most of it. But the thing about this is, it either works, or it doesn't work."
"I think there's a lot of people who'd want to get involved with us on one level or another," said Zipern. "People who are involved in an issue, or who are actively trying to change legislation on an issue where, if it made sense for us, we could create a video that could help make that case."
The viral nature of online video lends itself nicely to their mission.
"There's definitely a big space in the social web for really hyperpartisan content," said Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed.
But The Message is also having conversations with "people who have a large platform on cable TV and online," according to Chenfeld.
"We're obviously interested in collaborating with Current TV, MSNBC and a host of online sites that are too numerous to mention," said Burns. "In the short term, we've got to get to the point where we're creating the kind of content people will want to put on the air."
It's these sort of relationships, after all, that can add firepower to a video that might not become an instant hit on its own. As a case study, consider The Message's second big original effort: A Ronald Reagan fact-checking exercise narrated by the bookish Brooklyn rapper Soul Kahn that attemps to debunk the lionized former president's legacy among Republicans as "the second coming of Jesus Christ."
While the Romney satire racked up almost 50,000 views and 701 comments within a day, in addition to the extensive media coverage it received, the Reagan video on Wednesday (the day it was promoted) got a little more than a thousand YouTube clicks, a mere five comments and scant coverage aside from a plug on The Message's own Huffington Post blog.
"If this video comes out," said Chenfeld, two days before it landed online, "and in a week or two, [MSNBC host Joe] Scarborough, who loves Reagan, has somebody on his show, or if Bill Maher or Jon Stewart or whoever it is, all of a sudden wants to make this an issue, all of that's the kind of thing we're trying to do. The measure for this is not to once every three months come up with some video that blows up virally."
He added: "Getting Drudge to cover this is not in and of itself a goal. If all we did was piss off the conservative guys, get those guys to scream about us, I don't think we've done a good enough job. But it's certainly a good place to start."
And The Message certainly seems to have started there.
You can watch the Romney video below:
More by this author:
- Ahead of an avalanche, the 'Times' reminds us this new thing is theirs, and it's called a 'Snow Fall'
- What is this new Twitter 'Amplify,' you ask?