This story has a U.S. elections focus, as a friend and I recently debated which was a more important player in the upset election of Jim Webb to the U.S. Senate, after a video recording of his better-funded incumbent opponent using a racial slur at a campaign appearance became widely seen. (The "Makaka" incident.) Was it the proliferation of cell phone cameras that made such a recording almost inevitable, or the YouTube phenomenon that makes it so easy to spread such a video, and enabling it to percolate up to the mainstream TV channels. Which was more significant?
Video is filled with such chicken and egg conundrums. For example, what most people call "cable-TV" in the U.S. should really be called satellite-TV. Cable-TV had actually been around for decades, in the 1970s when commercial satellites started taking off. Until then, cable-TV's main purpose was to re-distribute local TV stations that were far away or blocked by mountains (in the country) or by tall buildings (in the city). It wasn't until satellites came along, offering cheap nationwide distribution of network TV signals, that channels like CNN and MTV became viable.
YouTube has been extending its reach to the mobile video universe. A deal with Nextel was recently announced. Whether YouTube is going to help sell mobile video, or mobile video is going to help expand the audience for YouTube is debatable -- it's the chicken and egg again. But there's something very poetic and symmetric about this deal, among all the content alliances recently announced for mobile video, this one really stands out.
Because now the cell-phone camera and YouTube phenomenon are no longer separate developments, but are merged into one plugged-into itself universe. Now, you can shoot the video with your cell phone, post it on YouTube, and then watch it on the exact same cell phone. It's a bit like what musician Paul Simon once called "The Mother and Child Reunion."