29 November 2008

Can/should TroopTube compete with YouTube?

So far, I've only blogged about blogs - discussing how the Army benefits from Soldier bloggers and how we can develop new policies and guidance that will encouraged Soldiers to blog. But this project is about new media in general, so it's time to start discussing other aspects ... video sharing.

YouTube has taken the world by storm - there must be something inherently funny about a cat falling off a kitchen counter - and over the past few years it has grown to be much more than just posting random goofiness. Folks post messages, try their hand at short film-making or animation, trailers for movies, and footage from their combat experiences.  

The Army has established policies that ban the use of YouTube on government computers (along with several other sites - claiming excessive bandwidth needs).  However, some in the Army believe that YouTube offers some distinct advantages to getting messages out and countering insurgent videos / propaganda (in fact, take a watch of LTG Caldwell address the most recent Milblogging conference discussing how the Army can make better use of new media).

Recently, the Army launched its own version of YouTube - called TroopTube.  The Army pitches it as a way to boost morale for deployed Soldiers by providing a site to send video messages back and forth with home.  Other news sources view the site with a bit more skepticism.  

TroopTube is not a bad idea but it will not replace YouTube for a few reasons.  First, we can't compete with the YouTube "brand name" - people know it, go to it, talk about it and it is so broad that it offers something that appeals to nearly anyone.  TroopTube, on the other hand, is focused on such a narrow topic and a small group of people (comparatively).  Secondly, it requires an account (which is available to anyone; not just military folks) which will potentially turn some people away.  Finally, it is censored.  Instead of simply trusting Soldiers and family members to post responsibly, videos can be edited.  While not inherently a bad thing - we should absolutely do our best to project a positive image - the message it sends is harmful.

If we agree that posting videos of operations and other events (in accordance with OPSEC requirements, etc) can help us win the "War of Ideas", then TroopTube will not get those videos seen around the world by a broad audience - only YouTube will be able to do this.  If we want to capitalize on new media, we must authorize use of the new media - even if that use is restricted to particular people in an organization (PA and unit commanders, for example).  And, just as with blogs, we need to educate our Soldiers to understand how OPSEC applies for things posted to the internet, how to prepare videos that will capture people's attention and convey the important messages needed to be told.


  1. Another problem is that one of their justifications for blocking YouTube was bandwidth issues. Obviously, that's not the case if they are so eager to set up their own video site. A video's a video, whether it's on YouTube or TroopTube.

  2. The news release about TroopTube states that the site requires less bandwidth than YouTube, but I agree with your sentiment, Akinoluna! My opinion on this subject is that we'd be better off - we'd have better effect - if we use existing sites (especially when they're extremely popular sites!) I'm very interested in discussing/discovering ways that we can make better use of existing sites such as YouTube to help get the military's story told. Thanks for your comment ... keep sharing your thoughts about this subject.

  3. Oh ... another interesting note: The US Air Force has a channel on YouTube cleverly called BlueTube (http://www.youtube.com/AFBlueTube).
    As for submissions, they must go through the USAF Public Affairs office - Airmen cannot post directly to the YouTube channel (http://www.military.com/military-report/new-air-force-youtube-page).