Kamala Harris and Joe Biden
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DNC 2020 didn't have the visual grandeur of traditional conventions, but it did cut down much of the fat that plagues similar events.

Organizing a weeklong television commercial for Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the middle of a pandemic was not an enviable feat. The makers of the Democratic Party's eight-hour event, evenly spread over four days, were tasked with creating a socially distant show that would energize American voters, lay out Joe Biden and Kamala Harris's platform, and set the tone for the event sets the last two odd months before the 2020 presidential election.

The result was… a collection of zoom calls and pre-made videos that were essentially political infomercials. No doubt nifty, well-produced Zoom calls and commercials, but Zoom calls and infomercials nonetheless.

That sounds derogatory, but given the unprecedented production challenges DNC organizers faced due to the coronavirus pandemic, the unusual format of the 2020 National Democratic Convention was completely understandable. The event was unlike any other American political convention in the country's history, and while its formatting was incorrect, some aspects of the DNC 2020 composition deserve praise.



The videoconferencing aesthetic of the convention has been a widespread criticism among critics of the event in the media, but it's hard to imagine the convention being structured any differently given the need for social distancing. The design choice was probably the best as the Convention's occasional attempts to emulate a “normal” DNC atmosphere were mixed. Harris gave her Wednesday speech in a large and practically empty room, and the sterile atmosphere did her a disservice.

DNC 2020 may have made history as the first (mostly) video-conferencing-style political television show, but the event was preceded by countless recent productions in the entertainment industry that looked strikingly similar. Hollywood has produced a variety of "Coronavirus TV Specials" over the past few months for shows ranging from popular comedies like "Parks & Recreation" and "30 Rock" to newer shows like "All Rise" and "Mythic Quest: Raven & # 39; s Banquet "range. "These specials, from seasoned Hollywood creatives, consisted mostly of zoom calls from theater homes and on-camera conversations, and in some cases included less different sets than the DNC. From a visual point of view, the DNC was more engaging than some of the most popular television specials in the past few months.

While much of the congress has already been recorded, the mix of DNC's live events added a much-needed level of spontaneity and timeliness to the process. The event was a stark contrast to Comic-Con 2020, which was essentially nothing more than a collection of identical-looking pre-recorded ads and industry panels (data suggests SDCC 2020 was a major failure). With the Emmys being spread out over an unusually long six days in September, it will be interesting to see if these awards ceremonies and other Hollywood virtual events take note of DNC's design decisions.

The week-long event also deserves praise from a technical point of view: aside from a few awkward cuts and a speech or two that started a few seconds earlier or later, there wasn't much to complain about when it came to the moment-to-moment management of the event . This may seem like a low bar, but given the mix of live and recorded segments and numerous broadcasts from all over the country, it's a small miracle that there weren't any significant technical difficulties during the congress.

Aside from the virtual format, the main difference of DNC 2020 from previous conventions was its shortened length, which was one of its strongest elements. Shorter speeches were made – probably better to generate social media-friendly soundbites – that weren't dragged out by endless pauses in applause, and the lengthy formalities that define any political convention have been graciously trimmed. The best example of this was Tuesday's roll call, when delegates from 57 states and territories cast their votes for a presidential candidate. Appeals are usually an excruciatingly long affair, but Tuesday made the most of its short time: most delegates found certain issues resonating with residents of that state or territory, and were visually appealing – only people seeing things Doing outdoors in different places is a real pleasure these days.

While DNC 2020 was a leaner affair, more could have been cut. One of the weaker elements of the virtual format was the liberal use of montages and recorded video by "normal" voters. Put simply, there were way too many of each and they started to mingle long before the convention ended. A handful of them were undoubtedly memorable, like the emotional Tuesday video of Ady Barkan, an activist diagnosed with ALS, but the DNC could have made better use of their time by offering more engaging live programming.

While the montages and other pre-recorded videos could have used a cut, the event's various musical performances should be completely scrapped. While it's attractive to see beloved musicians perform at major television events – the Super Bowl halftime is an annual event, after all – that concert energy just didn't transfer to the virtual DNC. Even with the collapse, this was already an overly long DNC, and breaking up glorified music videos was not an efficient use of time.

Overall, this optimized format seemed to be fine-tuned to create viral moments and easily divisible soundbites. And yet it did not attract as many viewers as DNC 2016. The six largest television stations had an average of 19 million viewers on the first day of the congress. The same six channels had almost 25 million viewers on the first night of DNC 2016.

Broadcast ratings for the second and third days of DNC were also lower than the audience numbers for the same day during DNC 2016. While data on the last night of the convention, which is often seen, is clear the number of viewers for the entire event has declined compared to the previous DNC. Although the lack of a physical convention could have contributed to a drop in viewership, the DNC occurred in the midst of a pandemic that further destabilized the country in the initial debate against Trump shortly after nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, and just weeks before Biden . These factors could have motivated more Americans to prepare for DNC 2020 than the conventions of previous years. That didn't happen.

A smaller audience is clearly undesirable for DNC organizers, but those numbers don't tell the full story. Digital viewership such as the DNC streams on YouTube, social media, the DNC website and other online platforms do not take into account the broadcast ratings but could represent a significant portion of the event's viewership. There's no Nielsen equivalent for tracking audience numbers on online platforms, but T.J. Ducklo, Biden's national press secretary, claimed 10.2 million people had tuned in to DNC digital streams, saying the statistics "shook the previous record for digital streams." A Biden campaign official is not an ideal source for an estimate of the DNC's online audience in Biden. Given that American mass media audiences are rapidly turning to streaming video over traditional television, the lower number of viewers on the radio can be expected to match an increase in streaming viewership.

Regardless, the event's engagement might have developed better if the DNC organizers had more social media literacy. While the Democratic Party posted a handful of breakout clips from each night on its social media pages, the party's overall activity and reach on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in particular – the party's Instagram account inexplicably underused – was not strong. While the shorter virtual format of the event may have helped the DNC appeal to younger voters, social media's lack of capitalization for such an important virtual event was a tremendous missed opportunity to engage with this demographic.

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