Web media upstart caters to conservatives

Salena Zito
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Posted: Apr 10, 2007 3:01 PM
Web media upstart caters to conservatives

When the public relations gurus at Quantum Communications could not find a conservative new-media network, they did what any frustrated, information-driven businessperson would do.

"We made one," said Charlie Gerow, founder of the Harrisburg-based firm.

Today, Gerow and longtime associate Jeff Lord officially began QubeTV.TV -- a unique video, photograph and social network designed especially for conservatives.

QubeTV was born on the eve of the funeral of Lord's father. While contemplating the life of his father -- a longtime conservative who held Calvin Coolidge's seat on Northampton, Mass., city council -- Lord wondered how he could honor his father through something new and fresh for the stalled conservative political movement.

The next morning, he rang Gerow to talk about a "new way to communicate and share conservative politics."

Gerow and Lord have deep conservative roots: Both worked in the Reagan administration, Lord as White House political director and Gerow as an aide in Ronald Reagan's campaigns starting in 1976.

Both consider QubeTV to be the conservatives' answer to YouTube, a popular free video-sharing Web site founded in February 2005 which enables users to upload, view and share video clips. Last fall, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock.

David Carlson, immediate past national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and a University of Florida journalism professor, said that any new outlet to gather information is a good thing.

"YouTube's primary effect has been that it has awakened the awareness of multimedia capabilities and their effects on culture," said Carlson, who in 1990 started E-Trib at the Albuquerque Tribune, one of the first newspaper online news systems.

"There are many different ways a story can be told," he said, and creating a niche such as QubeTV can carve holes in the network that need to be filled.

"It is too soon to tell if conservatives will spring away from YouTube or remain contained," said Carlson, "but this sends a message to journalists, too -- they cannot just use words to tell a story, they have to use all types of media to reach people and get their story out."

Robert Bluey, director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, said many conservatives harbor ill feelings toward YouTube for its censorship of conservative columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin.

"With a site like QubeTV, which is run by conservatives for conservatives, that's no longer an issue," he said. "YouTube has become such a dominant force in the online video market that it'll be hard for anyone to compete against it."

However, he said, a niche-site such as QubeTV has the advantage of appealing to conservatives because it's run by conservatives and features video produced by conservatives: "It's a way for conservatives to advance the movement."

Bluey said that, to be successful, QubeTV must incorporate all the easy-to-use tools on YouTube and aggressively market itself to conservative bloggers.

"It won't be easy to compete against a giant like YouTube," he warned, "but if enough conservatives embrace the idea, it could become the go-to place for conservative video on the Web."

As Gerow watched social Web networks become the rage, he realized none was designed especially for those right-of-center politically.

"With the good folks from Google taking over YouTube, you saw an increase in the tightening of the spigot of information and an increase in the censorship of the site," he explained. "We saw a real need -- not just an opportunity, but a real need -- for a social-network site designed for conservatives."

"Conservatives," Gerow said, "now have the opportunity to be in 'Web 2.0' " -- a pop-culture term used to describe the perception of a second-generation of Web-based services such as YouTube, Facebook or Wikipedia that emphasize online user participation.

"Our goal is to make QubeTV the dominant social network site for anyone who is right-of-center and to have the best in online video, especially online video related to the campaign of 2008," he said.

"We want to be there to capture the equivalent of the next John Kerry botched joke."