WASHINGTON – YouTube, the popular video Web site, wants you to have a little face time with the presidential candidates. Virtually speaking, that is.
Starting Wednesday, White House contenders from both parties will take turns posting videos on YouTube's News and Politics site, and YouTube watchers will get to post their own video responses.
The experiment is an outgrowth of YouTube's "You Choose '08" initiative that kicked off in February to let candidates showcase their campaigns on the Web site through their campaign videos.
"Interactivity is what really fuels the engine on YouTube and candidates and users were striving for ways to communicate with each other," said Steve Grove, head of news and politics for YouTube.
Beginning this week with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, candidates will get one week to engage in a video discussion in YouTube's "You Choose '08 Spotlight." Romney's video question: "What do you believe is America's single greatest challenge and what would you do to address it?"
He encourages watchers to post their video replies and vows: "I'll do my best to watch as many as I can and respond to them."
The new political give-and-take comes as political campaigns begin to explore the realm of new technologies for reaching voters. Candidates now have sophisticated Web sites and have added profile pages on social networking sites such as MySpace.com and Facebook.com, all popular with a new wired generation.
In a crowded presidential field, the videos and the online hangouts can convey a new sense of intimacy.
"You can peel back the political veneer on video and see what a person is really about," Grove said.