In Box

Pod Politics

The podcast opens with a slick video montage of a smiling woman shaking hands with world leaders: George W. Bush, Jacques Chirac, Bono. But then the action slows down — way down. Because this isn’t Angelina Jolie visiting the United Nations. It’s the first weekly video podcast by a head of state, German Chancellor Angela ...

The podcast opens with a slick video montage of a smiling woman shaking hands with world leaders: George W. Bush, Jacques Chirac, Bono. But then the action slows down — way down. Because this isn’t Angelina Jolie visiting the United Nations. It’s the first weekly video podcast by a head of state, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the podcasts, which began in June, a clearly uncomfortable Merkel holds forth each week on such topics as "Federal Reform," "Key Points of Health Policy Reform," and "Retirement Funding." All in a near expressionless monotone.

Each podcast reportedly costs the German government $8,200 to produce. But the German public doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, they appear to be fans of this techno-savvy political messaging. Merkel’s first four speeches, which are available on Apple’s iTunes, were downloaded almost 200,000 times in the first month. "We think it’s been really successful," says a German government spokesman. So successful, in fact, that opposition parties from both ends of the political spectrum are now streaming their own video podcast responses.

Some critics see the streamed speeches as part of a larger strategy by Merkel to dodge hard questions. "She’s given very few public interviews since becoming chancellor," says Sascha Kneip, an analyst at Berlin’s Social Science Research Center. "She may be hoping that journalists use the podcasts as a source and spread the government’s views… without her having to defend and justify them." Of course, that would hardly be a political first.

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