Takin’ It to the Tube
The National Fisheries Institute may lack the muscle of other industry lobby groups, but at least it’s taking its cuts in the batter’s box. Recently the McLean, Va., organization has used the tool that seafood industry critics have long used against it — the Internet.
A couple weeks ago, when Greenpeace USA aired a TV ad in Seattle and Alaska claiming Alaska pollock was overfished, NFI responded by posting an edited version of the ad, with pointed rebuttals superimposed, on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbjvxAtTBIk). TV spots would cost a lot of NFI members’ money, but a YouTube clip only takes a command of the facts and someone with computer skills.
NFI’s next target was the CNN show “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” which airs weeknights at 7 p.m. EST. Tuesday’s program ran a story about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s about-face on its joint 2004 advisory with the Environmental Protection Agency about methylmercury risks associated with seafood consumption. Although an NFI spokesperson was given a few seconds on air, the show’s correspondent inferred that the fish industry was pulling the strings (www.youtube.com/watch?v=GALeE83zbQE). NFI says science is driving the FDA policy review, not industry pressure.
“We can go on YouTube and refute claims very quickly and effectively,” says Gavin Gibbons, media relations director at NFI, who was interviewed for the CNN story. “The people interested in the Greenpeace debate or the FDA-EPA advisory are on YouTube. So we want to be in that space. It’s a great equalizer, in terms of getting the fairness and balance and objectivity that we’re looking for.”
The online community may be smaller but of higher quality than those sucked into 24-hour gabfests. “At 7 o’clock on a Tuesday night you don’t have a very active viewing audience,” Gibbons says. “They’re very passive. A YouTube audience is engaged and looking for this kind of content.”
NFI’s Greenpeace clip gained 850 views by this morning, while just a handful had seen the CNN rebuttal, posted late Wednesday night. Lou Dobbs’ Tuesday broadcast on CNN was seen in 889,000 households, good enough for third place behind Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Unfortunately, such use of YouTube is reactive, and Gibbons expects to have to resort to it again. If the FDA-EPA disagreement escalates, NFI should have plenty of material.