Will the Real FDA YouTube Channel Please Stand Up?

In addition to the confusion sown by FDA's recent regulatory actions, there is digital confusion of another sort regarding the Food and Drug Administration.  The FDA appears to have more than one YouTube channel with varying degrees of information and video on them and even disparate information about the agency itself.  

FDA YouTube channel The first is the FDA News channel, which no one has signed into for 4 months.  It would therefore appear to be defunct and that its creator has abandoned Tube.  The profile of the channel says that it is U.S. Foood (sic) and Drug Administration News.  The channel was begun on June 12, 2008 and has amassed 30 subscribers and there have been 777 channel viewings.  The channel has two "friends"; has created no playlists to help a viewer identify a category of videos; has not joined any YouTube groups; but has subscribed to 3 other channels.  The bio profile says that the agency is 85 years old and other than having FDA generated video, has no FDA branding on the site – not even a logo.  It is therefore unclear whether this channel was actually begun by FDA or not.

The second is the USFoodandDrugAdmin channel.  Someone last signed into this channel a week ago, and posted a video:

This one also has a bio, and lists the agency age as 103.  This one has no subscriptions and no friends.  It is branded with the FDA logo and a nice FDA look.  It was begun September 6, 2007, prior to the channel outlined above, and has 200 subscribers and 6,520 views.  It would appear to be the FDA's work, though it would also appear as if the agency has done next to nothing to promote it. 

By contrast, for example, some of the pharma company channels that have been formed have tens of thousands of viewings and hundreds of subscribers, even though they were formed a year after this channel.  Oddly, despite the fact that the FDA site now houses 98 videos, the FDA has done nothing to organize them along lines of topical playlists so that consumers and media can find vids of interest.  You are left to sort through all 98 by yourself.  

It is not clear if both of these channels are FDA sponsored, or if it is only branded one.  What is clear is that neither has been done very well.  YouTube provides a vehicle for getting across very important public safety information – actually much more than a Web site, because it allows people to pick up news and pass it along to others, whereas a Web site requires consumers to come and find your news.  It can and should be a dynamic part of a communications strategy.  But when treated as a static "web site" as this channel is, it is a demonstration that the creator does not understand the fundamental principles of Web 2.0 over Web 1.0.    

If the FDA indeed has two channels, they would do well at the very least to (1) reorganize them so that there is only one; (2) to socialize the channel so that it interacts with other channels, such as the British Medical Journal's BMJ Media, or at the very least, the NIH channel and the CDC's channel – remember after all – it is called "social media" for a reason; (3) begin to promote important videos with accompanying social media releases that allow people to post them onto Facebook and Twitter, as well as have the address of the YouTube channel embedded into employee email signatures; and (4) organize the material for users so that the channel is useful.  

It is important that the agency demonstrate through its actions that it understands how to utilize new media tools well.  

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