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Professor Goolsbee and His Dry-Erase Markers

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, September 30 2010

The Obama White House this morning inaugurated a new series called "White House White Board" with a first installment on what to do with the Bush-era tax cuts wherein Austan Goolsbee tries to "break it down real simple." The video's a zippy two-minutes. The phrase "goose egg" gets used. And a central character in it: the color red.

Goolsbee, the White House's brand new chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, makes a logical first choice. In addition to taking over from Larry Summers in that important economic post, he's a guy used to killing it on stage. But the White House says that more acts will follow in the White House White Board series, where "one of our key players on the White House team will cut through the political back-and-forth you hear every day and break down an issue affecting American families into simple, understandable terms." How are they going to convince someone to follow Goolsbee's act?

The Obama White House is always on the look-out for new ways to use new media to boil down complicated concepts into easily digestible bites. Goolsbee is no doubt compelling, though his chart could stand a few more labels (what are the big dots again?), and short videos are like catnip to modern humans, it seems. But the trick seems to be getting people to actually watch this stuff. One approach is to count on surrogates to help spread it around the web, via Twitter and reposting on blogs, though that might not quite hit the target audience. Maybe, then, they're counting a bit more on WhiteHouse.gov's Google juice to pull people towards the video when the go online to search for info on tax cuts.

Take it away, Austan...

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