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My.BarackObama.gov

BY Patrick Ruffini | Monday, November 17 2008

As Republicans debate how to rebuild the party with new technology and stronger grassroots, watch for the media to fawn all over Obama's use of the Internet as President as he brings (some) of the tactics of his winning campaign to the White House.

It began this weekend with the release of President-elect Obama's YouTube address and the transformation of the anachronistic radio address. This generated an explosion of media interest, even though 1) the format is not especially compelling, and 2) at least initially, ratings and comments on the video have been turned off, preventing ordinary Americans from talking back -- contrary to what happened on My.BarackObama.com during the campaign.

Jonathan Klinger has written about what happens when the bottom-up culture of the campaign meets the top-down culture of government. Still, assuming Obama is able to overcome legal hangups about comments on the White House website and YouTube channel -- as HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt and Blogger Bob of the TSA have on their government-hosted blogs -- we can expect to see unprecedented innovation (a.k.a. stuff that's now standard campaign fare but totally unknown to government).

Here's what I think we can expect from the new WhiteHouse.gov. The media will fall all over themselves when these happen even though they are nothing new if you've been watching Obama's new media efforts during the campaign. Be on the lookout for:

  • A blog with comments on WhiteHouse.gov.
  • A greater emphasis on e-mail collection and frequent campaign-style advocacy e-mails from figures ranging from Rahm Emanuel and the President himself. The DNC or Obama for America 2 will have THE LIST, but I predict an independent effort to create a millions-strong list inside the White House (with a splash page not out of the question). Remember: official sites get FAR more traffic than campaign sites, so the ability to collect 10,000 or more e-mail addresses a day is not to be overlooked if they put sound conversion-maximizing practices in place.
  • "A day in the life of the President" YouTube documentary series. This will get more views than a comparable NBC special if it's any good.
  • Using UStream to live-stream ALL the President's or the White House's public events. The campaign saw that when they posted several minutes of original content daily on their YouTube channel, people watched. The White House will have hours of such material AND the bully pulpit.
  • A White House Twitter account with the occasional original tweet and @ reply. The Bush team deserves credit for jumping on Twitter long before it hit critical mass, although its tweets are limited to a Twitterfeed of the White House website. Check out 10 Downing Street's Twitter feed for an indicator of what's coming. 
  • The White House will experiment with user-generated policy recommendations, akin to Dell's IdeaStorm or the petitions feature on the Number 10 site, where citizens can create their own petitions and collect signatures right on the site.