Web Sites Foretell a YouTube Presidency

Article excerpt

Byline: Christina Bellantoni, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

CHICAGO -- The Web address won't change, but WhiteHouse.gov will never look the same. The Chicago-based team that made the Internet such a force in helping Barack Obama win the presidency is moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The president-elect already is up with Change.gov, a site that mimics the style and visuals of his campaign site and asks supporters to help with the transition by sharing their stories and their visions for America.

The message is one of participation in government, and new users are told: Thanks for signing up to join us in remaking Washington.

When the Illinois Democrat takes the oath of office Jan. 20, WhiteHouse.gov is likely to get a complete makeover in the style of Change.gov and the campaign site Barack Obama.com.

Mr. Obama communicated with his supporters directly via e-mail and text messaging before claiming victory Tuesday night, an early indicator that the first YouTube candidate will become the YouTube president.

The campaign won't say whether the BarackTV and live-streamed events will continue after the inauguration, but all signs point to a revolutionized way of White House communication with America and the world.

The most interesting thing to watch will be what do they and how do they reinvent the way a president speaks to the American people, said Simon Rosenberg of the liberal think tank NDN and a veteran of the Clinton White House.

There's no doubt this is going to be more of a YouTube presidency than a fireside chat presidency, he said. President Obama will be reinventing the relationship between the president and the American people using these new tools.

Mr. Obama will inherit a Web operation that has improved over the years but is sterile - a press release clearinghouse with no blog and which shares little in common with the vibrant graphics- and video-heavy BarackObama.com that attracted millions of supporters.

The Obama team went live Thursday with Change.gov, which included blog postings and had a similar framework for providing information to Web users.

The blog noted that the site aims to help Americans understand the transition before Mr. Obama takes office and the decisions being made as part of it.

It also offers an opportunity to be heard about the challenges our country faces and your ideas for tackling them, read the site's first blog posting. The Obama administration will reflect an essential lesson from the success of the Obama campaign: that people united around a common purpose can achieve great things.

The size of the president-elect's e-mail and text message list is a closely guarded secret in Chicago, but a source said it was large enough to mobilize people into taking action. It's also a group of people who had become accustomed to hearing from Mr. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and top staffers such as campaign manager David Plouffe.

The frequent communications helped his supporters remain engaged in the election and inspired more than 1 million people to volunteer and help the senator from Illinois win the White House on Tuesday. It also creates the potential to get Americans to participate in multiple ways. During the campaign, Mr. Obama encouraged people on his site to aid hurricane victims, a request that yielded an impressive response.

Some Democratic sources had expected Barack Obama.com to go dark, as had the Web sites of past candidates. When the campaigns concluded, the candidates were out of money, but Mr. Obama doesn't seem to have that problem.

The Web site was up with a thank you message and still allowed voters to submit their information to become a part of the vast Obama database. The new Change.gov also collects resume information for administration job applicants.

Mr. Obama for more than a year has promised to broadcast key meetings such as negotiations over a health care plan on C-SPAN, telling voters he would have the most transparent White House in history. …