Web Video, MultiMedia & the Obama Administration - Feedback on Memo?

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Dan Manatt

Nov 12, 2008, 10:47:37 AM11/12/08
to Open House Project
Hey all – been enjoying the various posts on what the new Admin should
do vis a vis technology & transparency. I've put the proverbial
unsolicited advice piece together on, following Sarah's lead, web
video. I'm planning on posting it on TechPresident & HuffPo soon, but
would love the list's feedback, either on- or offlist.

Thanks in advance!

Dan Manatt
Web Video for Politics
202 518 1244


TO: Obama Technology Team

FROM: Dan Manatt/PoliticsTV.com

DATE: November 12, 2008

RE: Web Video : A Key Tool of the Obama Presidency

Congratulations on the election and the transition.

You revolutionized the way campaigns are run. And now, you are about
to revolutionize the way the Presidency is run.

Thank you for the opportunity you gave me to produce some of President-
elect Obama’s early campaign Web Videos. In that vein – like everyone
else in Internet politics these days – I figure I might add my 2 cents
of unsolicited advice on how the Obama Administration should use video
and rich media tools

The President-elect rightly warned that making progress on the big
foreign & domestic policy initiatives facing the nation will take time
and compromise.

The digital democracy/transparency initiatives, by contrast, can be
executed beginning day one, without the need to compromise with
Congress or world allies.

And your campaign platform on digital democracy, ethics and
transparency, lays out an excellent roadmap to begin bringing the
Presidency into the 21st century, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/ethics/index.php.
And of course the speculation has already begun on how change.gov will
morph into whitehouse.gov – and what becomes of barackobama.com.

The technological transformation of the presidency – and its use to
make the executive branch more responsive, interactive, and
transparent – can, from day one, be the first great achievement and
legacy of the Obama Presidency. It can also be a means to continue
togenerate political good will and capital – commodities that often
evaporate quickly after a typical presidential honeymoon. So it not
only makes good policy sense, it makes good political sense.

Web Video : The First, Now Almost Forgotten Obama Internet Tool

Now, more specifically, how the Obama Administration should use Web

Web Videos were a key tool in the campaign. From President-Elect
Obama’s January 2007 Web Video announcement; to the independent “Yes
We Can,” “Vote Different,” CrooksandLiars.com and Brave New Films
videos; to the viral videos of rallies in Austin, Iowa, New Hampshire,
Philadelphia, and Oregon, and everywhere in between – Web Video was

Web Video will be no less essential to governing as it was to
campaigning and organizing.

Below are suggestions on how to harness the tool in the White House,
and the executive branch:

1. WhiteHouse.gov/tv & Presidential Communication Webcasts: All open
press public appearances by the president – press conferences, press
availabilities, signing ceremonies, addresses to the nation, etc. –
should be made available to the public via Web Video in real time.
Make no mistake – the White House TV press corps and even WHCA, the
White House Communications Agency, may resist releasing this content
into the public domain. But just as BarackTV and video transparency
proved a boon to your campaign, so too WhiteHouse.gov/tv can prove an
essential communications tool enabling to you directly access the
American public without the media filter.

2. Radio Address + Internet = President’s Weekly Webcast: It is time
for the weekly presidential radio address to enter the 21st century.
The address, the President’s only regular direct communication to the
American people, hasn’t changed since President Reagan first
instituted it in 1983. 25 years later, it is time you take the radio
address into the Internet age – you could even start during the

GovTube: Web Video has been used by the White House going back back to
the webcast of President Clinton’s 1996 inauguration. And the current
Administration’s websites actually have a fair amount of Web Video
content. But the content is very difficult to locate, and often in
obsolete video formats.

The Obama Administration should create a video hub for the executive
branch – call it GovTube – that aggregates all video content
throughout the government in a searchable, user friendly video portal.

GovTube Content on YouTube et. al.: Executive branch videos, moreover,
should be made available not just on official government websites, but
on non-governmental sites as well. The White House should establish
accounts on YouTube and other leading non-governmental sites.
Potential red tape snags to having commercial sites host government
videos is already being addressed: YouTube is in the process of
establishing special non-commercial pages to conform to governmental
requirements for Congress, and other video services should be
encouraged to do the same.

Digital Democracy Executive Order: New Media/Transparency/Technology
Officers: To accomplish these goals (and the ones to follow),
President Obama should issue an executive order as soon as practicable
directing all executive departments and agencies to implement these
policies. Moreover, the Executive Order should direct all departments
and agencies to create offices of, and name director of:

New Media

Large departments may require multiple staff for these tasks; small
agencies may require a single staffer who can fulfill the mandate of
all three positions.

6. Secretary/Agency Webcasts: This one’s already a plank in your
campaign platform – executive department secretaries and agency heads
should give regular (I would suggest monthly) Web Video reports on
news from the agency. Some may be in town hall format, others
straight reportorial format. This way, the public might even learn
who their public servants are before a national challenge or crisis
requires we put our trust in them.

The Inauguration: Your first day as President offers a tremendous
opportunity to get the Digital Presidency started right. From your
swearing in, to the inaugural balls, video of all events should be
available via live and on demand webcast. The inaugural committee
should also have a “video guest book” enabling Americans, heads of
states, and well-wishers the world over to offer video greetings and
express hopes for the Obama Presidency.

8. State of the Union: Just a few weeks later, President Obama’s first
State of the Union will offer the most important annual opportunity to
engage the American public – where multimedia can play a big role:

Citizen Interaction: The Administration might solicit citizen messages
– videos, email, etc. – with their view on the national outlook. Or,
perhaps in the run up to the State of the Union, the President may
hold some truly interactive town halls, as Ross Perot proposed back in
1992 and Senator Clinton did in the primaries. President Obama could
then incorporate some of the citizen messages into his annual message
to Congress – thus it becomes not just the President’s report on the
State of the Union, but American’s report on the State of the Union.

SOTU MultiMedia Simulcast: The White House should produce a multimedia
version/companion to the State of the Union – a split-screen
simulcast. On one side, we see the President – on the other, charts,
slides, text, etc. to illustrate and reenforce the key points of the
speech. Think of it as a cross between “An Inconvenient Truth” and a
traditional State of the Union.

Annual Multimedia Reports by Department Secretaries/Agency Heads:
Likewise, the department secretaries and agency heads should be
required to produce annual multimedia reports to citizens on their
departments/agencies. These videos by the SEC and FEMA may not be as
exciting as a Hollywood blockbuster, but it will generate more public
exposure, scrutiny, and dialog about those agencies, and encourage the
government to engage in ongoing proactive reform, rather than
reforming only as a reaction to scandal.

9. The President’s Budget – A Digital, Democratic, Multimedia
Document: No document is more fundamental to the United States
government than the President’s budget (that is, other than the
Constitution, when it’s actually heeded). But the only place the
average citizen might ever see the budget is during the annual photo
opp of its release. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/02/20080204-1.html

The President’s budget should become a multimedia document that makes
the numbers – and the policy questions – accessible to the average
citizen. The budget should be released online not just as a pdf, as it
is now, but as a multimedia, dynamic document with web apps, widgets,
and appendices applying Quicken-style functionalities, dynamic charts,
etc. That way Americans can visualize and understand where their $3
trillion in tax dollars (minus the $1 trillion deficit) goes to.
(Perhaps not surprisingly, private sites, including Wikipedia,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget, offer
citizens better digital tools to understand the budget than the White
House and the Office of Management and Budget, http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2009/).

The American people have been bystanders to the annual budget debates
because the federal budget is so inaccessible to them. Digitize the
budget and you democratize the budget, get the public involved – and
get better policy results.

The Digital Democracy Act/Freedom of Information Act for the 21st
The Administration, in addition to these and other actions that can be
made by presidential directive or executive order, should
institutionalize its digital reforms into law through legislation –
 call it the Digital Democracy Act, or FOIA for the 21st century.
This way future administrations would not be able to discontinue the
Obama Administration’s digital transparency policies without
congressional action. And Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid, and their
excellent new media staff have been very supportive of digital/
transparency measures, so the climate is very favorable for such an

The Presidency, Technology, Democracy & Transparency
This is just the tip of the iceberg of how Web Video can, along with
other Internet and digital technology, be a big part of the Obama
Presidency, and can be one of its great legacies.

I am sure you are way ahead of me, and have many other, greater ideas
of how video tools can be deployed to advance the cause of
transparency, democracy, and President Obama’s agenda.

I will be watching from the sidelines with great interest.

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