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GOP Steps Up Web Presence With Veteran of Yahoo, MSN

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Republicans are trying to catch up with Democrats online. And Cyrus Krohn, a veteran of the high-tech industry, is helping them do it.

A few weeks ago, Krohn, 36, left a job with Yahoo in Santa Monica, Calif., to become director of the Republican National Committee's eCampaign department. The lifelong Republican's task is to help the GOP, the party that mastered direct mail and talk radio, do the same with the Internet. Michael Kinsley, his old boss at Slate, said of Krohn: "He's a really nice guy, and he's really an operator. That's a rare combination."

Krohn is one of the speakers today at a conference hosted by Google and the Heritage Foundation designed to teach Hill staffers and conservative activists about the promise (and possible perils) of the new media landscape.

Q So you were the first employee of Slate, the liberal-leaning webzine (now owned by The Washington Post Co.), then worked for MSN.com and then directed Yahoo's election strategy, and now you're here . . .

A It's kind of a culture shock. But I don't plan to lose sight of who I am. I'm not a political animal, per se. I come from the tech world. I bring a different perspective to the table. What's happening on our Web site, GOP.com? What are the implications in terms of user behaviors?

But you left Santa Monica to come to Washington because?

Well, the humidity leaves much to be desired. My job at Yahoo was to be politically agnostic, and I did a good job of it. I've worked with the Hillary Clinton campaign. I've worked with the Barack Obama campaign. But in reality, I was spending a disproportionate amount of time helping the other team. One day I said to myself, "If I'm going to be a political operative in what is really a politically agnostic job, I should be a political operative for the party that I hold true to my heart."

The primary race is being fought as much online as offline. Where do you think campaigns are in terms of using the Internet?

Everyone's experimenting. I'm a firm believer in following the audience. TV is still the 800-pound gorilla, but the reality is, you have about 180 million people online in the U.S., and they're on the Internet at home, in the office, etc. This audience hasn't really been marketed too effectively in the political space. That's where I come in.

So what's your No. 1 goal in your new job?

The Web should be informational and educational, but it can also be entertaining at the same time. A lot of times, during the course of people's days, they're looking for a reprieve but they're also looking for information. How do you combine the two? I found that there's somebody on our staff who's an illustrator, a cartoonist, so now we have cartoons on our site. And games, too, like our Show of Hands online game. We uploaded them on our Facebook page.


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