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Under Obama, Web Would Be the Way

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As part of the presidential transition, Obama officials are looking to add a significant "new media" component to the White House communications operation. The campaign employed 95 people in its Internet operation, building a user-friendly Web site that served as a platform for grass-roots activities and distributed statements, policy positions and footage of Obama events. The White House Web operation will follow a similar but probably more ambitious path, transition officials said.

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The process is just beginning, and many questions remain unanswered. The simplest approach might be to convert the campaign organization into an incarnation aimed at 2012 and an anticipated run for reelection, but some inside the Obama team are concerned about appearing too overtly political. Another course could be to create a nonprofit organization. Obama officials said all options would be examined over the coming weeks.

Over the course of the campaign, Obama's e-mail list gathered not only names and contact information, but also details about issues important to those supporters.

In past years, such lists were considered useful tools for political campaigns but not particularly helpful for governing. But Peter Greenberger, manager of political advertising for Google, said such information could be a boon for Obama in building public support for policy proposals.

The White House could "geo-target" ads so they appear online in congressional districts where members remain undecided. Obama could use Internet ads to solicit signatures for petitions, or he could place display and video ads contextually -- so they would appear on the screen next to news coverage of his proposals.

"If there's an article in the New York Times or The Washington Post about health-care legislation," Greenberger said, "the administration or a pro-Obama advocacy organization could run an ad right alongside it."

Republicans have also seen the potential value in organizing online. In recent days, a small group of prominent young Republicans launched a Web site, http://www.rebuildtheparty.com, calling on their party's next chairman to use the Internet to organize and galvanize their grass roots.

"Online organizing is by far the most efficient way to transform our party structures to be able to compete against what is likely to be a $1 billion Obama re-election campaign in 2012," the Web site says.

Staff writer Alec MacGillis in Washington contributed to this report.


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