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A digital inauguration for a digital President

Tanya Goodin
Tanya Goodin
20 January 2009

The story of how Obama is determined to keep his BlackBerry while in office brought it home to me how isolated previous US Presidents have been from the 'real' world and how Obama really will be a different kind of President for the 21st century.

I've already blogged on how Obama used digital, and especially social, media so efficiently in his campaign for election and ran rings around his competitors who still relied heavily on 'traditional' forms of communication. Well, today his inauguration looks like it will be another digital and social media 'event', heralding in a genuinely new era in the White House.Obama.champion

As I woke up this morning my Twitter feed was buzzing with comments on the inauguration from both sides of the Atlantic, several of my facebook friends had status updates relating to the big event at 1200 (1700 GMT) and it created a palpable sense of the mounting excitement.

I don't remember it being this way in January 2001 when George W was sworn in. I vaguely remember coming home and watching the highlights of the event on the BBC after work but there was no 'real time' momentum. Of course, back then social media didn't even exist but even the online news providers didn't seem to be capitalising on the day as they now are.

A quick search for 'Obama inauguration' on Google reveals that The Times have a PPC listing for their live online coverage.

And at the time I searched Google's listings from news sites were pulling in content from publications as diverse as CBC in Canada, The Telegraph and The Christian Science Monitor

CNN is getting in on the UGC bandwagon by asking anyone actually at the event to take a photo  at precisely 1200 which they will then use to create what sounds like an amazing 3-D photo of 'the moment'.

The BBC are also getting users to participate in the event by creating a 'mood map' with people around the world being polled on whether they feel optimistic or pessimistic about the 44th administration and their feelings then marked on the map. I'm fascinated to see what it will show.

George W's inauguration in 2001 was watched by an estimated 15 million people in the US (down from the Regan 1981 high of 42 million). I will be looking with interest tomorrow to see what the numbers were for both 'old' and 'new' media traffic.

In the meantime, the father of one of my daughter's classmates had an invite to the event itself which left her slightly miffed that I wasn't personally invited (she still hasn't grasped exactly what it is I do for a living and why I don't have a ringside seat for world events)! I happily pointed out to her that thanks to new media we'll have a much better 'view' than he will.


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