04/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama -- the "Always On" President

The Twittering White House.

So, for those of you who are tuned in to the media whirlwind that is Barack Obama - the last 5 days have been something of a world record.

There was Leno on Thursday night. Then, 60 Minutes on Sunday. There was that ESPN College Football betting pool segment, a national press conference on Tuesday night and then the live web Town Hall this week. Oh, and along the way he had all the largest Bankers by for a closed door love-fest that had them all out on the White House lawn looking like they'd just had the political equivalent of a 'nooner'. And speaking of the White House Lawn, Michelle was no media slouch herself - planting a Kitchen Garden and making sure that her sustainable self was front and center.


So, what's this all about? Is Obama overdoing the media thing, or is he just re-tooling the presidency for the new media reality?

Well, let's ask the metaphorical 'kids' in the audience.

Kids, how often are you 'online, in public, and engaged in some sort of media'?

Kids answer: "always."


Times have sooo changed. Our last President didn't have a computer on his desk. This President has a Secret Service hotwired blackberry - and a Twitter handle. Are you following him? 615,836 American's are - and more every day. @BarackObama

We live in an Always On world. A full time, broadband, interactive world. And that means the idea of newscycles, and the 'bubble' that has historically kept Presidents a safe distance away from the electorate has been burst.

No more bubble.

Instead, a hungry digital maw - looking for engagement, comments, content. The Always On web continues to chatter - whether you're online, or checked out.

Barack Obama and his team are smart. They've registered this change is going to either help them drive their agenda, or create a huge noisy distraction that gets in their way. So two weeks ago, they made a change. They decided to dive in, both feet - and expand their presence and make sure that their message (and their guy) was as Always On as the ideas and distractions that could derail their efforts.

Done and done.

You see, Obama gets how to do this. It's situational. On ESPN he's a fan. On Leno he's a jokester (ok, points off for the 'special Olympics' line, but he apologized). On 60 Minutes he's Presidential, yet folksy. And at the national press conference, he is large and in charge. The right tone, the right message, for each medium.

But far and away the most interesting thing in this new Always On Presidency was 'Open for Questions" at 92,937 people submitted 104,005 questions and cast 3,603,648 votes.

This is really interesting stuff. Anyone can post a question, and then the White House crowd-sourced the review of questions. The top rated questions (along with video submissions) became the central themes of the "Open" town meeting. This isn't insignificant stuff. This is the first time in history that our representative form of government has given citizens direct, unfiltered, actionable access to the President of the United States.

This is evidence of the Always On President embracing the change in communications, and using to to make government more transparent and more accountable.

So, just to recap the week of the Always On President:

Leno. Everything is Ok. I can still smile and laugh.
ESPN. I'm a regular guy. March Madness isn't lost on me.
Live Address. I'm large and In Charge.
Bankers at the White House: I can rock a photo op, and deliver the quotes.
Open for Questions: We're doing things in a new way.

Each strategic, each with a message both in what was said and how it was said. And with if you believe Marshall McLuhan's "Medium is the Message" ... then Obama's figured out that new mediums require new messages too.