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The RNC's High Tech Hurricane Response

The RNC?? digital team spent months developing a Web site to spread speeches from the Convention and silence critics who say Republicans don?? get tech. They launched it on Saturday. Within 24 hours, they had to dismantle it.

Hurricane Gustav?? potential to wreak havoc on the recovering Gulf Coast had shifted the RNC?? focus away from partisan promotions to the two million people forced to flee their homes. On Sunday, the 15 member digital team decided that the Web site had to reflect the new message. ??urricane Gustav changed every plan that we had,?says Joanna Burgos, the RNC’s press secretary.

In place of a multi-faceted Web site complete with live streaming video from the convention floor, behind the scenes YouTube interviews, blogs, and updated feeds of the convention activities, was a single page urging hurricane relief donations. The digital team also launched a simple Web site,, highlighting the delegations affected by the storm and the ways people could help.

Today, with the worst of Gustav over, the

new RNC convention site was back up and running--albeit with some glitches. The "Grand Ol Blog" hasn't been updated since Aug. 29. There's is little news about Sarah Palin on the site. And the link to Wednesday's revised schedule has yet to work.

But the live video of the convention floor powered by UStream was broadcasting President George W. Bush's and Sen. Fred Thompson's speeches to online audiences Tuesday evening. And the digital team is geared up to deploy videographers to interview the speakers backstage after their convention addresses. "We had a very short program yesterday and there wan’t much of an opportunity to add much pizzazz to it," says Burgos. "But tonight it will be better."

It better be. The Republicans' Web success has paled in comparison to Democratic nominee Barack Obama, who has more declared online supporters, larger audiences watching his YouTube videos, and has raised significantly more money online.

More is at stake than being named the most popular on TechPresident, an online site that tracks the candidates' online presence. The online victor is anticipated to grab the lions share of the under 30 youth vote, which spends more time online than with other traditional forms of media. Web support has also proved a powerful fundraising tool, enabling the candidate to collect money from a wide array of donors who can be tapped in the future to give again.

The RNC gets the importance. They have hired Campaign Solutions--a firm that has won awards for their online campaigns--to develop the RNC's sites. They have also tapped new Web companies such as UStream to bring in more video. "The Web site is one of the most public faces of the party," says Burgos.

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