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Watching the Obama Inauguration Online: A Guide


January 20, 2009

Watching the Obama Inauguration Online: A Guide

By Michael Dinan
TMCnet Editor


The Superbowl has been held on Sunday – a day when most of us don’t have to work – since the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10, way back in 1967.
Broadcast TV networks aim for the highest World Series viewership by starting games well after 8 p.m. Eastern, when even Californians’ workdays are winding down, and the State of the Union address doesn’t start until after 9 p.m.

Many of us can find a way to sit in front of a TV for those events.
But the presidential swearing-in ceremony of Barack Obama – part of a week of inauguration festivities that started on Saturday – is an outdoor event that’s held at 11:30 a.m. Eastern today, a weekday morning, so that most of us are at work.
Twenty years ago, we may all have dropped out of the office quietly to view the ceremony, or rolled a TV into the break room.
Today, we have the Internet, and office workers can stay in their cubicles and not miss any of the “action.”
It’s a chance for us to witness a major event in U.S. history: the swearing-in, as Stephen Colbert of “The Daily Show” put it, of the nation’s “first Hawaiian president.”
It’s also a chance for news sites to boost their numbers by drawing cubicle-bound viewers.
Today – which, as TMCnet reported, will see more than 1 million online viewers through a partnership with Facebookput out a list of Internet options.
Here are some of them:
• CBS News has had live coverage on the Web since 7 a.m. Eastern. “Katie Couric will also host a special Webcast that night with reporters and punditry, for which viewers can submit questions,” CNN reports. CBS’ streaming coverage will be cast on Joost’s Everything Obama page, “which also features interviews, campaign highlights, and satire clips,” CNN says.
• MSNBC will stream the event live on its home page and politics section, and visitors can embed the video into their own sites.
Fox News will stream coverage via Hulu beginning at noon for about two hours, CNN says. “After the live stream, Hulu (News - Alert) will provide on-demand access to the ceremony. The live stream is embeddable, as is an inauguration countdown from Hulu.”
• C-SPAN will feature a multichannel grid with Web casts of inauguration activities. “Visitors will be able to choose from one of four live feeds featuring events like the swearing in at the Capitol, the parade, and a number of inaugural balls,” CNN reports.
CNN’s own Web cast with Facebook (News - Alert) will allow users to “chat” during the ceremony, sharing thoughts as the nation’s first African-American president takes this historic step toward the White House.
As we’ve seen, Obama didn’t stop using technology to communicate with his constituents after Election Day.
As TMCnet reported, Obama’s transition team is using technology from San Francisco’s – a Web-based customer relationship management and Software-as-a-Service provider – to set up a sort of testing lab online for citizens’ ideas.
Obama’s so-called “Citizen’s Briefing Book” – available here – leverages Salesforce’s “CRM Ideas” to allow Americans to submit an idea about an issue facing the government. Others will be able to vote on those ideas and the most popular ones will be presented directly to Obama and his cabinet following Tuesday’s inauguration, the company says, in a document to be called “The Citizen’s Briefing Book.”
Like many other industries that are struggling through this recession, the technology and telecommunications is looking to Obama and his team – including newly appointed Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski (News - Alert) – for guidance.
Just this week, an executive with one tech company which works in an area that’s thriving in this slower economy – video-based communications – told TMCnet in an interview that Obama already has provided strong guidance for the sector.
Stephen Epstein (News - Alert), chief marketing officer for San Mateo, California-based video communications company Avistar, told TMCnet that America needs to invest in industries that power the future, such as renewable energy, infrastructure and small businesses that can think out of the box and innovate the way we all work and live.
“Providing access to research, infrastructure and generally supporting small businesses would greatly benefit America’s ability to innovate and become more competitive,” Epstein told TMCnet.
If his use of the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook is any indicator, Obama could be a good man to lead that innovation and resurgence in international competition.
But first, it’s party time in the nation’s capital.
As CNN notes, though more than 2 million Americans lost their jobs last year and the stock market fell by almost 45 percent from its peak, Washington is in the midst of its $160 million party for Obama’s inauguration.
“Technology companies are joining the festivities by hosting a number of inaugural parties, and a collection of news and other Web sites are aiming to let anyone who can’t be in the nation’s capital – or who doesn’t want to brave probably-freezing temperatures – follow along online,” the news site says.

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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