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Why Obama is selling his budget on YouTube

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When President Obama sits down with an interviewer from YouTube Monday afternoon to sell his $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal year 2011, it will be just the latest step by an administration relentlessly focused on finding new ways to connect with the public.

During the 1:45 p.m. session in the White House Library, Mr. Obama will sit down with YouTube news and political director Steve Grove and respond to questions submitted by YouTube users. Some 11,000 questions were submitted by video and text, the White House says. On CitizenTube, YouTube's political platform, users cast 630,000 votes on which questions were best.

This is the first time a president has taken questions directly from the public on the day the federal budget is released. The session with YouTube will follow a statement earlier in the day by Obama to traditional media outlets in the Grand Foyer of the White House. The president’s answers will be live-streamed at YouTube.com and at WhiteHouse.gov.

No matter who is in the White House, the mass of details in the annual budget tends to cause readers’ and viewers’ eyes to glaze over. The 2011 budget – with its record $1.6 trillion of projected red ink – is no exception to the avalanche of detail. In its brief version, the budget covers 179 pages. A second book contains tables – some 362 pages of them. And the appendix, containing full detail is the size of a major city phone book – sprawling over 1,413 pages.

In an interview published Monday in Politico, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer bluntly laid out the administration’s desire to go beyond the audience for newspapers, newsmagazines, and network news outlets – all of which, he said, are “way down.”

As a result, the administration spends “a lot of time experimenting, thinking of ways in which we communicate with people beyond your traditional methods,” Mr. Pfieffer told Politico’s Mike Allen. Newspapers and TV, Pfieffer argued, focus on political process and not on the information that average voters want. "So, we’re trying to fill that gap by producing content here in the White House,” he said.

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