House GOPers launch 'New Media Challenge'

Competition begins this week in the House Republican Caucus' "New Media Challenge," a six-week contest modeled after the NCAA's March Madness basketball tournament.

Led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), vice chair of the group, the competition calls on select members to expand their presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube ahead of this year's tough 2010 midterm elections

The contest's goal is to encourage members to engage their constituents, while demonstrating that the GOP is "ahead of the majority" on the Internet, McMorris Rodgers' office told Hillicon Valley on Tuesday.

The congresswoman's staff stressed that 79 percent of its members are already on Facebook, 89 percent of them are currently using YouTube and 64 percent have taken to Twitter. Those numbers are notably up from January 2009, they said, when just 37 percent of House GOP members were on Facebook, slightly more than half were on YouTube and just over one-quarter were on Twitter.

"The purpose of the contest is to help our members do better," a spokesman said, adding another goal was to "showcase members who are developing creative and innovative and otherwise novel new media tactics."

Beginning Tuesday is the tournament's qualifying round, during which 56 Republican congressmen will compete on Twitter for one of the challenge's 32 slots. "Berths" will go to those lawmakers who rack up the most new Twitter followers over the next week. (You can view the full list of play-in lawmakers on the congresswoman's Twitter list for the challenge.)

Later rounds will be held on Facebook and YouTube, said Patrick Bell, the director of New Media for the House Republican Conference. Those two lawmakers who net the most page fans or video subscribers, respectively, will advance to the final round, to be held one week before House Republicans depart the Capitol for a scheduled district work period.

A champion will be named, though the congresswoman's staff told The Hill that a prize was still "to be determined." 

Fittingly, McMorris Rodgers announced the contest Tuesday over Twitter:

Yesterday we kicked off a New Media Challenge for the @GOPConference. Here's a list of participants: #goptech