House Republicans introduce WhipCast mobile app with a splash
New application debuts with YouTube "trailer," multiple tweets
House Republican leaders are raising the bar for launching a federal mobile application: Their just-released “WhipCast” application features its own splashy YouTube video trailer complete with a catchy slogan and music.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., sponsored the development of the new application—available on iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry—and has been publicizing it on his Website and with multiple tweets in his Twitter feed.
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“I have made it a goal to modernize Congress,” McCarthy tweeted on Nov. 15. “Proud to announce the launch of #WhipCast, a first-of-its-kind government app.”
The free application provides users with House GOP updates on House Floor activity and schedules, text of legislative bills, alerts on upcoming key votes, news and press releases. Users also may watch videos of House activity. It was not immediately clear from the announcements whether WhipCast’s available information on Congress’ activities would be comprehensive or would highlight only GOP activities.
WhipCast lists McCarthy and House Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, R-Ill., as its sponsors. It is available in nine languages.
McCarthy, in his press release, touted the benefits of transparency made possible through WhipCast.
“Congress should be as open and transparent as possible, and House Republicans have made it our priority to provide more access to the public,” McCarthy said in announcing the new application. “WhipCast allows anyone who downloads the app to have the full text of legislation before it is considered on the House floor, the floor schedule, House Republican press releases, alerts on key votes in the House and more right at their fingertips.”
However, some transparency advocates questioned whether WhipCast would advance open government.
“The GOP’s new #WhipCast is a poor, poor substitute for open government data. Democracy requires open access to government information,” tweeted Donny Shaw, blogger for OpenCongress transparency watchdog group.
McCarthy got help from several companies in developing the WhipCast campaign. The WhipCast video displays high-quality video production values, including professional writing, lighting, sound and music synchronized with the action. McCarthy has a starring role in the video, playing himself and repeating the slogan, "There's an App for That!"
A digital marketing company named Craft DC produced the WhipCast application and promotion video under a monthly contract with McCarthy’s office. Craft officials declined to specify the value of the contract.
Brian Donahue, partner in Craft DC, said it was the first time he had seen a promotional video with a congressional mobile application.
“Everyone involved in the project knew it was important to produce a video pushing the app,” Donahue said. “The Craft team thought a fun and quirky video would gain the attention we desired."
Tim McCarrell, president of High Ground Solutions, said his company wrote the WhipCast applications for Apple devices, Android and Blackberry under a subcontract with Craft DC. High Ground is a company that sells emergency alert and mobile applications to schools, churches and other organizations.
While Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., previously had sponsored a WhipCast mobile application when he was Minority Whip, the new WhipCast application was “written from scratch,” McCarrell said. “It is completely new."
The new WhipCast also is more expansive, integrating news feeds from several key offices in the GOP leadership, rather than just the Whip’s news, McCarrell said.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.