The New House Republican Web Strategy: Copy BuzzFeed

What do cat pictures and GIFs have to do with GOP politics? Not a whole lot right now. But beginning next week, that'll change.
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Brian Fung

What do cat pictures and GIFs have to do with Republican politics? Not a whole lot, at least right now. But beginning next week, that'll change.

Staffers at the National Republican Congressional Committee are finishing up a site redesign that'll likely be rolled out this weekend. The new NRCC.org does away with all the typical features of a political website, emulating instead the style of the Web juggernaut whose top headlines currently include "10 Easter Bunnies Straight From Hell" and "14 Photos Of George W. Bush Touching Bald Men's Heads."

Yes. They're going to copy BuzzFeed.

"BuzzFeed's eating everyone's lunch," said NRCC spokesman Gerrit Lansing. "They're making people want to read and be cognizant of politics in a different way."

The committee spent hours poring over BuzzFeed's site map and layout, studying how readers arrived at its landing pages and bounced from one article to the next. Unsurprisingly, a ton of traffic came from social media -- but a lot of it also seemed to come from the site's sidebar, said Lansing. So the NRCC's redesign includes a list of recent and popular posts.

Other changes include shorter posts, fewer menu items and a heavy helping of what now passes for social currency on the Web: snark.

The new site comes a few months into the beginning of a broader strategy to capture more of the social Web's attention. To that end, the NRCC has begun dropping blog posts with headlines like "13 Animals That Are Really Bummed on Obamacare's Third Birthday." A recent image macro the NRCC posted on Facebookfeatured a photo of President Obama laughing below a caption mocking voters for believing his claims about health insurance premiums.

With communications director Andrea Bozek overseeing a team of 20 Web writers, the NRCC's already noticed an uptick in traffic and donations. In the last three months, according to Lansing, NRCC.org has been attracting the same amount of traffic as it did toward the end of the 2012 campaign. For every visit, the site makes about $0.10 to $0.25 in contributions.

"To do that in the first quarter of an off year is pretty extraordinary," he said.

Here's an exclusive preview of the new site:

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Brian Fung is the technology writer at National Journal. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and has written for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post.

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