US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has opened a new avenue of presidential communication.
The president urged young people to sign up for a new health care plan yesterday through an appearance posted on the comic website Funny or Die, bypassing the news media and even previous favourites like TV talk show titans Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman.
Instead, he chose to be a guest on Zach Galifianakis' Between Two Ferns, the digital short with a laser focus on reaching people aged 18 to 34.
The video reached one million views within three and a half hours of posting and was adding more at a rate of 1m per hour in the middle of the day, according to Funny or Die.
The website was briefly the number one source of referrals to Healthcare.gov, the Obama administration said, with some 19,000 people navigating directly from the video to the healthcare website in the first few hours.
With 4m viewers, Obama exceeded in six hours the typical audience he would get by appearing on television shows hosted by Letterman, Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.
By night-time, the video had more than eight million viewers.
As hip as Fallon and Kimmel may be in some circles, their audiences skew older – a median age of 52.7 for Fallon and 56.2 for Kimmel during the last week of February, the Nielsen company said.
For Web entertainment, it's a moment that rivals Emmy or Golden Globe nominations for Netflix's House of Cards. And in presidential annals, it breaks form.
In the clip, Galifianakis peppered Obama with awkward questions, including whether he'd locate his presidential library in Hawaii or Kenya.
"What's it like to be the last black president?" he asked.
"Seriously?" Obama said.
"What's it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?"
Galifianakis feigned annoyance when Obama, about halfway through the six-minute clip, began urging young people to sign up for health care, sighing heavily before muttering, "Here we go."
"I think it's fair to say I wouldn't be here today if I didn't have something to plug," Obama said.
As he went on, the Hangover star asked: "Is this what they mean by drones?"
Funny or Die was launched by Will Ferrell and partners in 2007.
There have been about 20 Between Two Ferns episodes, drawing an average of 6m viewers each, and the Obama appearance is expected to go well beyond that number.