Washington Post innovates at the conventions: 'Mobile, social, video'

Big events like national political conventions seem to bring out the best in journalism innovations. In 1924, at the GOP convention, the first radio broadcasters announced Calvin Coolidge's nomination. In 1940, the first TV station in the world transmitted live from the national convention. The 1940 convention in Philadelphia launched live television coverage through experimental stations in Philly and New York. The Philly station, which now is known as KYW, carried a stunning 62 hours of live coverage, a feat that would stretch the capacity of stations even today.

So as the GOP nominee took to the podium and the president prepares to do the same at next week's DNC, it is appropriate that journalists roll out the coolest newest thing. The Washington Post did just that.

The Post's new interactive video analysis tool allows users to watch a speech and interact with the video.

  • Using data from the Post's partner in the project, VoterTide, viewers can see what section of the speech was the most tweeted. Then, they can use the scroll tool to zoom into that section to see what caused the Twitter flurry.
  • As the speech rolls on, you can see what The Post has said about issues the speaker raises. The interactive provides quick links to Fact Checks and previous news coverage, analysis and opinions.
  • The site uses word clouds to show the words the speaker used most and the words that Twitter users repeat most.
The tool was used to analyze the speech given by vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

"This whole project only started a few weeks ago," said Cory Haik, executive producer for digital news at The Washington Post. "We had seven people working on this while working on other things, but it came together very quickly."

Haik said she has three words high in her mind when developing new projects. "Mobile, Social and Video." This project includes both social media and video so it was a natural attraction. "There are business reasons and journalistic reasons that this idea was attractive," she told me.

The business reason

The Post uses political coverage like inaugurations, elections and political conventions as springboard events because political coverage is so key to its core brand. Haik says the news organization is already making plans to use this video interactive tool for debate coverage.

"Scalability" is an issue, Haik says. She wants to know that any project might have multiple applications if it proves to be successful.

"Productions like this, we know they have a high engagement," she explains. The reader/user spends more time on an interactive like this, and "time spent on site" is a metric that interests her advertisers.

"We know that people fly in and fly out of our online pages all the time," Haik said. "But when we can engage them, it is not only good for our advertisers, it gets the reader to look at other content."

The journalistic purpose

Haik says it has been especially gratifying to see Post journalists using the speech search tool to help them produce material for their stories.

"Some innovations we have done, you step back and say, 'That was fun.' And some you might say, 'We produced a new story form.' But this time I think we can say both.

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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