Washington Post‘s ‘Post Alert’ Offers Breaking News, Special Projects Updates to Users

September 30, 2009
Category: Uncategorized

The Washington Post has released a site-wide notification system that delivers notices on breaking news and special reports to users of the Web site.

Steven King, who is overseeing the project, told me in a phone interview that editors at the Post can choose to promote stories site-wide or within a section. Anyone who is on the Web site during that time will see a Post Alert. Internally, this project is known as Toast because, as the “Innovations in News” blog said, “it came up from the bottom of your browser like a piece of toast coming out of a toaster.”

The Washington Post is able to track the number of people who click on links, as well as those who opt-out. King said that although it has only been a week since Post Alert launched, he is “very happy with what’s happening.”

The opt-out rate has been low, and the Alert links are being clicked on, driving traffic to special sections, King said. He noted that Post Alert has seen the most success in the sports section, and is also doing well in entertainment.

Jesse Foltz, the front-end developer of the project, wrote the Post Alerts in JavaScript, using the Prototype and MooTools libraries. The back-end, which was built by Lee Trout, is a Django admin where editors can schedule Alerts. This data is then passed to the JavaScript through a JSON.

This is a really interesting way to promote the content on your Web site. It’s simple and, while I haven’t experienced an Alert myself, it seems unobtrusive. Many news organizations are using social media to promote articles off-site. Post Alert is a good example of what news organizations can do to promote content once they’ve lured people in.

How else are news organizations promoting content to users who are already on their site?