4 lessons from Caucus night from the Des Moines Register
In the world of presidential politics, Iowa goes first. Which also means the Des Moines Register goes first – first to test out latest digital tools in its caucus coverage.
I asked Register Digital Editor Julia Thompson to reflect on how some of those tools worked out on caucus night.
Storify is a curation/aggregation tool that lets you bring together content from various social networks and websites into one edited feed – and then embed it on your website (the photo shows the Register’s Storify on its Caucus site).
The Register used storify to aggregate mostly tweets from voters and reporters throughout the night. Here’s the result.
My take: I guess it just never dawned on my that you could create a storify and keep updating it through the day and night. The tool just keeps impressing me.
Julia’s take: We had nearly 4,000 views on our Storify. We haven’t used Storify a ton to know if that’s a decent number, but I do know that some other Gannett properties embedded the story, so that helped its reach.
2. Twitter feed
This is nothing hugely new, but certainly not something we were seeing last caucus cycle.
My take: Not a lot of value here to me. The Register just pulled in every tweet that mentioned the caucus, so the odds of getting one that actually had meaning were slim (see the first and third tweet in the photo – what value does that bring to the home page?). An improvement might be to just show tweets from a pre-selected list of reporters and citizens.
Julia’s take: With the Twitter feed incorporated with the rest of our home-page coverage, I think that gave the topper a feeling of constantly being updated and also that our coverage was more participatory. However, it was one more moving piece to keep an eye on that, in hindsight, might not have been worth it. The curated approach of Storify, in general, seems to be a more valuable addition to coverage for our readers.
The Register created an iPhone app that included articles, event listings, candidate info and live results on caucus night.
My take: I used the app while out and about on caucus night, and I used it to read about candidates and decide which I would vote for. It did seem like the app stopped getting new article updates on caucus night (Update: The Register’s Matt Heeren tells me this was due to some server issues on Caucus night). And I do wish they would have made some money from the app – either by charging for it or through sponsorship.
Julia’s take: We got great reviews of the app and doubled our downloads on caucus day. With live results enabled and push notifications, we were able to get news and results out to people quickly, which in this late-called race was imperative.
In this day of smaller staffs, it only makes sense to partner where you can. The Register pulled in live video from a local TV station as results were coming in.
My take: Smart. My only wish was that the video feed did not auto-play on the home page. Or at least didn’t play the sound automatically.
Julia’s take: We partnered where it made sense. We looked to WHO-HD for live video of candidate speeches, which were incorporated in the TV station’s live broadcast. Since we didn’t duplicate efforts there, it allowed us to focus on better photos and edited video elsewhere.