Best. Day. Ever.

Tornado by Andy Kuppers

Sports editor Andy Kuppers was the first to contribute images of the tornadoes.

Thursday, The Ledger recorded its best day ever in terms of page views (our actual number was about 100,000 more page views than our last record-breaking day). I would argue that it was also our best day ever in terms of audience engagement, reader interaction and keeping the site fresh with breaking news content.

The morning was one of horrible weather – tornadoes were reported throughout the Central Florida area, along with high-speed winds, hail and lots of rain. We started putting together a report on the weather conditions early. As soon as it was safe to be on the roads, several reporters and photographers left the warm (relative) safety of the office and hit the streets.

What we did right:

  • Set up a gallery so we could crowdsource local photos from readers. This gave readers an easy way to tell their own stories and was also a boon for page views – almost 100,000 of our page views came from this photo gallery. It was also much faster to gather local readers’ photos of the storm than it took for our own photographers to transmit their pictures from the field and we didn’t have to waste time uploading photos ourselves directly after the storm.
  • Crowdsourced local reactions to the storm – our managing editor/digital put together a Storify using local Tweets about the severe weather. This got several thousand page views, showing it had an audience outside the local Twitter population.
  • Two reporters stayed at their desks, taking down information about damage, power outages and other consumer information. This gave us a direct link to readers and gave them a way to voice concerns.
  • We put together an interactive map of the county, showing where the tornadoes had been reported and with reactions of local residents to the storm and the subsequent damage.
  • We quickly changed the homepage when we got enough related pieces of media. This gave readers a way to see all the connected elements and showed that we were paying attention to the story as it changed throughout the day.

What we did wrong:

  • It took too long for our photographers to upload photos into our own staff galleries. Obviously, this had to do with the severe weather conditions and the fact that electricity was down in a significant portion of the county, but page views could have been significantly higher (I’d estimate another 50,000, easily) if we had gotten more than the dozen photos we had uploaded before the end of the work day, Thursday.
  • People were Tweeting about the storm while it was still going on but we didn’t put together the Storify until after the tornadoes had cleared. This means we had a two-hour window where we could have possibly been getting page views when we weren’t.
  • While we posted a few messages on our social networking sites – mainly Twitter and Facebook – we could and should have engaged our audience better on these sites. Linking more elements throughout the afternoon (instead of adding information to our original post on Facebook) could have gotten us more attention and page views. We didn’t flood our fans, but we could have given more updates throughout the afternoon and into the evening with relevant information.

All in all, it was a great team effort on the part of the multimedia team and the entire newsroom. We gave our readers a wide breadth of information about the severe weather and made sure to give them a chance to shape our coverage. We also learned better what to do next time when significant breaking news happens: Have a plan and execute it early.

Advertisements
  1. Felicia Hauseman
    April 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Each time we have something like this happen, we learn more about bypassing the obstacles that potentially disrupt reporting and moving the news to those who need and want to know. Really great job Heidi with your evaluation of what needs to be done in the future and how to make it better by fine tuning our response to adverse conditions. We’re only getting better and better. Kudos!!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: