Athletes Like You

The 'Athletes Like You' interactive on the BBC Mundo platform

The collaboration of editorial with other news outlet departments, such as design or development, has proved to be a great success for a number of news outlets looking to produce new and exciting storytelling products for their audience. The result remains focused on telling the story, but with the added dazzle and engagement of interactive features, for example.

The popularity of these pairings can be seen in the growing global success of journalism-orientated movements such as Hacks/Hackers, which brings together journalists and developers.

And at the BBC World Service its own "specials team" has been employing this integrated working method to help it produce new and interesting interactive elements for its group of language websites.

In the lead up to the Olympics in London this year in particular, the BBC World Service was keen to do something that would help it stand out from the crowd.

It was already planning on covering the main results of the games by providing "automatically updated modules for language sites based on the results, the medals", and so forth. But it also wanted to offer something different in the lead-up to its international audiences, who would already be provided with vast amounts of domestic coverage.

And the answer came in the form of a collaborative effort between editorial staff, designers and developers, who have been working together to produce "interactive modules" for its 27 language sites.

Development editor for the BBC World Service Dmitry Shishkin told Journalism.co.uk the aim is to make the sites the "destination for all the best things related to the Olympic games" in the lead-up.

The broadcaster already has a winning formula when it comes to building interactives that audiences want to engage with. Its 'The world at seven billion' application, was the most shared, commented and liked Facebook news article of 2011, receiving 339,149 shares, comments and likes.

The key element of this interactive is that it puts the user at its heart whereby the user becomes the subject and they effectively create their own story, and this is something which the World Service has been keen to replicate.

The way to drive engagement and the way to drive the social interaction and for the product to become viral, what you really need to do is put a member of the audience inside a productDmitry Shishkin
"The reason why it was so popular was that the journalists who came up with it actually put a member of the audience inside the special project. So it's not about just showing them something.

"The way to drive engagement and the way to drive the social interaction and for the product to become viral, what you really need to do is put a member of the audience inside a product, by asking them to put in their date of birth, for example."

And the result? Take a look at 'Athletes Like You' (seen here on the BBC Mundo service), the latest interactive module launched as part of this new group of Olympic applications by the World Service specials team, and which epitomises the "user story" formula, inviting the user to compare themselves to Beijing medal winners. The interactive has been re-versioned 15 times for different languages.

The World Service specials team works closely with other similar teams in BBC News as well, so that on a product, design and editorial level they adopt the same concept and approach to projects. Now BBC News wants to use the same 'Athletes Like You' concept, Shishkin said, with plans to publish an English language version around a week before the games.

The BBC News version will use the same code but switch from the Beijing medal winners database to that of all the 2012 participants, a much larger data-set, which BBC News is better equipped to handle he said, he added.

Another of the latest interactive modules to be found on the World Service's language sites ahead of the games is a "timeline of Olympic superpowers", which is also available on BBC Sport in English. Shishkin describes the interactive as "a clickable guide of all the Olympic games starting from 1896 to Beijing". Users can view visualisations showing which medals were won by which country for each games.

"By clicking from one to another you can actually see the balance of power shifting from one country to another country to another country," Shishkin added.

"So it's informing but at the same time entertaining as well."

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