Social networks are the default platforms for modern audiences to engage with news, but last night the Washington Post wanted to go a step further.
Readers were able to add in-line comments to a live transcript of the Republican Party presidential debate published on the Post's website, bringing the conversation deeper into the newsroom.
"How do we add context to a transcript and weave in all the pieces that we're already doing," said Cory Haik, the outlet's executive director for emerging news products, "while allowing for outside voices to interact as well?"The idea of community and people's perspectives and ideas are important to us, as well as getting our reported analysis and opinion to weigh inCory Haik, Washington Post
For last night's debate, a live transcript was published on the Washington Post's website and both the paper's journalists and readers were able to take part in the conversation in real time, using annotation platform Genius.
Genius was originally developed for music fans to discuss the meaning of lyrics, but has been making an appearance in political campaigns since Hillary Clinton used it in her kick-off speech last month, drawing in more than 1,000 annotators.
Users needed to create a Genius account to participate but were then able to click on relevant transcript sections and post comments, links, pictures and other material to build the conversation.
The annotations were moderated by the paper's staff and Haik said they were "very interested to see what comes in through this whole new layer".
"The idea of community and people's perspectives and ideas are important to us, as well as getting our reported analysis and opinion to weigh in," said Haik.
"I think a healthy mix of contributions [from journalists and readers] is what we're really shooting for, so it's just going to be a matter of seeing what comes in."There's the idea of partnership and platform – how can we work with places and spaces on the web to leverage the work that they're doing and their audience engagement to help bring our journalism to those new audiences?Cory Haik, Washington Post
The Post has experimented in similar ways with Say What, which involved staff working overnight to sync the transcript of a speech with its video, before adding reports or tweets for context.
Although this was the first time the paper used annotation technology for live commentary, Haik said the team already has "some big ideas about how we could use it" in the future.
"The idea of providing context and also figuring out how you can pull all of your work together in one place for a user is really helpful, particularly for someone coming in through search or social, who's just landing on a story page. This is a way to give them an idea of all the great things that you're doing."
The Washington Post also partnered with Flipboard recently, to produce a series of special reports on the 2016 presidential race for the magazine-style aggregation app.
According to Haik, the collaboration with Genius "sits nicely" within the paper's current strategy of trying to reach its audience across all platforms.
"There's the idea of partnership and platform – how can we work with places and spaces on the web to leverage the work that they're doing and their audience engagement to help bring our journalism to those new audiences?"
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