Creating robust digital elements out of television leftovers

Creating robust digital elements out of television leftovers

Recently, I’ve found my competitive spirit driving me to push the limits of our digital toolset. I had an opportunity to do that this week for a special report on transportation issues from which I generated 17 URLs, a home page takeover and dozens of social media posts.

My coworkers on the investigative team spent months gathering content for the 30 minute television program about the “State of Gridlock” in the Boston region. I joined them in the final days to help make the biggest splash possible on our website, app and social media.

Functioning as an editor, and not as a reporter, it was important to me that we find ways to go beyond the usual parsing of television scripts. I wanted to build an informative experience that utilized every tool available to us.

Luckily for me, the teams of reporters, producers and photographers had gathered much more content than they could fit into the 30 minute show. One photographer, for example, had enough excess footage from a tour of the MBTA’s blacksmith shop to produce a video exclusively for digital platforms. I added layers of social media-friendly graphics and set this up for deployment across all of our pages and accounts.

In another example, we had several years’ worth of data about car registrations and MBTA ridership in Massachusetts. I boiled this down into simple charts using Infogram, which got people talking on social media and ended up as the top item on the Boston subreddit.

Coinciding with the premiere of the show, I altered the home page for 12 hours to feature the content. Each of the featured articles was augmented with extra video interviews, photos or charts to provide depth that went beyond what was on TV.

When the special home page ended, and we could no longer feature all of the links in one space, I deployed a listicle which summarized key facts and multimedia elements from each of the top stories. Unlike our television counterparts, we can use these elements to keep the conversation going beyond the last commercial break.