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Lies, damned lies and the CNN Politics App

George Nott | June 21, 2017
CNN Digital's head of products John Hashimoto discusses the US media giant's first, and maybe last, mobile-only experience.

At the same time the app was being built by a 10-strong CNN team and assistant from vendors, a bespoke CMS that allowed editors to create and publish data visualisations was also being developed.

So you can imagine how much hard work went into that and overtime went into getting that done,” Hashimoto remembers. “Very intense.”

 

Pick a card

The app provides a slick user interface, using an approach that CNN calls ‘card-based storytelling’. User swipe left and right through cards which display latest graphs and visualisations, then can scroll down on each card to display editorial analysis and articles.

"It's a very powerful convention which resonates with a mobile audience," Hashimoto says. "I can get my headline this way in a very visual way. It's pretty cool. It's like a magazine cover for each thing. Some people that's all they need, but the option to go deeper is great. Skim and scroll kind of thinking.”

CNN used CA Technologies API management software to transfer and aggregate data points from a number of sources including CNN polling data, Federal Election Commission data and the CNN/Pivit Political Prediction Market.

CA’s App Experience Analytics tool was used to guage app use, which has given CNN a new perspective of news consumption.

"We can watch our users like any other news user go through that day and watch their touch points for news,” Hashimoto says.

During CNN’s political TV shows for example, when the app’s editor appeared on set to share what was happening with viewers, the company saw huge spikes in user activity and download rates.

In November last year, downloads for CNN Politics exceeded a year’s worth of downloads for both Politico and The Washington Post.

 

Keeping on the edge

Though the presidential election is long since finished, the app is certainly not.

“The election was [the app’s] whole reason of being,” says Hashimoto. “But we're lucky in a way: ever since election night this has been the story, more than anyone could have perhaps imagined.”

The app’s editorial team – which is now being bolstered by the company’s growing number of specialised data journalists – is now looking at how to incorporate Google trends data into visualisations, particularly in key counties in the build up to the senate elections in November 2018. This data will also be used to analyse how voter sentiment is changing nationwide.

CNN Politics could be the media giant’s last mobile native app, however, with future developments likely to be done online and optimised for mobile.

“It’s an easier more scaleable model, and to make your mobile web behave more like a native app is actually doable,” Hashimoto says. “And who wants to download another app these days?”

 

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