January's Innovator of the Month: Des Moines Register's digital coverage of Iowa caucus
Monday, March 05, 2012
Winner: Des Moines
Winner’s representative: Julia Thompson, senior news editor: Digital
Why Des Moines won: Digital
coverage of the Iowa caucus.
Q. What prompted you to
create this innovation?
A. Iowans are
highly invested in their first-in-the-nation caucus, and we knew there would be
a large national and local audience looking to us for authoritative journalism
about the caucuses and candidates. We decided early in 2011 that it was
imperative that we deliver that and more in easily accessible formats across
What were the steps in creating it?
A. We first asked ourselves what
Iowans needed from us, and the answer was new and innovative ways to get caucus
news as it happened. With that, a cornerstone of our strategy became our iOS
application, developed in-house by our digital team. It gave Iowans on the go
all they needed to know about the candidates and the caucuses, including live
results and push notifications as news broke on caucus night. We also
launched a website and mobile site for non-iPhone users and used a strong
social media strategy to deliver breaking news, videos, photos and data from
Republican presidential candidates’ campaign stops across the state. Databases
and interactives gave Register readers the tools to see where candidates were
going, compare their stances on issues and delve into campaign finance data.
And great journalism backed it up our development efforts throughout the caucus
How did you introduce or promoteit to your audience?
A. We introduced the website
first, which we continued to add features to leading up to the January
caucuses. We then rolled out the app in November as the race started to heat
up. Marketing efforts, in-print and digital promotion let our audience know we
were the best place to turn to for digital caucus coverage.
Any results thus far?
A. The Register’s caucus website
alone, DesMoinesRegister.com/caucus, drew more than 3.4 million unique visitors
and generated more than 5.9 million page views from June through January. The
app was downloaded more than 7,700 times. Users initiated more than 106,000
sessions on the app.
What would you recommend to other media wanted to do a similar project?
A. Media looking to pull off a
comprehensive digital portfolio for a single event should plan well in advance.
Apps, interactives and all of the cool tools that were a part of our digital
caucus strategy took weeks and months to design and develop. Making sure the
content and development efforts are well-coordinated from the outset is