According to a 2009 Census Bureau report, roughly 71% of those registered to vote participated in the 2008 presidential election, a statistic slightly lower than that of the 2004 presidential election. These statistics, combined with an apparent apathy towards politics and news in general, have led to politicians and journalists alike scrambling to find new and innovative ways to reach out to the public. Whether through Twitter “debates” or smartphone news apps, one thing is certain: the ability to effectively engage the public can make all the difference in election outcomes.
The NY Times recently launched a new app, Election 2012, geared specifically towards covering election news, polls, opinions, and more. Sarah Wheaton, an editor at the NY Times, explained the purpose behind the app.
“It’s really a reflection of trends that we’re seeing in how people consume news,” Wheaton said in an interview with NY Times podcast Bit: Tech Talk. “I just found a study the other day that said that people spend 65 minutes on their mobile device and adults tend to spend only 45 minutes with print media, so this is sort of our effort to take advantage of the fact that people are using their mobile devices.”
The app gives users access to not only articles from the NY Times, but other publications as well.
“One of the things that can be so exhilarating about political coverage is that it is a very collaborative field, even among the competitors,” Wheaton said in the podcast interview. “So, one person will report that somebody said something and then the reporters who are covering a different candidate will ask that candidate to respond, or people are building on each other’s stories, and that’s why we felt it is important to not just include NY Times coverage.”
The app also provides an election guide, complete with a primaries calendar, polls, candidates, state-by-state news and statistics, and G.O.P. debates. It also is complete with opinions and multimedia, such as videos on the trail with the contenders. Jonathan Ellis, assistant editor for digital platforms at the NY Times, explained the analysis behind the app in the same interview.
“We’re really looking everywhere, not just a set list of sources, so we can bring in anything to the app that we think is most relevant in the political discussion of the day,” Ellis said. “The app also has shortcuts to the political homepages of other news organizations, so if you’re sort of a political junkie that needs to check all of those top sources on a daily basis, you can make the app your one-stop-shop for that.”
The boom in technological innovations has led to a need for speed among internet and wireless users. Breaking news can no longer wait to be delivered to one’s doorstep. Newsrooms and TV stations alike are constantly searching for ways to bridge the gap between the reporters and their audiences. With such a large pool of news sources, from the publications themselves to Twitter and other social media, journalists run the risk of inundating their audiences with too much news coming from too many directions. And sometimes, all it takes is an overkill for people to lose interest altogether.
Apps such as Election 2012 show a clear grasp of what’s at stake. The app creators seem to wield a strong understanding of not only the upsides of such mobile innovations, but also the pitfalls to avoid. By combining a virtually limitless pool of information about the election, the app gives its users the choice of what and how much to read up on the election season. The app reaches out to both ends of the public spectrum, from the political junkie looking to stay on top of every aspect of the campaigns, to the average voter, who may not have the time to sit down each night to watch the news coverage.
The Election 2012 app is free for NY Times subscribers, but non-subscribers can still read the top six stories featured in the app each day. While the app is currently only for iPhone users, other smartphone users can access the app by going to mobile.nytimes.com/2012.
To download the app, click here.
To listen to the podcast in its entirety, click here.