Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Spain’s Eldiario.es has 18,000 paying members, and its eye on the next several million
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Aug. 7, 2015, 2:43 p.m.
Reporting & Production
GOP-2016-debate-candidates-cc

The New York Times liveblogged last night’s GOP debate directly from Slack

A Chrome plug-in allowed reporters to write posts in an internal Slack channel and editors to edit those posts before publishing straight to the live blog.

If you weren’t satisfied simply watching the spectacle that was the first Republican presidential debate last night (debates, if you count the “kiddie table” event for low-polling candidates), you might have relied on one of the many liveblogs out there seeking to recreate the noisy atmosphere in Cleveland, fact check candidates’ claims, and offer up context and background for a stunningly large field.

To speed up its blogging process, The New York Times experimented with publishing posts from political reporters Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Confessore to its liveblog directly from Slack (the all-purpose team messaging app/virtual water cooler/meeting room).

The chrome plug-in, built by San Francisco-based Times developer Michael Strickland, allowed reporters to write posts in an internal Slack channel. Deputy Washington bureau editor Paul Volpe then edited those posts in the same channel before they were exported to a second Slack channel that published straight to the liveblog. (Slack already allows users to edit their own messages after sending them, but the Times needed that feature customized so that moderators could edit other people’s posts.) Writing directly in Slack allowed Haberman and Confessore to have an organic conversation in real-time at “chat speed,” without having to worry about how their text would look on the Times website and without back and forth between various browser tabs and applications.

“We’ve done it before, but in a Stone Age way, for other live events, with the reporter typing into Gchat, then an editor copying and pasting that text,” Marc Lavallee, editor of interactive news, told me. “It looks the same after-the-fact, but we were minutes behind on events.” Being minutes behind in a liveblog intended to be a “second screen” is not a good thing, and publishing chats directly from Slack cuts that lag down to seconds.

“What our team built was very elegant and very fast,” Volpe said of his editing experience in Slack using the plug-in. “I was really blown away by the speed at which we could publish.” (For the live chats last night, Volpe was the only editor; for such a fast-moving chat, it really only made sense to have one person editing on the back end, he said.)

From conception to execution, the blogging-from-Slack experiment was only a few weeks in the making, and Haberman and Confessore were happy to jump in on it, according to Lavallee and Volpe. “We wanted this to have a little bit of their own voice; we’re not just trying to fill space, we wanted there to be substance,” Volpe said. “You have to credit them for being able to process what was happening in real time. We’re talking about five to six hours of constant analysis.”

The Times liveblog was already pulling in content from different feeds — photos, videos, charts, pull quotes, and more, all designed for sharing on social and optimized for mobile — so on the front end the Slack messages just constituted another feed. The Times uses WordPress to power the more “traditional” elements of the liveblog, such as some of these longer contextual posts.

NYT-GOP2016-liveblog-slackchat-screenshot

According to Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades-Ha, last night’s liveblog “definitely had one of the largest liveblog audiences ever for NYTimes.com,” though she couldn’t comment on traffic specifics.

Other desks at the Times are now excited to try out the Slack plug-in.

“In San Francisco some of the other reporters in the bureau were already asking, ‘when can we use it?'” Lavallee said. “One of the real beauties of the newsroom, particularly in 2015 when so many people are excited about new things we’re trying out on visible stages like our 2016 campaign coverage, is that it does create this atmosphere of desire, not only because this is the ‘cool new thing’ — everyone sees it’s a new way to connect with readers.”

Photo of FOX News Debate Cast: The Top Ten by DonkeyHotey used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Aug. 7, 2015, 2:43 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Spain’s Eldiario.es has 18,000 paying members, and its eye on the next several million
“We have a potential of six million readers. You may not convince all six million people to be your socios, but if you learn more about their interests, you can get closer.”
Chasing subscriptions over scale, The Athletic wants to turn local sports fandom into a sustainable business — starting in Chicago
“It’s very easy today to be click-driven and produce articles that don’t have a lot of substance or depth and don’t cost that much to produce, but that dynamic is disappointing for fans who want higher-quality content.”
Hot Pod: We now have new, free rankings to show how podcasts stack up against each other
Plus: Parsing the RadioPublic announcement; premium podcast subscriptions; Bill Simmons oversimplifies things.
What to read next
0
tweets
The American Bystander is trying to revive the humor magazine with a reader-supported business model
“Our idea was that we were going to create one of these things in a classic format and see if there was enough interest to sustain it.”
0Algorithms, clickworkers, and the befuddled fury around Facebook Trends
“Trends are not the same as news, but Facebook kinda wants them to be.”
0With new columns and newsletters, ProPublica is trying to attract new readers and have more fun
“There’s a huge benefit to coming up with features that are more fun and more interesting. It appeals to a different audience and can create closer connections with readers — they can see a different side of us.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Current TV
Quora
Mashable
Byliner
Conde Nast
The Christian Science Monitor
The Dish
National Review
MediaNews Group
The Orange County Register
Gannett
Medium