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What sort of news travels fastest online? Bad news, you won’t be shocked to hear
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Nov. 4, 2008, 10:41 a.m.

News sites’ plans for election day

Today America refreshes. Browsers across the country will be furiously reloading, as very little and then a ton of news hits the web on Election Day. Here are some notes on what to look for:

— At The Washington Post, the most significant innovation won’t be obvious to readers. Elizabeth Spayd, editor of washingtonpost.com , told me that they’ve improved the speed with which updates will make their way to the homepage. Post reporters will be filing throughout the day to The Trail, a blog that runs on Movable Type. But rather than manually linking to those posts, as they’ve done in the past, “it will be automatically feeding onto the homepage,” Spayd said. It’s a small tweak that could mean a lot when news is breaking. (Before then, you can follow the Post’s popular online chats. Chris Cillizza, who blogs and tweets for the paper, will be on at 11 a.m.)

— This is an interesting moment for Talking Points Memo. The new-media darling has garnered big-media traffic throughout the campaign, and they clearly want to be your first destination for election news today. TPM has a map just like everyone else, and they will link to important stories in addition to their own reporting, which will include live video from Obama headquarters in Chicago. (Editor Josh Marshall and deputy publisher Andrew Golis previewed their coverage in recent videos.) I’m a TPM junky, but in all likelihood, I’ll be checking my old-media standbys before heading to TPM for analysis. Still, I know people who have relied on the site as their primary news source for the entire campaign, and it would be interesting to know how many readers head to TPM first on Election Day.

The New York Times wants to know how you’re feeling today. To fill the anxious time before polls begin to close in Kentucky and Indiana (6 p.m. Eastern), the paper of record is asking readers, “What one word describes your state of mind?” They’ll present the results in a word cloud that will undoubtedly become a lexical representation of chewed-up fingernails. The Times’ editor of digital news, Jim Roberts, previewed some of their other coverage plans in a post yesterday. Among other neat features, they’ve got a pop-up dashboard with election results that looks great in your Firefox or Internet Explorer sidebar or on your iPhone.

The Huffington Post is embracing its aggregation approach with a page of embedded widgets from a range of major news organizations, none of which will see a dime from that placement. But HuffPost is certainly cashing in on the election traffic, turning over the wings of its homepage to a huge BlackBerry ad. If NBC, CNN, and others could calculate the revenue they’re losing to Arianna Huffington today, which fortunately they can’t, would they be as forthcoming and open with their widgets?

— Several news organizations and consortiums are encouraging voters to record their votes in ways that could help journalists and watchdog groups keep track of long lines and irregularities. There are efforts by the Post, Twitter, YouTube, and others.

— Wired reports that a Florida political site, the Sayfie Review, is sending cell-phone videocameras to key polling places in order to “give you a sense of what turnout is like among different demographic groups across the state,” according to the site’s editor. It seems like a worthwhile service from a site that’s close to the action.

— A lot of news organizations have maps that let you play with electoral votes, but I like the one at The Los Angeles Times best because they let you share your prediction with others. So if you really think Pennsylvania is going red, you can get it on record. Along those lines, The Boston Globe has a nice interactive graphic that challenges you to balance the state budget in the event that Massachusetts voters pass a ballot measure today that would eliminate the state income tax. The Globe didn’t try anything similar with another ballot measure that would decriminalize marijuana possession.

Current TV is integrating Digg, Twitter, and user videos into its “pundit-free” broadcast on election night. And on the other end of the dial, CNN may have holograms, but NBC is etching a map of the U.S. on the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center. It’s unclear how this will add any value, but I will definitely tune in to see it, which is, of course, the point.

— And finally, Matt Drudge and Slate’s Jack Shafer have made a habit since 2000 of leaking the Associated Press’ exit poll numbers before the embargo is lifted. Much has been written about that phenomenon, but maybe the story this year, when it inevitably happens again, will be that nobody bats an eye.

POSTED     Nov. 4, 2008, 10:41 a.m.
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