The Wall Street Journal's Digital Editor (Europe, Middle East, Africa) John Crowley told Julie Posetti that their commemorative interactive "100 Legacies of World War 1" is delivering deep, "sticky" audience engagement on the back of two million page views.
What kind of audience response have you had to your major multimedia commemoration of WW1 through a curation of key historic impacts?
Crowley: We always strongly believed the concept – selecting 100 legacies from World War I that still shape our lives today – would strike a chord, but we’ve been bowled over by the positive response. Not only have our regular readers responded in glowing terms; historians and teachers have commended us too. That’s been incredibly humbling with reaction coming from around the world. Here is what broadcaster and historian Dan Snow said.
— Dan Snow (@thehistoryguy) June 26, 2014
There was always an element of stepping into the unknown with a global project like this – using a new platform to write about a critical moment in modern history that people have strong opinions about. But we’ve found readers have engaged with our 'mega-listicle.’ We made a virtue of asking people to tell us what we’ve missed. Since publication over 200 people have gone to the trouble of filling in a suggestion form and we have published some of their recommendations (as entries labelled 'reader suggestion').
What are data analytics telling you about audience engagement with the project?
Crowley: Our readers are exploring the project in depth. ‘Stickiness’ and ‘dwell time’ are becoming just as important metrics as page views. We have found readers are staying with the interactive for roughly 10 minutes on average and clicking through an average of 10 pages too. More than seven out of 10 people are choosing to continue their journey after landing on the project. It’s got a very long shelf life. Five weeks after publication, it’s still always up there in the most-read items on a daily basis. That means people are continuing to share and it’s taken on a life of its own. It’s had more than 2 million page views so far. That’s extremely gratifying
What lessons have you learned so far from the project - particularly as regards user experience, internal collaboration across continents, and archive based storytelling?
Crowley: i) This is a project some 44,000 words long but because we’ve broken it down into ‘atomised' chunks, I don’t think people have been overwhelmed by it. They like the way you can dip in and out and return to it. We let them know what items they’ve read by shading out the thumbnails.
Ii) The internal collaboration has worked really well. This was an exciting project and working with colleagues in New York and Hong Kong could have presented issues. But guess what, there’s that thing called the Internet which means we can keep in constant contact. Because the project was truly global, there was a real collegiate feel to working together.
iii) For an archive-based project, finding agencies with good video and picture libraries is paramount. That is not always easy. Our executive video producer Parminder Bahra and digital producer George Downs heroically tracked down some superb footage. Among the agencies we turned to were British Pathe, the AP archive and the Internet Archive.
What would you do differently on a 'take two'?
Crowley: As ever, some more lead-in time on the final edits and deciding a publish date sooner.
What are the best examples of commemorative WW1 ditigal storytelling you've observed among your competitors?
Crowley: I’ve been very impressed with the archival footage used on Guardian’s First World War project and the experts they called upon
And The Times A-Z of the First World War was a very smart interactive.
The World Editors Forum would add two other entries to this list of English language newspapers' innovative WW1 centenary digital projects:
- The New York Times' interactive designed to engage readers with contemporary impacts of World War 1 (Next week we will feature an interview with the NYT about the lessons learned in the production of this project).
- The Telegraph's simple but useful Countdown to War timeline.