Inside News Innovations at The Washington Post
In this week’s edition of II’s summer guest blogger series, Steven King takes us inside the News Innovation team at The Washington Post. He details recent projects of the “web ninjas,” and answers reader questions.
We sit in the Arlington newsroom in a pod that is crowded with multiple screens, extra computers, an Xbox 360, and even a newspaper circulation box. Our meetings consist of impromptu spinning around in our chairs to discuss database models and server load issues to arguing over the latest plot turns on Lost, or even critiquing the latest Star Trek film.
Our News Innovations team, internally known as the Web Ninjas, is tasked with rapidly developing new and creative ways to tell stories and present information in a form that brings revenue to the site. The team consists of three guys with various talents and distinct roles, but the ideas, innovations, and enhancements stem from everyone and grow in the collaborative environment.
One of the reasons we are able to keep the creative freedoms and relaxed atmosphere we enjoy is because this year so far we have generated close to $2 million in revenue for our projects and hope to move that number to $4 million by the end of the year. Although revenue is not the only measure of our success, it is easier to justify future projects when previous projects have brought in dollars.
Our latest major launch was the technology to deliver a “scheduled delivery” video show or special video project interface such as onBeing and Mouthpiece Theater. We created three modular tools/features that can be used together or independently in future renditions:
- Fluid: A 3-D media navigation tool that allows for hierarchies and multiple types of displays. Built on Flash Actionscript 3 and using Papervision 3D, Fluid can display numerous videos in 3-D space allowing users to navigate without scrolling.
- Web-Com: A threaded and user-moderated comment system that provides a visual representation of the most valuable comments and conversations among users. The comments are cataloged in a database and displayed via Flash. The most liked comments become larger and conversations (replies) gravitate to the center. Users who like a more structured view can switch modes to see them in a list.
- OmniViewer: The Flash video player can display live broadcasts and progressive streaming at any size and in full screen. The new controls provide an intuitive interface that also allows users to quickly move through the video without buffering delays.
Our team’s goal is not only to create cool interfaces and features, but also to build them as frameworks, APIs or with administration tools that allows other developers or newsroom editors to use the technologies for themselves.
I would rather not say exactly what we are working on, but we tend to be doing a lot of work with video, user generated content and mapping so you can expect to see some new things in all of these areas or maybe a combination of all three. Also, we plan to make some upgrades to TimeSpace and are considering a couple of ways to allow the public to build their own TimeSpace projects.
Please comment below if you have questions and I will try to answer them.
Steven King is currently the editor of innovations for washingtonpost.com where he and a team of developers and editors work to produce new and creative ways to tell stories.
King returns to The Post after two years of being based out of Chiang Mai, Thailand serving as an overseas correspondent for the International Mission Board.
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Tags: Jesse Foltz, journalism, Lee Trout, multimedia, newsroom, Steven King, Washington Post