Wednesday, January 21, 2009

CNN Engages Inaugural Viewers

Have you also been glued to the television—or other communications channels—for the last few days? By all accounts, the number of people around the world who watched some portion of the inaugural was historic. Also historic was the number of options we had for watching the occasion.

I wrote about CNN’s “magic map” during the campaign, so I made my plans to watch when CNN began touting new technology and a partnership with Facebook. Watching on Facebook with my friends was fascinating. When I logged on some were already there discussing the fact that they didn’t like the dress Oprah had on Monday—ok. Others came on as the swearing in neared. Most of my friends are former students and my daughter and her friends—in other words, much younger than I—not surprising. They made comments as events went on by writing on Facebook walls. In one of the screen shots I have the CNN comment box open, so there were multiple options to participate.
Social media maven C. C. Chapman was “in the room.” His comments were interesting and he pointed out that the new White House site had gone live--although apparently not without a few glitches—with a blog post at 12:01 p.m. This post, expressing the communications objectives of the administration, is interesting.

Watching video with the television on in the background was interesting too. CNN obviously had numerous cameras around. When you paid attention, you realized that video was more likely to have chose-up shots and the “big screen” was able to move between long views and close-ups more readily. Interesting. But, in general, the quality of the video was excellent and overall it was a good consumer experience.

The technology that was debuted (on CNN anyway; it’s Micro Soft technology that is not brand new) is also interesting and even more directly engaging. John King, the maestro of the magic map, explains it in this video.

By early evening they had the map page up. It’s probably even more detailed by this morning, although I don’t know that the casual observer can tell the difference. Try it; it’s fun to move around and look at “The Moment” from different angles. My only quibble is that, even knowing about it, I couldn’t find it on the CNN site until Wolf Blitzer gave me the URL on television. Oh, well, I guess that’s media integration!

It’s clear that the channels options contributed to the audience that was able to watch this event from all over the world. It’s also clear to me that CNN is on to something. People love to contribute, and they are giving them opportunities to do. Maybe it’s accurate to say that they have taken a page from direct marketers and make it easy to take action—in this case to contribute content.

Note something else. There were other interesting media activities yesterday. As a blogger, I was watching the Facebook/CNN partnership for the purpose of this post, and I stayed there so I wouldn’t miss something. But I’m not sure I would have moved around a lot anyway. This whole thing captured my attention and kept it for several hours. Isn’t that what engagement is about?

I’d also suggest watching the activities of the White House media team. They are working on engagement also, and, in fact, leading the way in some aspects. Isn’t that a novel experience?

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