What is a widget and why should newspapers care?

by Jason Preston on June 3, 2008

I wrote a post the other day about thinking beyond text and images with online journalism. Looking back, I sound a little bit grandiose while talking about something that some newspapers are already excelling at.

The New York Timesrent or buy real estate calculator is one example that I’ve been aware of for some time.

Right now, there’s an interactive graphic on the New York Times home page that elegantly displays the breakdown of various voter blocks in the democratic primary. Want to know how women in their 30’s voted by state? Click. Cool.

What I should be able to do is treat that graphic like a YouTube video, and embed it on my site. That way anyone who comes through here can play with the Times‘ brand, data, and journalism, and cool graphics can spread virally across the internet.

You could embed a directory of related graphics, so that people can play with a series of connected pieces. They could click through to nytimes.com for associated articles or more detailed explanations.

As it is, I can’t even figure out how to find a permalink to the graphic they have up right now. The best I can do is show you a picture (top of the post). Once they move it from the home page, it is lost.

Step one is creating really cool interactive content. Step two is leveraging the viral power of the internet to build your audience and get your content everywhere.

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1 Katie 06.04.08 at 12:39 pm

There was an event for Internet Week in New York yesterday at Columbia, and the panelists spoke a lot about how companies in general can leverage all of this audience engagement and even monetize it. The New York Times is providing a nice tool that creates some interaction with the reader, and I agree, the next step is to give the audience some control over how this tool could be used and shared. Once you’ve already created something that is easy to use, and desirable to your audience, that audience needs to be empowered to take control. Companies need to optimize that engagement and not be afraid of losing the control themselves.

2 Jason Preston 08.05.08 at 9:11 pm

@Kate you’re absolutely right! (ps – not sure why this comment slipped under my radar for two months…)

I’m glad that The New York Times is looking into these options, and I think that it would be great if more newspapers would follow suit.

Businesses are understandably afraid of giving the users control over any part of their business, but it is to a certain extent inevitable since people will take and play with your content anyway. Might as well do it where you can be a part of the conversation instead of the “evil outsiders” trying to shut it all down.

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