Update: The Front Range newsrooms are the runaway winner, with 121 votes for their holiday lights project. Lights projects ruled this contest, with the Daily Freeman taking second with 44 votes and the Denver Post third with 23, both for holiday lights projects.
I’ll be shipping candy out today to the Front Range newsrooms (yikes! I’ll have to mail to four locations). Congratulations! (And everyone else should read how they did the project and emulate them next holiday season.)
It’s time to vote for the best winter engagement project from Digital First Media newsrooms.
I have lightly edited some of the nominations, changing tenses, combining multiple messages, etc. Several of our entries are maps featuring local holiday light displays. I’ll group those together at the end of the post, following the non-light entries.
The nominations are presented with those made by comments on the blog first, then nominations in the engagement Google group, then emails to me, in the order I received them. We had one nomination for a project pegged to New Year’s Day, but it encountered problems and was withdrawn. If I’ve overlooked a project that was submitted, please alert me and I’ll add it.
Because of the holidays, I’ll leave voting open through Monday, Jan. 6 and announce the winner on Tuesday, Jan. 7.
Please read through the nominations below, then come back up here and vote:
Times Herald snowman contest
Ashley Campbell’s nomination:
Our project is a snowman decorating contest by our staff. Each department in our building received a snowman and the final project was due Dec. 12. On that day, I took a picture of each snowman and posted them into an album on Facebook.
Our readers get to vote for their favorite snowman by “liking” the picture of it. The “voting” will be open for a week, and then we’ll be announcing our winner at our annual holiday party on Dec. 19 and the department that wins gets a pizza party!The end result was the following:Editorial: 209 likesCirculation: 206 likesAdvertising: 31 likesAdministration: 29 likesIf you take a look at each photo in the album, you’ll see the likes have gone up since then. You can also see the amount of shares that each photo got.
We did this last year with a gingerbread house decorating contest and got great feedback from readers.
Marin Independent Journal JFK memories
We were nearly overwhelmed by the audience participation on this project. Within minutes of putting out an online call for people’s memories of JFK’s assassination, we began receiving emails, and the stream of memories didn’t stop for two weeks. We received more than 100 emails, letters and online comments, including from people who showed up in our lobby to hand-deliver their accounts and show us memorabilia. Digital editor Dave Allen spent hours sifting through the responses so that we could post them online as soon as possible — and that in itself generated additional online comments.
Chambersburg Public Opinion cookie contest
The Chambersburg Public Opinion is holding a Christmas cookie recipe contest, driven through Facebook and promo ads.
Chico Enterprise-Record Thanksgiving 411
Days before Thanksgiving, the Chico Enterprise-Record sought to engage readers struggling with last-minute holiday cooking questions by hosting an online chat with three Chico chefs. Dubbed “Thanksgiving 411,” the chat took place two days before the holiday feast and lasted one hour, with readers asking impromptu questions ranging from the best way to cook turkey to non-marshmallow yam recipes and healthy-but-delicious vegetable dishes.
We used Scribble Live to host the chat. Reporter Ashley Gebb moderated and posted recipes, while readers typed in their name (either real or pen names – creativity points for Gravy Train Conductor, whoever you are) and questions for the chefs to instantly answer.
In advance, we promoted the chat extensively in print (in both the food and news sections) and on our website, Facebook, Twitter and even Tout. A breaking news bar at the top of our homepage alerted readers to the chat for 30 minutes before it started and throughout its duration. We published a chat recap the following day with a weblink so readers could go back and read the discussion in its entirety.
As for engagement, we had 30 submitted questions, 56 unique visitors, 96 page views, 32.86 average minutes on site and 3,155 engagement minutes – not too shabby for our first attempt. But, the most rewarding measure of success? Our chefs all had a blast and said they would love to participate again!
Macomb Daily Elf on the Shelf
At the Macomb Daily, we hopped aboard the manic Elf-on-the-Shelf train by asking readers to share their personal anecdotes and photos. We were gratified by how warmly they responded.
Saratogian and Troy Record: Color Me First Night
The Saratogian and Troy Record are teaming up on this project. In observance of our area’s First Night event, “Color Me First Night!” we’re asking readers how they “add more color to their winter blues.”
Participants can enter through Dec. 26 and share photos, videos, recipes, etc. of whatever helps get them through these grey winter days. We’ll share submissions online and in print and three winners will receive two First Night buttons (all-access admission).
Pottstown Mercury ChristmasPast
Pottstown has a very rich history and our readers love when we get nostalgic. So this season we’ve been collecting old pictures of the holidays in Pottstown. We’ve got pictures going back to the 1940s. We solicited the pictures in a story and post them to a Christmas Past blog.
Lansdale Reporter Laurel House fund drive
We ran a Christmas holiday drive for the Laurel House Shelter, prompted by our experiences covering violent domestic violence crimes in our coverage area this year. Here is our call for donations.
Within three weeks we received $314 in donations, through readers mailing in donations and also through a collection by our winter intern Maggie Wurst and me (Community Engagement Editor) at the Lansdale Train Station during the morning commute (6-9 a.m.) for two days the week before Christmas. Readers donated items to the shelter by dropping items off at our office. They filled two 4 foot high boxes and covered the floor in our lobby. Also, the Souderton High School student newspaper (The Arrowhead) collected items through a student run drive and brought them to our office. We filled Laurel House’s front room when we dropped the items off and got many compliments from our readers thanking us for running the drive. Montgomery Media also chipped in and collected with us.
Holiday light maps
Lebanon Daily News
We are doing a roundup of the best Christmas light displays in Lebanon County by asking people to submit addresses/intersections that we add to our map.
In Torrington, I’m gathering up both staff and submitted photos of holiday lights in the city and mapping as many as we can on a Google map once the photos and addresses start to come in.
I’ve created a Media Center gallery to display all the photos, which I’ll highlight on our website, blog, social media and our mobile apps, and also plan on taking a few of the more elaborate displays to Facebook, perhaps by splitting an image showing two houses and asking people to comment if they like the house more and like the post if they’d vote for the other.
Ivan Lajara’s nomination:
In Kingston, N.Y. We upgraded our yearly Holiday Lights tour.
We created a QR code to facilitate directions (and for ease of access on mobile devices and tablets AND print)! A Tout video showed how to use the QR code to create an app for your phone. Here’s how it works, and, man, it works. The QR code pulled in 138 scans (and counting!), I think, because it really was special. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is for what it is.Our photog made a gallery of nominations. The story, which links to all this content, focuses on some of the homes that stand out.
Once published, we used Crowdmap to allow others who missed a chance to get in to add themselves to the tour.
And we put it all together in one page, because why not?
For the seventh year, The Denver Post is allowing readers to upload photos of their decorated homes to our interactive map where readers can zoom in on their area or take in the whole metro area. The printed map allows readers to see only the area they’ve zoomed in on and up to 10 listings with complete addresses in the visible area so they can determine a route to see the lights.
In addition, the map allows readers to look at past years’ listings to find areas that might be worth exploring.
Every week in December we choose a winner from among the submitted photos to focus on. Winners get a $25 gift card, and their photo is published in the Saturday Home section in print and online, with a short story about the history of their lighting displays. Here’s an example.
Colorado Front Range newsrooms
Who was involved: Aimee Heckel at the Boulder Daily Camera, Whitney Bryen at the Longmont Times-Call, Jessica Benes with the Loveland Reporter-Herald and Julie Baxter, Megan Quinn and David Jennings with the Broomfield Enterprise worked together as a regional reporting team, in an unprecedented effort to tackle this topic on a grand scale — and save us all lots of time in the meanwhile.
What we did: We used a new, free smartphone app, TrackMyTour, to produce a giant regional holiday map with HUNDREDS of points, all photographed and automatically plotted using smartphones onto an embeddable Google Map, thereby removing the need to enlist photographers, web designers and page designers for the first year ever. Talk about a time-saver.
You’ve really got to click on this map and zoom out to see the extent of our listings! You won’t believe it.
Working with readers: We also solicited reader submissions and photos, which we simply added to our map using latitude/longitude coordinates. We solicited submissions via the web, print, Twitter and social media (including a chat room for a local mom’s group, which proved very helpful). We added comments to many of the photos to provide additional information to readers.
But wait. There’s more! Whitney wrote an excellent, newsy story about a popular local lights display that was destroyed by the Colorado floods. Megan wrote a second narrative about Broomfield’s lights displays. Aimee created an interactive image using Prezi of one of Boulder County’s biggest lights displays. And Jessica created an interactive image of one of Loveland’s great displays using Thinglink. Yes, we used both of our favorite interactive image creators! In addition, photographer Paul Aiken put together a beautiful photo slideshow online.
Why this is better than last year:
- We experimented with dozens of apps before settling on this one, which was quick, reliable, automated and easy to use.
- The app we used last year did not create an automated Google Map; we had to plot the houses manually on Google Maps, which took hours. This year, all we had to do was click and embed.
- Obviously, the regional listing provided a better service to readers who wanted to make a big night out of viewing lights. In fact, one reader emailed me to say she and her family rented a limo, made hot chocolate and drove up and down the Front Range following this map!
- Although this package is much more comprehensive than anything we’ve ever created in the past, it was much LESS work for each individual reporter because we worked smartly and because we worked TOGETHER. This was a major lesson for us, and it sets a precedent for years to come.
“If you shine, I shine.” 🙂
And we shined!
I’m so proud of my team.
Be sure to vote
Please remember to go up to the top of the post and vote for your favorite.