The Olympic Games are just over a week away and publications across the UK are getting ready with new services which aim to provide the best, most engaging and up-to-date coverage available. Frank Praverman is the digital Olympics editor of The Times newspaper in London. Alongside working on coverage for the paper, Praverman has been creating a new digital home for Olympics-related news called The Hub. Here, Praverman talks about what The Hub does and how it will improve The Times’s coverage of the Olympic Games.
Digital news provides a very different experience to newspaper coverage. Since the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the way we read news has changed enormously. In 2010, Apple launched the iPad, which led to a subsequent explosion of tablet devices as other consumer electronics brands swiftly sought to catch up. Smartphones are also now considerably more common than in 2008 meaning, plainly, many more people now read news on their mobiles as well as on their desktop computer. These changes have provided opportunities for newsrooms who, in 2012, are jockeying to provide the best possible coverage for readers across a broad range of different devices. People want news that is quick, up-to-date and interactive. It is with these thoughts in mind that we here at The Times have been approaching our coverage of the Olympics.
One of the main problems The Times has faced since launching its digital products (including the website, as well as the mobile and tabloid apps) has been in getting the message across to our readers that we provide live content as well as the main print edition. For the Games, we felt that it was essential that this should be addressed.
Consequently we developed what we call The Hub, which is a one-stop shop for readers to see everything they want and get a feeling that it is changing all the time.
On iPad and online, The Hub is divided into three columns. The left-hand side is a live feed that works much like Twitter. Every time anything associated with the Olympics is published, it notifies the reader that there is one new item. This could be a story, a picture gallery, a tweet, a video – anything that The Times publishes digitally.
The next two columns are editorial slots. They are the responsibility of the desk editor who changes news stories over when he feels the time is right.
Once the Games commence, the middle column will house articles and interactive graphics. The right-hand column will contain a widget for the schedule of the Olympic Games, individual results and a medal table, as well as a rolling picture gallery.
On smartphone, The Hub exists in a slightly different format. The live feed will take up the entire screen and there will be separate tabs for the schedule, results, medal table and other editorial content.
We trialled The Hub during the Euro 2012 football finals and found it worked well and got largely very good feedback. The main criticism we had was that we didn’t signpost precisely how it works successfully enough. We have now attempted to address that and look forward to the response during what is likely to be the one of the most challenging sporting events any newspaper in England has ever covered.