A world famous newsroom rethinking election coverage

June 2021

5 min.

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Christian Hougaard
Chief Commercial Officer, Northern Europe

Being one of the biggest and most well-known brands within the news industry, the BBC has more reach and scope than most. However, this didn’t hold them from partaking on a mission towards creating a better dialogue with their users.

One of the efforts was to base their coverage of the election on the values and opinions of the people- who are, after all, the foundation of democracy.

In their coverage of the 2020 US presidential election, BBC successfully created palpable journalism aligned with the needs and interests of their users.

The prompt: “What questions do you have about the US election?”

The responses were sorted and analyzed in the Hearken tech platform; Engagement Management System (EMS), which made handling the +10,000 questions much easier. 

The project resulted in just about 12 million page views distributed between 31 full headline articles based on audience insights. 

The American voter panel

To cover the debate between the vice presidential candidates, BBC chose to involve members of ‘the voting panel’, a selection of BBC readers who wanted to give their take on the debate.

Panel members who asked exceptionally interesting or insightful questions were invited to partake in an interview by BBC. The interviews were ultimately used to create stories that reflected the incredible diversity of the American people, meaning that the voter panel provided a personal and engaging perspective.

More than 3000 people signed up to be a part of the voter panel.

Read the full story here

The 2021 Holyrood election

The American BBC was not the only branch who chose to approach the election differently. BBC Scotland found a very interesting usage of Hearken’s embed technology, which they used to get in depth information about their audience.

Besides posting the question: “What issues are most important to you in the upcoming Holyrood election?“, on their website, they customized the embed to function as a questionnaire, with 20 questions about personal info and political standpoints of the question askers. 

They used the information to create their own voter panel, in the style of BBC US.

This was but one of many efforts made by BBC Scotland to provide their users with a voice in regards to the election.

In total, BBC Scotland recieved more than 2,000 questions about the elections.

Several efforts

To give their audience the most possible influence in the election, BBC hosted several events they invited members of the public into their newsroom. The radio station had a group of 16-17 year-olds in the studio to talk about what it means for them to vote.

They also hosted a debate between a yes and a no voter (referendum vote), and later on they had a panel of voters in to discuss Scottish indedepende in general. Several other efforts were made which all revolved around providing their audience with the opportunity to be heard.

The BBC Scotland TV station also had voters on to talk about independence, which is one of the key topics in contemporary Scottish politics. The format was often a debate between different perspectives, where the focus was on reaching mutual understanding rather than enforcing oppinions on the opposition.

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  • BBC gave their users a voice in the US presidential election of 2020 and the Scotish 2021 parliament election
  • They made panels of voters who provided valuable insights and shed light on the different opinions on political issues
  • The result was +10,000 questions and 12 million page views spread over 31 articles for the US efforts