Seeking "Social" Presidential Election Coverage, CNN and Facebook Partner Up
BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, July 9 2012
CNN and Facebook unveiled a new partnership on Monday that signals a clear desire by CNN to expand its audience with a trio of new initiatives on the global social network.
The network, which has seen its ratings falter over the past year, is launching a new English and Spanish-language Facebook app mid-to-late August called "I'm Voting." Facebook will also examine its users' conversations about the presidential and vice presidential candidates in aggregate and enable CNN on-air personalities to break that information down by state. The network also plans to cooperate with Facebook on user surveys around specific events like the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, the presidential debates, and Election Day.
"Certainly throughout the entire election season there will be key moments, like key speeches, or key debates in the election, and there'll be opportunities to survey what people think about key speeches and moments in the campaign," said Lila King, CNN's audience participation director.
For example, if President Obama makes a speech about foreign policy, CNN could embed the video on Facebook and poll users in various states on their opinions about it, she said.
Facebook says it has 160 million users in the United States. Meanwhile, Nielsen reports that CNN's audience has shrunk over the past year. For example, for the week of June 25th to July 1 this year, the average number of people watching CNN at any given time dropped to 430,000 people from 477,000 for the same period last year.
The "I'm Voting" app will enable Facebook account holders to endorse a presidential candidate and specific issues. Those endorsements will appear in their timelines, newsfeeds, and real-time tickers. The app's users will also be able to see how many people they've managed to convince to also support their candidate and issues. CNN plans on mapping those endorsements online.
"It presents a pretty natural way to turn political engagement into a social experience," King said. "In turn, with the app we're building with Facebook, it'll allow CNN to listen and to learn about what voters are saying once they've authorized the app. So much of the story of the election this year, and every year, is what voters are thinking everyday, responding to stories and issues in the news, and how their conversations with friends drives what they're feeling and what their vote is."
CNN is hoping that the app will be able to gather up all of this information in aggregate on a level that the organization couldn't do on its own, King said.
CNN and Facebook will map users' responses to its polls in real-time on an interactive map on Facebook, and a television graphics producer is also working to present those mapped responses on live television as well as acros the network's other platforms.
The two companies said in a press statement that they expect its app to be a "second screen" for viewers as its staff use it on air, online and through mobile devices to ask Facebook users about issues of importance to them.
Monday's announcement is the latest in a series of politics and media partnerships that Facebook has launched this election cycle.
For example, POLITICO partnered with Facebook in January to examine users' conversations on the network in aggregate about the Republican presidential candidates during the primary. (Facebook used a tool called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count to attempt to measure sentiment about the candidates, but that effort was panned by critics.)
For the record, CNN won't be attaching any kind of sentiment analysis to that aggregate data, said Matt Dornic, a CNN spokesman. Rather the network will simply report on the publicly available data that's generated by Facebook users when they engage with and discuss the candidates on Facebook.
In January, Facebook partnered with NBC News to sponsor a GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire where coverage was streamed live online, and users had a chance to submit questions to the candidates prior to the beginning of the debate.
The ideas in the CNN-Facebook partnership pick up on other ideas that have already been floating around in the startup world during this election cycle. For example, Votizen, a startup in San Francisco, already offers its users the ability to endorse candidates and lobby their Facebook friends on behalf of those candidates. But Votizen's range of candidates go up and down the ballot rather than being restricted to the presidency. The company also has matched voter registration records with the Facebook data and can tell which of an individual's friends are registered to vote, and thus can have an actual impact at the voting booth.