Wednesday, November 07, 2012

NPR's interactive map tops election night coverage on the Internet

How did you watch the 2012 election results? I watched on my laptop. As shown below, there were several approaches to the coverage -- local TV stations holding hangouts, streaming TV coverage from ABC News, live tweeting by Andy Carvin (@acarvin) and an interactive map on the NPR Web site.

Which to watch? I tried them all and frankly found three to be boring.

ABC's coverage consisted of periodic local and national vote updates with "pundits" talking about what all meant.  I found it slow and much of it was irrelevant to me. Streaming linear TV online is liking making a movie by setting camera on a tripod and recording a stage play.  Old wine in a new bottle.

I found that Andy Carvin's tweets came in too slowly and, like ABC's stream, often concerned things I was not interested in. Carvin has been live tweeting events in the Middle East for a couple of years and is probably our best, most experienced live tweeter. (See his book Distant Witness). If he can't make live tweeting of election results work, the medium is probably not a good fit.

(Correction after posting -- I blew it -- Twitter was cool -- I should have followed more than Andy Carvin).

I found several hangouts in which a local TV reporter discussed the election with the public and found them boring and uninformative. I'd rather listen to pundits.

For me, the clear winner was NPR's interactive map. In retrospect, that is no surprise. The key is that it is interactive. Unlike the others, it let me be active, determining what I would see.

As shown below, the map page is divided into three sections. The largest is a map of the US. Above that is a graphic summary of the current state of the presidential, senate, house and gubernatorial races. Interactive results were displayed to the left of the map.

The summary at the top has small red, blue and gray spots -- red signifying a decided Republican victory, blue a decided Democratic victory and gray undecided. The bar below that summarized the state of the presidential election at that time.

The dark red and blue areas signify electoral votes won by the two candidates. The light red and blue areas signify likely electoral votes and the gray area in the middle votes that were too close to call. The image shown above was snapped Tuesday evening, when the race was close. By Wednesday morning, the summary showed that Obama had won the presidency, the Democrats controlled the Senate and the Republicans had retained control of the House and won a majority of the gubernatorial elections.

You could drill down by clicking on a state.  Below I clicked on California and the current vote counts in presidential, senate, house and gubernatorial elections were for the state were displayed to the left of the map.

One could drill down further. The results as of Wednesday morning for the House race in California's 30th District are shown below.

You could also check the tally of ballot initiatives for each state. California's are shown below.

I don't want to leave the impression that NPR was perfect.  The maps were poorly rendered and I had some quibbles with the user interface, but, for me, NPR's interactive map was the election coverage winner.  This reminded me of my comparison between the BBC and NBC coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games. BBC's coverage was more interactive than NBC's. NBC's was more like watching television. There is a general lesson here -- the Internet is an interactive medium. 

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Added after posting

The NPR site is displaying data from the Associated Press.  I turns out that Google also presented the same data (http://bit.ly/Up9c0D) and it was also posted on the C-SPAN Web site (http://cs.pn/XnY58x).