#ATL24: CNN live-tweets a feature story

Monday, 9 September 2013

Twitter goes so perfectly with real-time news that to live-tweet is to cover it. And the stats back it up: journalists who live-tweet an event see on average a 50% boost in follower growth.

When news breaks, it’s a natural response for journalists to pull out their phones and live-tweet what they’re seeing. When an editor dispatches a reporter to a press conference, it’s not uncommon to see him or her hunched over a laptop, hammering out a recap using TweetDeck. But how do you combine live-tweeting with covering a feature story that isn’t tied to breaking news?

The answer for CNN’s recent #ATL24 project was to make an event out of it.

On August 28, CNN launched a massive multi-platform project in which a team of 30 journalists spent 24 hours exploring the world’s busiest airport: Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International. The #ATL24 project will live online, on television and just about anywhere CNN has a presence, but the final production will not be aired or appear online until November. Nevertheless, the CNN team was allowed to share real-time updates on Twitter during their 24 hours of extraordinary access, giving them a unique chance to engage their audience and promote their project.

The team sprang into action in the days leading up to the event, by using and promoting the hashtag #ATL24.

Securing that hashtag early produced leads on what people were doing at the airport, and raised awareness about the project. When CNN descended on the airport to start its 24-hour stint, it already had an engaged audience ready to take part in the event on Twitter. From behind-the-scenes luggage screening with the TSA to the ramps with Southwest Airlines ground crews, it was time for CNN to share the stories about the people who pass through and work in the airport every day.

As told to us by the reporters covering the day live, here’s how the story played out on Twitter.

Twitter as the reporter’s notebook
“Live-tweeting forced me to take the time right after I did an interview to pick out the most powerful things I saw and heard. That’s a step reporters traditionally don’t take until they get back in the office and talk with an editor. Doing it in real time got me thinking about storytelling right from the beginning, and I’ve found that now, nearly a week later, as I get started writing longer pieces about the life moments I saw, I have a better idea of what I want to say.” — Catherine Shoichet, CNN Digital Newsdesk Editor for Latin America (@CatherineCNN)

Live-tweeting increased engagement and follower growth
“I quickly received new followers and many retweets once we started. One airport patron even found a group of us because he had been following #ATL24.” — Jeremy Freeman, Photographer (@JeFreemanPhoto)

“Live-tweeting instantly revealed to me what intrigued people — a UPS plane pre-loading, a Southwest worker who’d been working at the Atlanta airport for decades.” — Jamie Gumbrecht, Producer (@jamieg)

Tweeting the story his own way
“My gig was riding Airtran’s busiest plane for the day… to find the stories of folks being transported across the nation. My goal was to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, so I decided to tell about it to people in haiku. The response from Twitter was great…. Some poetry groups even began following me.” — Wayne Drash, Staff Writer and Senior Producer (@DrashmanCNN)

Finally, here’s CNN’s own story on the event.

Have you seen innovative uses of Twitter? Email us at [email protected].