WCCO.com walks The Wire


WCCO-TV unveiled a new way to interact with the news today. “The Wire” is a graphical way for Internet users to explore news, events and comments.

Trying to describe the The Wire highlights how different it is. Is The Wire a news site, a web service, a platform, an application, a social network?

David Brauer at MinnPost struggled with terminology, winding up calling The Wire a “news-buzz-graphical-interface web thingie.

Good for WCCO-TV for trying something new. The project, led by WCCO’s director of new media John Daenzer, has been in the works for months.

The station hopes The Wire drives traffic to its main news site and eyeballs to its newscasts. It also aims to generate some direct revenue — CenterPoint Energy is a main sponsor right now, using the site to promote its product repair plan.

It’s a noteworthy play for WCCO. Like newspapers, local TV news stations have been struggling to overcome falling income and declining audiences for their “legacy” products.

Local media outlets across the nation are aiming to grow their digital operations, even as they cope with staff reductions, a tough economy and huge shifts in their traditional business models.

KSTP-TV is taking a different approach, recently announcing a push into the “hyperlocal” space. The station plans to launch a series of sites serving neighborhoods and suburban cities.

WCCO’s The Wire is too new for anyone to know whether it will develop a sizable audience or languish as an Internet curiosity.

But it certainly looks innovative. News, events and comments appear in bubbles along a timeline. The site, built by WCCO and the Twin Cities web-development shop The Nerdery, is smooth and cutting edge.

The interface may be a bit much for some users, especially at first. You don’t really know what to do when you get there, so it takes a bit of learning.

Will The Wire be like Google Wave, where many first-time users wondered, “What do I do now?” Or will it build a loyal base of users and become a prominent part of the Twin Cities news landscape? As they say on TV, stay tuned.

  • Hi Bob… Thanks for writing about The Wire. MPR is always rolling out great new ideas and we’re proud to be part of a very creative and innovative group of media in town.

    We do hope people enjoy using The Wire. We’re committed to making it useful and a new part of what we do every day. Our goal is to use it to help tell better stories both online and on TV. That’s it.

    Come check things out! And if you love something — let us know. If you hate something, we want to know that, too. This is all an experiment — and one we hope people will feel welcome to be part of.

    Best of luck on your upcoming projects. We love to steal good ideas!

    -John Daenzer

    Director of New Media

    WCCO-TV | WCCO.com

  • Bob Moffitt

    I have succesfully created a “Buzz” entry on National Biodiesel Day (today) and I am now working on an events submission for next month. So yes, I’m tangled up in The Wire. Not unlike Steve McQueen, near the end of “The Great Escape.”

  • Looks very interesting to me — agree that the UI requires a learning curve. Also, I want to see how the wire looks/feels when a big news item hits it. Especially a developing news item.

  • Stormer

    Good idea, bad execution.

    After spending 5-6 minutes with it after reading the “help” balloon, it’s pretty clear that they really need to rethink the user interface.

    The timeline is a good idea, but having the balloons overlap each other clutters the interface and prevents quick selection of stories. Heck, even the “help” balloon is covered by the other balloons.

    The colors and background designs are not at all attractive. They give the site a retro-industrial-proto-punk sort of look.

    On the whole, it looks like the first draft of a Junior High web design project; cluttered, and not at all intuitive. It may play well with the school geeks, but expect it to fail with those in the adult world.

    Nice try, though.

  • Thank you for posting this! The Wire seems like an interesting move towards more live-action news reporting and a near instantaneous distribution of media. It does seem like a unique technology, but there are still a great many software programs like these that it will need to compete with.