'Popular Science,' 'USA Today' Launch New Platforms To Spur Political Engagement

The midterm elections take place November 6. Many outlets have launched podcasts and video series urging the public to vote and find out who their local candidates are, resulting in new levels of engagement between media outlets and their readers.

Popular Science and the USA Today Network, have recently unveiled their own contributions to the midterms.

“The Popular Science Midterms Package” is a three-part series that turns the spotlight on the role of science in this election.

It informs readers about science-supporting candidates and “flippable issues” that record massive engagement across social media. The latter has created a dedicated bot to inform its vast network of readers about candidates and issues in their area. 

Corinne Iozzio, deputy editor, Popular Science, told Publishing Insider: “Most election coverage obsesses over political parties and polling data — who’s winning, who’s losing.



"We choose science. Full stop. Securing clean water, maintaining fresh air, guaranteeing passable roads and preparing for extreme weather are universal goals, all of which are attainable if we maintain science as a centering force in policy.”

The first series in the package offers testimonials from nine congressional candidates who have a background in science. In their own words, chemists, nurses, engineers and others talk about how they could bring scientific, evidence-based decision-making to Washington.

The second installment covers the top science policy issue for each state, and the final, which posts on Tuesday, October 30, explores flippable issues that could shift, depending on how the election is decided.

“The 50-state story in particular provides tons of fodder for compelling social posts,” Amy Schellenbaum, online director, Popular Science, said. “The point of the piece is to bring science policy issues to the nation's doorstep, so tools like geo-targeting and massive Twitter threads make the story that much more effective.”

Iozzio backs up this view, adding: “Repackaging the content in this way immediately turns nebulous (often complicated) ideas like climate change into relatable concepts that Americans faces every day.”

The USA Today Network launched a chatbot to help its readers disseminate election information via its app and desktop browsers. The chatbot is one piece in a larger collection of election-based products coming from USA Today.

Others include detailed outlooks for the Senate, House and governor races at the national and state level, a Facebook politics group and a USA Today Elections Quiz, which offers an interactive, social-friendly experience to readers.

Reid Williams, senior director of the storytelling studio, USA Today Network, told Publishing Insider: “Very early in the year, a number of different teams began brainstorming news experiences that would both help us differentiate USA Today and make it easier for readers to get election information uniquely important to them.” 

The election chatbot surfaced as a solution and tool “that would help the audience cut through the noise and clutter of election coverage.”

By using the data APIs and pulling election articles from across its network of outlets, USA Today created the dynamic chatbot; its content is checked by reporters and editors for accuracy. 

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