The Tylt Looks to Cultivate Online Debates into News Stories

Stories on the Tylt homepage with competing hashtags
Stories on the Tylt homepage with competing hashtags

With so many voices on the Internet, it’s easy to feel voiceless. The Tylt, however, wants to help make those opinions count by cultivating online debates.

The Tylt, which launched in April at thetylt.com, is a news site created by Advance Digital’s in-house incubator, Alpha Group. Its focus is on culture, politics, entertainment and sports stories that either have potential to ignite a compelling debate or already have a debate surrounding them.

After a question is posed by the Tylt, showcasing evidence for both sides of the debate, then the real story takes shape. The Tylt collects data on readers’ opinions through hashtag usage—each story has two competing hashtags—and through voting on the website or mentions on social media. The team then builds a data visualization graphic to measure readers’ reactions.

“Any one of our readers (and) community members can really kind of write themselves into the story,” said Michael Donoghue, vice president at Advance Digital and founder and leader of Alpha Group.

The idea for the Tylt sparked when Donoghue and the Alpha Group team saw that “the Internet is a terrible place for debates.” In a climate where more readers are interacting with news stories online, the Tylt works to harness those voices and help everyone be heard.

Michael Donoghue, vice president at Advance Digital and founder and leader of Alpha Group
Michael Donoghue, vice president at Advance Digital and founder and leader of Alpha Group

“We wanted to be able to leverage online natural behavior, like social sharing and participating in polls and sharing opinions you have with friends and family, to quantify what the broader opinions are around topics that really matter to our audience every day,” Donoghue said.

He said currently they’re utilizing Twitter to gather data outside of the Tylt website, but as the site grows, they’ll expand to Facebook and Instagram and explore other social and messaging platforms as well.

The Tylt also uses algorithms to prevent and control abusive or negative comments and user interactions that aren’t constructive to get a better sense of real audience opinions.

Since the launch, Donoghue said they’re focusing on drawing in readers. To do that, the site doesn’t have a subscription model or paywall.

“If we really want to be perceived as a democratic, open-source platform for any of our audience members to be able to share their opinion, we had to remove as many barriers as possible to participating in the conversation,” said Donoghue. “That’s why even if you never land on thetylt.com you can continually participate in these debates in the social space.”

He continued, “We realize that the opinion of our audience and the voice of our audience are equally as important as our editorial board’s, and we treat the product as such.”

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Published: June 8, 2016

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