For the 2014 World Cup, The New York Times delivered a master class in digital storytelling, using every tool in its bag to cover the world’s largest sporting event. Relying heavily on data and photography, we provided our readers with the right combination of live game coverage, engaging interactives and in-depth analysis.
One of our main goals was to provide satisfying game coverage for both hard-core soccer fans and casual observers. To do this, we live-blogged each contest, using a mix of smart analysis, graphic replays, photography and social media aggregation. This provided an excellent second-screen experience for people watching the game at home or at work. For those who couldn’t watch the game live, our blogs provided enough play-by-play and analysis to keep them on top of the action.
After the game, we used photography and data to re-create the action in graphic form. From the location of every shot on goal, to the time of possession in each area of the field, the data allowed us to accurately show the flow of the game. Using composite photography, we were able to re-create the most crucial moments and show the reader the progression of ball movement before and after each goal.
We used a similar approach to compare the best player of today’s game (Lionel Messi) to the best player of the ‘80s (Diego Maradona). Instead of just using statistics, we used data visualization to compare the two, giving the reader a clearer picture of how both operated and dominated.
In between the action, we gave our readers plenty to keep them engaged. Spot the Ball, is a modern, digital rebirth of a traditional British newspaper promotion in which we digitally removed the ball from photographs and asked our readers to guess where the ball should be. Results were compared with other readers and easily shared on social media.
Another engaging interactive allowed readers to navigate the intricate web that connects every World Cup team to the professional club teams of their players. For instance, if you’re a Manchester United fan, you could easily see which United stars were playing for England, Brazil or Germany.