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Early Bird: RMPBS Builds 2012 Election Bento Site

By: Carolyn Spellman, Content Producer at Rocky Mountain PBS

We signed on last year to be one of six alpha test stations for Bento, a tool PBS introduced to create individualized station websites that offer easy content-management and leverage COVE and Merlin, and access to video content.

We’ve been working closely with the PBS Interactive team ever since, and have pushed through the concept stage, past the migration phase, to the construction stage. It took a while to ramp up to actually building the new Bento site, and not surprisingly, there was some trepidation along the way.

Our current site is extremely content-rich, with hundreds and hundreds of pages and a vast amount of original content. It felt like we were moving out of a rambling old Victorian into a streamlined new loft, and not everything was going to fit in the new place (nor should it, by the way, since some of the stuff was pretty old).

But we had some deadline-oriented projects – like the coverage of a presidential election – that forced our hand to make Bento our new home.

Cynthia Hessin, the host and executive producer of our weekly current affairs show, “Colorado State of Mind,” and I were excited about all the cool election widgets that the PBS NewsHour recently had introduced, and we wanted to incorporate some of the features in a new election section on rmpbs.org that would also offer background on the state candidates, elections, and issues, as well as basic voter registration information.

The thing was... we had to get this election page live by the end of August and we weren’t ready for a full Bento launch -- nor did we want to invest too much time creating a section on our current site that would have to eventually be moved over.

The ever-calm and collected team at PBS Interactive suggested that we build the election section in Bento and link to our current site, as a test-run for the larger-scale project ahead.

It was good advice. Working on just one section in Bento allowed us to get a feel for Bento’s functionality. And it actually was pretty fun. We ended up posting the election section on time, with all the features we wanted.

We’re now in full-on production mode, and we’ve built many more pages in Bento since. But I have to appreciate the unrelenting election cycle for offering us our first real foray into our future Web platform.