The Choice 2012: Expanding Viewership Through Collaboration

By: Kelsey Savage, PBS Interactive 

As we make our way to Election Day, the noise surrounding our political discussions can seem overwhelming and incomprehensible. In the everyday drudge of the news cycle, it often seems too arduous to decipher a candidate’s message or values. Yet this is exactly the space for well-researched educational television to make a difference in the lives of viewers and voters. 

Frontline, one of PBS’s flagship shows, has a history of taking on challenging topics, cutting through the jargon and misinformation, and producing intelligent, in-depth documentaries. On Tuesday, October 9th, Frontline will premiere The Choice 2012, a film that profiles President Obama and Governor Romney’s respective histories and political careers. Their award-winning research and storytelling aims to present viewers with a clear understanding of each of the candidates and their background.

We sat down with Andrew Golis, Frontline’s Director of Digital Media, to understand the scope of their online promotion. Golis stated that it’s an “important civic good to get The Choice in front of as many eyeballs as possible,” and went on to explain that Frontline has had “a long history of digital innovation.” When promoting this film, they wanted to “set that into overdrive.”

First, the full film will be released both on YouTube and COVE for streaming, in both English and Spanish. YouTube’s organic audience is different than the traditional PBS viewer. By catering to both platforms, PBS will be able to expand the film’s viewership and, in turn, voter’s familiarity with the candidates. A station can also capitalize on the film’s YouTube availability by embedding it onto their YouTube channel*. Golis recommends that stations create a curated election’s playlist on YouTube that features The Choice and other PBS election-related content to create a more unique viewing experience. 

The Frontline team has been partnering with YouTube, Yahoo, and others to diversify their promotion. The Choice will be featured on YouTube’s election homepage, along with content from the New York Times, Al Jazeera, CNN, and Buzzfeed. 

Additionally, the Frontline web team has published 14 “artifacts” from the lives of the candidates: rare documents, photos, speeches, and objects from the candidates lives that can give meaning to who they are and what they represent. Each can be embedded on station websites, as can the three weekly discussions Frontline has hosted with journalists about the artifacts. These assets include a 1985 letter that Obama wrote about his impressions of Chicago and a note from Romney about his missionary work in France.

Golis notes that some stations, like KCTS9, have been adding this content to their elections page. This kind of collaboration allows for both member stations and Frontline to have a well-rounded user experience. Stations can take unique and educational content and use it to supplement their election coverage, while Frontline can continue to develop their brand as one of the most trusted sources of investigative journalism.

*When we have the video's specific URL, we'll send a separate communication with instructions on how you can embed it on your station's YouTube channel.