The Explainer Layer

The Explainer Layer

Organisation: The Times of India (India)

Publication Date: 06/22/2017


Ongoing reportage on a developing story often has little room for providing background and context. News organisations today routinely carry explainers, but they exist as standalones. Our prototype is a tool that helps add an explainer layer to routine stories from the CMS level. It does this by creating a searchable bank of visual elements that can be embedded into a story, as well as non-intrusive annotations to help readers that are unfamiliar with a story. The visual elements include swipeable catch-up cards, spiffy snapshots illustrating multiple viewpoints on a debate, as well as interactives that might be useful in a story. The remodeled CMS ensures that the reader catches up on past developments or technical terms on the go, without hampering the flow of the copy. While it makes catching up and contextualising smoother for the reader, The Explainer Layer also helps journalists save research time by ensuring that back and forth communication with the graphics team and other departments is eliminated.

Technologies used for this project:

We relied on a mixture of open-sourced tools and self-developed tools to make The Explainer Layer. The CMS editor was largely adapted from summernote.js, a large-scale project with nearly 6000 Github stars. Additionally, vanilla Javascript was used to add in features like adding notes. A Python-based backend for storing and searching embeddables. We will also ensure that the embeddables are SEO friendly by hosting them on the same domain as the article content. MongoDB and Redis were used for the backend, and the project was hosted on Google Cloud Compute. The end product for the reader was mobile-first, since our new organization gets 80% of its traffic from mobile.
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