CNN Aims To Get More Social With Redesigned Site

By Alex Weprin 

CNN is planning a major site relaunch for this Fall, and it is putting social sharing at the heart of the new experience. TVNewser has details on what is coming in November here, but we wanted to highlight CNN’s plans for social media on the site.

CNN senior VP of digital KC Estenson acknowledged that while CNN has more traffic than many other news sites, its social sharing is much lower than outlets like The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. The new site is designed to change that:

“There will be much heavier calls to action to engage with the content,” Estenson says, adding that the relationship goes both ways. “Social is informing editorial.”

“Whether you want to follow topics, or shows, or talent–cause we have people that are fans of the brand that just want to follow Sanjay [Gupta] or Anderson [Cooper] and everything they do–or you just want to get breaking news and alerts and follow us through that,” Estenson added. “Or you are into trending topics and into social memes, or you want your social activity to be reflected into what we publish.”

CNN is also planning to automate meme-tracking, letting editorial staff tweak stories, headlines or tags to better serve what people are talking about online. As an example he used the recent PGA Championship victory from golfer Jason Dufner... who also his his own meme, “Dufnering.”

“The way we would traditionally publish that is ‘Jason Dufner Wins PGA Championship,’” Estenson says. “That is a classic CNN headline, and that is un-retweetable basically, that story is instant commodity.

“But the ‘Dufnering’ meme takes off like wildfire,” he added. “Right now that is all human beings, we can do that algorithmically, we can search for memes, we can find the topics that are starting to rend in social media.”

Ultimately, the goal is to create a personalized news experience that TV can never deliver. Using an example of Hurricane Sandy, Estenson said that in the future users can select a “Sandy” tag and have the latest news appear as a notification in iOS, or in an email, or on social media.

“The grand vision here is that at some point we can dynamically publish the site for the individual,” Estenson says. “We are heading toward a world with more personalization, this is your CNN.”