Papal election digital coverage: Winners and losers

The Papal election gave news organisations the chance to try out some new widgets and gadgets. Here are my winners…

News organisations often introduce lots of new widgets, gizmos and interactives around scheduled election times and sport events. The rhythm of politics and the sporting calendar make them obvious targets to plan, design and develop software for. The Papal Conclave didn’t give people much opportunity, but quite a few news organisations tried something different over the last couple of days. I’ve picked three winners that caught my eye — and one very big loser.


The Guardian earned a lot of plaudits for their “Choose your own Pope” interactive. By filtering on issues like attitudes to contraception and homosexuality, age and location, users could winnow a favourite candidate out of the 115 cardinals. It was firmly backed by data, and pushed users to sharing their choice on social media, giving the page over 11,000 Facebook shares and 4,000 tweets by the time Pope Francis was appointed.

Guardian “Choose your own Pope” interactive

Guardian “Choose your own Pope” interactive

The Guardian also had a standalone site coming out of the New York office, “Is there white smoke?

The Guardian’s “Is there white smoke?”

The Guardian’s “Is there white smoke?”

It is a well-worn internet meme, but a neat promotional tool for live coverage that picked up some social media traction. I rather preferred the Telegraph approach here. They adorned their homepage with a very simple widget that told users at a glance whether there had been any development in the story. What I liked about it was that it was a way to keep the story on the homepage, without having to keep doing 500 word write-ups saying “Nothing has happened yet.”

Is there a new Pope widget on the Telegraph homepage

“Is there a new Pope yet?” widget on the Telegraph homepage

Kate Day tweets “Yes” from the Telegraph

Kate Day tweets “Yes”

The hero of today, though, was Metro’s awesome live blog for anyone who has ever disparaged the modern habit of live-blogging significant but slow-moving stories at the drop of the hat. Top, top, work.

Metro’s Papal election live blog

A sample of the Metro’s incisive live blogging style today


I think this Twitter exchange marked Piers Morgan out as the UK’s biggest loser when it came to covering the Papal Conclave.

Piers Morgan’s embarrassing tweet about Arsenal

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