“Thank you, America!”
“Thank You America” is one of my favourite Cabaret Voltaire tunes, so I nicked the title for this post.
Regular readers may have noted that I’ve spent quite a bit of the last few months live blogging US politics and the 2020 election for the Guardian. It’s been an honor – US spelling is cool now – and a pleasure. Genuinely, what a thrill to have been one of the people doing some of the Guardian’s live coverage of one of the biggest news stories of the year. The decade? The century?
I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had so many lovely messages from readers, so many emails saying thank you, like nothing I’ve ever covered before. And I just found a ton more in my ‘Spam’ folder, I guess Gmail just couldn’t accept that real people might be sending nice messages to a journalist.
And also, one good thing about spending all day writing about it for the Guardian, I didn’t feel obliged to also have an opinion about it all on social media. That was very refreshing. Plus I’ve now got so immersed in US politics that I’ve got no idea what is going on at home. A blessing and a curse that one, I guess.
Our coverage has done absolutely ridiculous unprecedented levels of traffic. Our comms team put out some stats.
The Guardian recorded its highest-ever digital traffic Wednesday 4 November, reaching more than 190 million page views and 52.9m unique browsers worldwide in 24 hours – exceeding all previous traffic records by an enormous margin.
The Guardian’s previous highest days for traffic were the announcement of the lockdown in the EU on 16 March 2020, the UK lockdown on 23rd March 2020, and the day after US election day on 9 November 2016.
Yesterday’s traffic was more than double each of these days, with traffic soaring past 100m page views just after 1.00pm GMT and peaking at nearly 200,000 page views per minute at 19:25pm GMT. The live results tracker has received over 94 million page views so far since launch.
The Guardian’s editor-in-chief Kath Viner said: “This US election has gripped audiences right around the world, and will have truly global consequences. The Guardian’s reporting has attracted an immense and record-breaking audience for high-quality, trusted news.”
Guardian US editor John Mulholland said: “Throughout this election cycle, Americans across the country have been drawn to our dedicated coverage on key issues like voting rights and social and racial justice, all of which remain central to the conversation as we await results. We will continue to deliver trusted, independent reporting to help American audiences navigate through this historic moment.”
It’s just been incredible to be part of it. And I also want to give a shout out to some of the usually unsung heroes.
Live blogging when the live blog is #1 most read on the site and in the #1 slot across all of our different international editions is, frankly, fucking terrifying. You are typing and publishing directly to thousands and thousands and thousands of readers across the web and apps, and in some templates everything you publish goes directly on to the front page as well. It’s incredibly raw and direct.
But there’s always an army of people behind you.
Sub-editors cleaning up the copy you’ve just inflicted on the world. Digital editors making sure you have kept a focus on what’s important for the readers and delivering what they expect when they click. A myriad of expert correspondents who you can call on to check something, or throwing contributions your way. Desk editors every day looking at what you are about to launch and checking you won’t embarrass yourself. An audience team helping you shape headlines, and making sure you are hitting search referral sweet spots as well as being engaging and clickable on site. Design teams making graphical information easy to understand for the reader and easy to embed in the blog. The hard plumbing work to make results pages that automate a feed to show readers exactly where the election stands. Video and audio producers offering additional material and working with you to make sure the live blog has feeds of the most important events, and that you’ve got the key quotes and moments from the day clipped up and embedded. Picture editors on hand if there is somebody or somewhere you need an image of. It might be my name and face that appears on the live blog a few hours at a time, but it is truly a team effort. The product you see on your phone or computer ends up being so much more than the sum of all those parts, because they all work together.
And I wrote a Twitter thread about this, but there’s another group who really deserve our praise, and who often get over-looked. There’s no way we could have achieved those traffic figures without our technical teams and software developers.
Not just the scaling up to the demand of the peak election days, but the years and years of work planning, architecting, designing, and testing our publishing platform. Even more amazing when you think that, because of coronavirus, I’m just sitting at home on my own laptop on a domestic internet connection 3,600 miles from Washington DC, and can live blog to millions all from a web browser. It’s a phenomenal achievement.
And when I say years and years, I mean more than a decade. Here’s a blog post from me in 2008 when I was doing my first ever stint at the Guardian as a contract Information Architect. It was the Hack Day launch of the content API that still underpins so much of our publishing systems.
Then there’s this from a few months later, thrilled that launching the OpenPlatfrom API had trended on Twitter. Imagine how small and nerd-centric Twitter was then for that to happen!
Anyway, there hasn’t been Friday Reading for a couple of weeks because I’ve been all in on this, I’m sure you understand. I’m absolute shattered. I’ve done 17 days live blogging straight because I volunteered to do weekends as well, but today I’m off for five days rest. I had some amazing plans that obviously the new lockdown restrictions in England punched right in the face, for fuck’s sake ‘why always me’ etc etc. So instead I’ve told my kids I’m just staying in bed and they can push sandwiches under the door for me so I don’t starve.
Honestly, over all these years, I don’t think I could ever have imagined that in the space of a couple of weeks I would be interviewing Tom Baker and covering a US election for the Guardian. I feel so absolutely humbled by all the kind messages that people have sent, the screengrabs and viral retweets of things that I’ve written, and all of it standing on the shoulders of the many, many people who have made it possible.
OK, I’m off to get drunk, and watch again and again that TikTok of Carly Aquilino nearly ending herself laughing about Four Seasons Total Landscaping™️.
Love you all, see you soon.