TV stations that used Magis Media’s election mapping software say a new version that tracks COVID vaccine data is much like the election display — easy to use and visually dynamic for better storytelling.
Magis Media, a software company providing TV stations with election mapping software, has tapped into its expertise to create a COVID vaccine version for county-by-county mapping.
Kevin Ferrara, VP of operations at Magis Media, says the company already had the interface built, so it was easy to apply it to the COVID numbers. “For our stations that used us in elections, this was an easy step to move into.”
Ferrara says the COVID mapping software gets the data from the states, from which they’ve built a national database.
James Stratton, the main anchor at WREX, the dual NBC-CW affiliate owned by Quincy in Rockford, Ill., says the COVID mapping software is easy to use. His station was one of the stations that used the election software in 2020.
“So to use that to track COVID was just a no brainer.”
Stratton says the information updates daily.
“It’s a great program” Stratton says. “We are providing useful, potentially life-saving information to people. This is high tech and it breaks it down by county.”
That breakdown includes which counties are trending up in getting vaccines. Comparisons to other counties, and the state, are just some of the ways the mapping software is also being used.
Charles Benson, the 6 p.m. anchor for WTMJ, the Scripps NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, says the Magis Media graphics interface gives “people a visual — how many shots administered, how many first shots, how many second shots or fully vaccinated.”
Benson says viewers can see that information on a full-screen graphic while he interacts with it.
“We’re able to break down the numbers in a more visual-telling story by showing you what is happening county by county. That helps people understand more of what is going on,” he says.
Tim Klutsarits, the assistant news director at WBBH, Waterman Broadcasting’s NBC affiliate in Ft. Myers, Fla., says his station started using the COVID-tracking software in early 2021.
“The visual is always the thing in our medium,” says Klutsarits. “It has been a good showcase and benefit for our viewers.”
Viewers are paying attention, Benson says. If he stands in front of one county to highlight another, he hears about it from viewers. “The one common feedback we get is people say, don’t block the county that they want to see,” he notes.
Klutsarits says viewers like “seeing something other than numbers on a screen.” All he needs to do is touch one county, “and all of a sudden the numbers all pop up. It’s just a good use of storytelling for our town.”
One of the other advantages of using the COVID-mapping software, Klutsarits says, is that “the data is readily available, instead of having to go dig for it.”
In Milwaukee, WTMJ put the software on its website so viewers can interact with it The station suggests they use it if they plan to travel to find out what conditions they can expect, Benson says.
Ferrara says 18 stations are using the COVID mapping software now, using it on a subscription basis and can opt out any time.
Ferrara’s longer-term vision for the product depends on what stations say is the next topic people are talking about. Is it jobless rates? The economy? Education?
“They have learned the interface for this mapping,” Ferrara says. “They are already comfortable with it so as we add in other categories of topics, they will be able to tell those stories in depth.”
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