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There's a principle in marketing that if you have too many similar products to choose from, you can become paralyzed; so, too, in news, as the number of outlets and media platforms explode. On a day when millions of people will be following election results, we asked NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik to give us a sense of the many ways you can find information.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: There was a time back in the murky past, a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, Twitter was but a start-up, Politico but a dream. That was just five years ago, yet that seems so distant now as there are so many newer entrants in the media sweepstakes, like this one.
ED O'KEEFE: And we're going into the studio of Now This News. They are attempting to figure out how they can project each of the states as if they were on the World Series of Poker.
FOLKENFLIK: You want new, that's Ed O'Keefe. He left ABC News as a digital news executive to lead the start-up video news service Now This News, which unveiled its app just last week and its website earlier today.
O'KEEFE: Our center of gravity is mobile, and our distribution is social.
FOLKENFLIK: Which means they don't care so much about that website but more about telling stories in snack-sized video chunks and making them so irresistible that your friends can't help sending them your way.
O'KEEFE: For that audience that's out there on Facebook, on Twitter, who's receiving videos from their friends, you know, that's a good hook. That's the whole campaign; everything you need to know in 122 seconds.
FOLKENFLIK: Why 122?
O'KEEFE: You know, we don't actually set a number on it. We sort of go into edit and say, look, it's got to be sharp. It's got to, again, be a little irreverent without being glib. It's got to be fun. It's got to be fast. And it's got to hold people's attention span in an era where they don't really pay attention.
FOLKENFLIK: That's seemingly a gazillion different outlets clamoring for your attention. More than 50 million adults use Facebook, which has added a new gizmo showing in real time throughout the day with demographic breakdowns how many users have disclosed they voted. And over on Reddit, a user today posted a video showing that his voting machine in Pennsylvania registered Mitt Romney no matter how many times he pressed Barack Obama.
(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)
FOLKENFLIK: That was Romney getting his vote regardless, and that machine was finally taken out of service as reporters started to ask questions. Lee Rainie says tonight of all nights, you can go granular or you can go global. He's the director of the Internet & American Life Project at the Pew Research Center.
LEE RAINIE: They can literally probably be looking at precinct by precinct election returns in every election precinct in the country. There are ways that they can be cool hunting. They can look for fun hashtags or fun parodies of things that are being said by the pundits on TV.
FOLKENFLIK: But Rainie says these newer outlets and platforms coexist as much as compete with the legacy news organizations, which are reinventing themselves so they, too, are reaching people through apps and social media platforms.
RAINIE: It's carrying on multiple conversations, looking at multiple screens and diving both directly into the information that matters to them as well as getting sort of the broad swaths of material that are coming out of the television and radio stations.
FOLKENFLIK: Indeed, more than 60 million Americans watched results on TV in 2008. For Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, election days are like Christmas, Halloween and her birthday all at once.
ANDREA MITCHELL: We have people in our Decision Desk - Sheldon Gawiser, who've been here for 40 years - they have seen everything, and we are well-traveled. We have correspondents all over the country. So we have that range and depth.
FOLKENFLIK: Perhaps the most striking touch here in Manhattan, CNN has commandeered the new outside light system of the Empire State Building. It will reflect the rising share of electoral votes in glowing blue and glowing red, another way to tell the story in an age of saturation media. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.