Content Development: Interactive Infographics

Shortly after September 11, 2001, the United States military began to mobilize at a scale not seen in a very long time. Every day came new headlines about F-14 Tomcat strikes, Marines disembarking, and even an unused carrier coming out of mothballs to go fight. With every article was accompanying graphics of the hardware discussed. Most of these were static pieces produced by the Federation of American Scientists and they were just fine.

USS Kitty Hawk Interactive Infographic
The interactive created for the USS Kitty Hawk.

But I worked at a place called the United States Naval Institute. We had tons (literally) of authoritative resources on all the hardware that was coming to the forefront of daily news.

And I had a copy of Macromedia Flash.

So, I began combining the two.

I made an interactive graphic about the navy’s F-14 Tomcat (of Top Gun fame) and submitted it to Yahoo! News and CNN. Both had linked it to their news stories within 4 hours. A few days later Los Angeles-class submarines were in the news. So I stayed at work all night making an interactive graphic for that. (It was news after all – a very rapid response timeline to create something.) That also got accepted by Yahoo! News within a few hours.

Site traffic spiked.

Then something really amazing happened.

Up until then I had been submitting to Yahoo! through the regular “Suggest a Site” form. When you did that the message would go into a giant queue and “readers” would go through them to sift out the crazies. If the reader saw quality they would pass it on to a Yahoo! editor.

After landing two-in-a-row on news stories, I got an email from a Yahoo! News editor saying, “Just email me directly from now on.”

This may not seem like a very big deal now. But at the time, that was Internet “power” to be coveted. Not only for the daily traffic spikes, but that everything I submitted to the news also got listed in the Yahoo! Directory. The idea of a “directory” is so quaint now.

Anyway, over the rest of 2001 and 2002 I probably made a dozen different interactive graphics. The most important detail here is that: my work directly accounted for 160,000 site visits in 2012.

As if my being able to submit work directly wasn’t enough, I solidified my relationship with the editor when the story broke about the U.S. and its “daisy cutter” bomb. She actually wrote me directly to see if I had anything interactive for her to use. (!!!)

Well I didn’t because that is a U.S. Air Force munition. But I did send her a link to a really cool interactive The Guardian had made about it. She really appreciated the fact that I would send her stuff I hadn’t even made.

It’s always good to do the right thing.


A few screenshots of items and their peak rankings in Yahoo!

F-14 Tomcat Interactive Infographic
F-14 Tomcat Interactive Infographic
F-14 Tomcat Interactive Infographic Yahoo! Rankings
F-14 Tomcat Interactive Infographic Yahoo! Rankings
Carrier Battle Group Interactive Infographic
Carrier Battle Group Interactive Infographic
Carrier Battle Group Interactive Infographic Yahoo! Rankings
Carrier Battle Group Interactive Infographic Yahoo! Rankings