Behind the Bubbles: Pop-Up Politics : Inside A behind-the-scenes look at how our new stump speech series, Pop-Up Politics, got started here at NPR, why we thought it was worth doing, and a preview of the additional animations to come.
NPR logo Behind the Bubbles: Pop-Up Politics

Behind the Bubbles: Pop-Up Politics

A screenshot of Mitt Romney's Iowa stump speech, with a Pop-Up Politics bubble animated in. NPR hide caption

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A screenshot of Mitt Romney's Iowa stump speech, with a Pop-Up Politics bubble animated in.


As the Republican presidential contenders make their final pitches to voters in Iowa, we hope you'll watch some of their speeches enhanced with our new, "Pop-Up Politics" treatment.

Just as VH1 used pop-up bubbles to give music videos another dimension, we're using bubbles — and sounds and animation — to give you a more contextual look at the messages being delivered to GOP voters.

The video animation project got started here at NPR after digital editors became fans of the pop-up series I did while at The Texas Tribune, an online startup in Austin. Before the 2009 launch of the Tribune, newly-hired reporters were asked to come up with a list of story ideas, and one of my ideas was not a "story" at all.

A month later, with the help of photographer Justin Dehn and animator Todd Wiseman, both of whom remain multimedia ninjas at the Tribune today, we debuted Texas stump speeches, interrupted by dozens of bubbles.

Digital Managing Editor Mark Stencel explained his reaction from here in D.C.: "As soon as I saw what you did in Texas I wanted to do a version for the presidential campaign — the perfect way to give people a chance to both hear from the candidates at length while also providing some context on the substance, the rhetoric and the stagecraft."

So we owe a hat tip to my former boss, the Tribune's Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith, who didn't love my first attempt at this non-traditional storytelling but embraced it anyway, gave it a platform, and supported it through a series of four animated speeches so the idea could catch on and be adapted by other newsrooms.

And adapted it, we did. The NPR designer-animators who worked on these, Nelson Hsu and Stephanie d'Otreppe, gave the videos their own, custom presentation so you can easily jump from video to video, and we have added yet another layer of context by having sources and more reading for various bubbles cycle underneath the videos as they are playing.

Further, we've made several considerations about how you are viewing the animation series, and on what devices. Given all the mobile devices and browsers out there, the team did a lot of work to simply make these available from wherever and whatever you're watching.

More videos are coming. When we were wrapping up the shooting phase of the project in mid-December, Newt Gingrich remained in the top tier of Iowa candidates. But in this volatile race, fortunes change faster than you can say Freddie Mac. So other candidates are in the works, and once there's a nominee, we'll be doing Pop-Up Politics for the general election campaign. Expect President Obama to get the pop-up treatment just like the other candidates.

Finally, the end credits on these videos don't include all the folks who played a part in making Pop-Up Politics possible. So a huge thanks to JoElla Straley for her research work, Adam Martin, whose tech skills are the reason the videos can be seen on mobile devices, and our team of editors — Debra Rosenberg, Erica Ryan, Greg Henderson and Keith Jenkins, who helped shepherd this project to launch.

Elise Hu is the digital editor of NPR's StateImpact effort, which focuses on government reporting in the states. Read more about it.