Archant’s North Devon Gazette has broken new ground with the first of two online hustings events.

All six of North Devon’s General Election candidates went to the Gazette’s Barnstaple office to take part in the live debate.

Reporters Sarah Howells and Elliot Anderton fielded the questions on a liveScribble feed, mainly submitted by readers in advance, but also by those taking part on the night.

Editor Andy Keeble spent the evening hammering away, plugging the event on social media, taking photographs and posting them online, as well as drawing in tweets to the feed by getting people to use #votenorthdevon.

In the week leading up to the event, the team put out about 3-4 tweets a day, and on the day tweeted every hour to plug the hustings.

Sarah said: “Luckily, because we were sat with the candidates we could monitor when everyone had stopped typing, and we were also able to encourage them to respond to each other’s answers.

“Once they got the hang of the feed they loved it – and there was even a bit of offline banter too, which was great. And we managed to find a bell so when they got chatting or distracted, we rang it just before posting the next question. This added some humour to an otherwise intense evening.”

The Scribble feed (embedded into an article on the Gazette website) attracted between 20 – 40 people at any one time; overall stats show there were 191 unique users on the night (this has since risen to 284 unique users), spending an average of 31.2 minutes on the page.

There were a total of 8,573 engagement minutes – not bad considering the perceived apathy ahead of this election. Even the candidates seemed surprised so many people had tuned in.

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