On September 4, 2017, German pubcaster WDR launched an extensive media project that lets viewers explore the lives of three dairy cows over the course of 30 days. The project, titled ‘Superkühe – Und welche Milch trinkst du?’ (Super Cows – And What Kind of Milk Are You Drinking?), aims to provide insight into the German dairy industry and the well-being of German dairy cows. The project comprises an interactive online journal and a Facebook Messenger chatbot.
The three dairy cows come from three different farms in North Rhine-Westphalia. All cows are equipped with several sensors that measure their activity, food intake, physical health and milking parlor 24 hours a day. The data is then made available on the extensive online journal on superkuehe.wdr.de.
Apart from detailed information about the idea of the project, the technological implementations and the team behind it, the website also features a subpage for each of the three cows. Each subpage offers viewers an intimate and up-close look into the cows’ lives, including chronological diaries, the collected data, live chats and the farms on which the cows live.
The journals keep viewers informed about what the cows are doing and how they are keeping up. It is updated every few hours and offers information in near real-time. Viewers are invited to read short articles about dairies, livestock farming and cows in general, watch videos of the farmers and cows, explore the farm in interactive maps or take a look at the collected data. The interactive images were created with ThingLink.
The journal of cow Emma, for example, includes videos of her being examined by a vet, calving and eating. Other videos in her journal show her calf, her cowshed, her food or follow the farmer and the milk. All videos can be accessed via the interactive timeline, via an extra tab on her subpage or on the official Superkühe YouTube channel.
In the Daten (Data) tab, viewers find an overview of all collected data. Users can see how much milk the cows have yielded, how much they have eaten, how active they were or how their body temperature changed over time.
The Live-Chat tab redirects users to Facebook Messenger where they can interact with a chatbot that impersonates the cows. The bot first introduces users to the project and the cows. Users are then invited to choose which cow they would like to follow and can then define the frequency in which they want to be contacted by the bot. In further interactions, users receive updates about the cow they selected and are provided with detailed information about its well-being and living conditions.
The project aims to inform viewers about diary farms and cattle farming and breeding in Germany. Over the course of 30 days, viewers have the opportunity to get an up-close look at the farms, the farmers, the cows and their calves. Viewers get a better idea of modern agriculture and the fundamental conflict concerning animal welfare and production costs. The project is coproduced by production studio Chapter-One.
Lana Zöllner is a research analyst at VAST MEDIA, a media research and consulting company based in Berlin that provides international television industry leaders with qualitative competitive market analysis of digital entertainment and content marketing. These posts are based on their platform VAST BUZZ which contains thousands of these cases studies.