The setting is France, 1916. Imagine eavesdropping on Australian World War I (WWI) nurse Alice Ross­ King, 28, as she confesses her romantic secrets to friends Libby and Michael in Sydney; or hearing soldier Ellis Silas, under fire on the front line, as he answer questions from followers in Brisbane, Melbourne, and London.

A re-enactment of these actual WWI stories unfolded via social media, 100 years later, in 2015. The ground­breaking AnzacLive project was launched by News Corp Australia to mark the centenary of the nation’s major entry into the war: Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) had a bloody baptism by fire at Gallipoli in 1915, before moving on to the Western Front.

Every year, Australia marks its role in WWI on Anzac Day, April 25. The centenary in 2015 was the most important anniversary yet. Alongside traditional reportage, News Corp wanted to do something different for today’s social media audience.

AnzacLive was created to link the past and present in a manner never before experienced. Real stories from WWI were told on social media in real time, voiced by News Corp journalists who know the stories intimately.

Popular characters from World War I are featured in the AnzacLife social media storytelling initiative.
Popular characters from World War I are featured in the AnzacLife social media storytelling initiative.

Journalists curated a Facebook page for each character, telling the stories and responding to comments and questions from Facebook followers. 

The stories came from a trove of detailed WWI diaries and letters, accessed from a partnership with the State Library of New South Wales and from the Australian War Memorial.

Those journals, overflowing with personality, inspired the question: What would it be like to interact with these people ­who, if alive today, would likely use social media to share their experiences?

AnzacLive, a real-time interactive historical re-enactment, was News Corp's answer to commemorating the Anzac Day 100th anniversary.
AnzacLive, a real-time interactive historical re-enactment, was News Corp's answer to commemorating the Anzac Day 100th anniversary.

The project featured nine characters having two-way conversations, as if they were alive today, with real Facebook followers. The actors gave real answers in their own words to questions asked.

AnzacLive went beyond third­-person historical accounts, adding real­-time interaction for a rich, unique user experience. This exciting experience was backed by striking visuals, creating a relatable, accessible, and shareable finished product. 

The descendants of the people whose stories are featured supported the project and the public embraced the concept,­ engaging heavily with the content and sharing their own stories.

This is one example of a live online interaction for #AnzacLive.
This is one example of a live online interaction for #AnzacLive.

A narrator page acts as the AnzacLive framework, holding the characters’ stories together and providing compelling supporting content. 

AnzacLive is the most ambitious stand-alone social media project undertaken by News Corp Australia. The success of this innovative platform has created a passionate online community, provided an extraordinary perspective on the war, and set a milestone in social media storytelling.

It was launched a month before Anzac Day; within weeks it had more than 49,000 dedicated followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (Facebook was the hero platform, supported by the other two).

The hashtag #AnzacLive had been seen more than 50 million times by 15 million people during those first weeks, with individual posts going viral. It has been featured on TV, radio, and in non-­News Corp press, and continues to add new followers daily.