The Mario Blog
10.23.2013—10am
Storytelling in the digital age: some essentials endure

TAKEAWAY: So much is said today about the rise of multimedia storytelling. We are all excited about it, of course. For storytellers, it represents about the most complete way of telling stories that one can imagine. What constitutes good multimedia storytelling?

TAKEAWAY: So much is said today about the rise of multimedia storytelling. We are all excited about it, of course. For storytellers, it represents about the most complete way of telling stories that one can imagine. What constitutes good multimedia storytelling?

Rarely a week goes by that I will not be involved in a workshop dealing with multimedia storytelling, a process that involves both the philosophical (what stories are made to be told in a multimedia way) to the hands on (come prepared with a story idea and we will flesh it out as a multimedia presentation).

Yet, as we discuss multimedia storytelling, one thought always comes to mind for me: while the technology of today, and the popular digital platforms offer a new realm of possibilities, the two basic questions at the start of the process are still the same as they were decades ago (and especially when informational graphics became a standard storytelling technique for newspapers and magazines):

1. What is the story about?
2. What is the best way to tell the story?

What has changed, in addition to the technology, is how multimedia storytelling is planned and carried out.

At many newspapers, we begin to see “producers”, who work closely with editors, writers and designers in making the multimedia aspects of the story possible.

In a recent piece about multimedia storytelling, Nancy Donaldson, a senior producer for The New York Times (which has become the frontrunner in terms of producing fabulous multimedia stories), said that at the Times they tried to play to the strengths of each medium to create a seamless experience for users.

“We approach each project looking at the story first, and then decide the medium. That decision is made in the beginning.”

Multimedia storytelling: progress in sight

While multimedia storytelling is still in its infancy, I am happy to say that I see a greater awareness for the dynamics of how to plan and to execute multimedia stories. Editors and writers are well aware that the story comes first, then the decision for how it will play on different platforms, or on which platforms.

Too many newsrooms continue to plan most of what they do for print, however, and that is one area that needs work.

How do we deal with this trend?

A lot of what I do today is training workshops to take people to multimedia storytelling. It is satisfying, because it is all about the story. First rule: don’t come into the room with the story already WRITTEN. The idea is to brainstorm the story idea, then see how it fits into various platforms, and genres: listening, watching, reading, engaging. With my clients I create an environment that is both a little “university classroom” and “hands on workshop”, with both philosophical and practical discussions.

Biggest challenge on the way to multimedia storytelling

Changing the mentality of editors is definitely the most difficult part of training teams for multimedia storytelling.

Usually the technology is in place, the mentality is not. Editors still come to the newsroom to produce a print product. But progress is taking place.

What constitutes a good multimedia piece?

It all begins with a good story (that has not changed since I first became a journalist in the late 60s). A good piece has a great story to tell, engages the senses, engages the brain, leaves you wanting more.

Engaging the reader is of utmost importance: The days of the active journalist/passive reader are over. Now engagement is the key, it is essential. Those producing a multimedia piece must be sure to engage all the senses. The reader wants to hear the sounds of the story, to engage with the subject, to read the words, to watch photos and videos. Each contributes texture to the story.

That word, texture, is what it is all about. Multimedia means multi texture, multi genre, multi sense engagement.

Multimedia storytelling strategies: The New York Times

blog post image

Snowfall:a pioneering effort in multimedia storytelling for the Times; http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/

blog post image

blog post image

Tomato Can Blues: a wonderful story, spectacularly illustrated, with special effects that mesmerized; http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/tomato-can-blues/

blog post image

The Russia Left Behind: photo sets the scene; http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2013/10/13/russia/

blog post image

Summary tells us what the story is about: a 12-hour journey through parts of Russia that are not well known

blog post image

blog post image

blog post image

The Russia left Behind: segmenting of the narrative facilitates reading and multimedia secondary elements

Recently, The New York Times published The Russia Left Behind, a train journey through parts of Russia that seldom make it into the news.

We see major progress since the Times’ pioneering effort in multimedia storytelling, with the now iconic Snowfall, where it all began.

If we analyze this new entry, The Russia Left Behind, we see a pattern:

a. An image (photo or video) that sets the mood.

b. Words in which the writer tells us what the story is about.

c. Segmentation of the narrative, to allow for better use of audio and video that corresponds with a specific segment of the story and is placed near that part of the narrative.

Our previous blog posts on multimedia storytelling:

Multimedia stories: beyond the dazzle dazzle

http://garciamedia.com/blog/articles/pmulti_media_stories_beyond_the_razzle_dazzle_p

The happy evolution of those multimedia story packages

http://garciamedia.com/blog/articles/pthe_happy_evolution_of_those_multimedia_story_packages_p

TheMarioBlog post # 1362
Blog Post09.22.2017—4am
Mexican earthquake: front pages tell the story
Blog Post09.21.2017—1am
Saying adios to The Village Voice in print
Blog Post09.20.2017—1am
Vogue in print: “point of view, attitude”
Blog Post09.19.2017—1am
The Boston Scene
Blog Post09.18.2017—1am
Thoughts on print: still here, still full of surprises, worthy of attention
Blog Post09.15.2017—1am
New report: For publishers, Facebook is no revenue panacea
Blog Post09.14.2017—1am
Smartphones and web traffic: where the action is
Blog Post09.13.2017—1am
Paris Match: a good visit and big plans
Blog Post09.12.2017—1am
Irma: the morning after
Blog Post09.11.2017—3am
Irma: the bad girl on every front page
Blog Post09.08.2017—1am
Type Magazine: the new Roger Black project
Blog Post09.06.2017—1am
Linear storytelling for mobile: a good example
Blog Post09.05.2017—1am
For Le Journal de Montreal: article page acts like home page, sort of
Blog Post09.01.2017—1am
Facebook the new front page?
Blog Post08.31.2017—1am
When it comes to news, “designer labels” can make the difference
Blog Post08.30.2017—1am
Those fabulous print glossy ads
Blog Post08.29.2017—1am
From here and there: what the email basket brings
Blog Post08.28.2017—1am
Why I would show this Times Mag cover to my class
Blog Post08.24.2017—1am
A caricature for the ages
Blog Post08.23.2017—1am
It was the day Americans looked up!
Blog Post08.22.2017—1am
It was all about the solar eclipse of the century
Blog Post08.21.2017—1am
A day without local news? In Minnesota, readers experience it
Blog Post08.18.2017—1am
The good news about print (in the USA)
Blog Post08.17.2017—1am
What’s your lead story right this minute?
Blog Post08.16.2017—1am
Panama’s La Prensa: workshop digital media, day 2
Blog Post08.15.2017—1am
Panama’s La Prensa: digital workshop
Blog Post08.14.2017—1am
Millennials still like their Facebook
Blog Post08.11.2017—1am
All about the Eclipse: the Times nailed it.
Blog Post08.10.2017—1am
It’s the Monocle printed newspaper again
Blog Post08.09.2017—1am
Who pays for news, and who believes the news? Report tells us
Blog Post08.08.2017—1am
Workshops: linear visual storytelling
Blog Post08.07.2017—1am
For newspaper print editions: the power of the headline
Blog Post08.04.2017—1am
Behold the iPad: it’s still part of the media quintet
Blog Post08.03.2017—1am
At the NYTimes: push for customized content moves forward
Blog Post08.02.2017—1am
The Mooch’s quick departure on the front pages
Blog Post08.01.2017—1am
At The New York Times: aggressively pushing digital subscriptions
Blog Post07.31.2017—1am
Thoughts while on vacation
Blog Post07.14.2017—1am
Local newspapers, new digital strategies that work
Blog Post07.13.2017—1am
The Donald Jr. Russian story: It’s somewhere on that front page
Blog Post07.12.2017—1am
Ecuador: where print still dominates
Contact us with speaking requests, questions or to discuss a project.