Telling stories with multiple media

We just finished the second week of our mini-MOOC for Elon communications alumni. This week, we looked at a story called Snowfall from the New York Times  and an interactive story from ESPN. Discussion focused on the strengths of multimedia elements in narrative and on the challenges of creating quality multimedia stories. Here are some highlights:

Multimedia storytelling benefits

  • Multimedia storytelling puts things into context better than a single medium does
  • Multimedia storytelling helps to engage the audience, by being interactive
  • This engagement can make multimedia storytelling more memorable
  • The first-person accounts that multimedia storytelling excels at help build credibility and empathy
  • A well-done multimedia story leverages short attention spans while keeping the audience in your story (take note strategic communicators!)
  • Autoplay elements can attract attention and help keep the audience engaged.
  • The best multimedia storytelling plays to the strengths of the different media to tell the stories
  • Supplying multimedia content options is a good idea for strategic communicators pitching news media.

Multimedia storytelling cautions

  • Including different elements needs to be thoughtful, or they can just be distracting
  • When stories get too detailed or complicated, audiences can get lost.
  • Multimedia storytelling is risky if you don’t keep up with the technologies the audience will have. The multimedia elements need to work for all.
  • Just because you have tools doesn’t mean they are appropriate. The story should dictate the tools.
  • Autoplay video can be a problem. It causes waits for download, embarrassing moments.
  • Telling multimedia stories means having a different type of structure organizationally that traditional news would. It needs a coordinated, team approach.
  • Integrating multimedia elements needs to be thoughtful – a just-in-time, in the story approach works well, but a bunch of distracting sidebars does not.
  • These kinds of pieces are expensive. It’s a cost-benefit analysis opportunity.
  • Navigation matters – linking points in elements that go together contextually is a benefit to the reader.
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