Can Multimedia Save Journalism?

Multimedia buttons on a computer

In the late 1990s, when the Internet started catching on, many believed that traditional media, like print and broadcast media would make a transition to the online world.

However, that has yet to fully happen. Newspapers continue to struggle with layoffs and closings. Media leaders have tried and failed at monetizing the news in several different ways.

Despite this, multimedia content has grown on news sites. More publishers, editors and news directors have started hiring web-related positions. Even if we could flip a switch, and make the transition to predominantly online news content, could more multimedia stories save journalism?

Yes. Multimedia is part of the answer.

But only part of it.

The other two factors are money and varied approaches to both the content and the monetization of it.

Segmenting the Content

Robert McChesney, a well-known media critic and scholar whose book I’m reading in one of my graduate classes, asserts that corporations have far too much influence over the media. The hunger for money, he says, effects journalism negatively.

The players haven’t changed in the online world.

The same companies that own newspaper and television stations own many of the most-visited sites. If one of these online companies lacks a foothold in traditional media, it still trends toward being huge.

The need for money, no matter whether a organization is non-profit or for-profit will never go away. News needs funding too.

So how can multimedia attract funds?

Segmented content.

Multimedia lends itself to short bursts of stories, whether it is a photo gallery, video clip, podcast, interactive map or a text article. These pieces can make for perfect bonus content, in addition to certain levels of free content.

The CBS news show 60 Minutes has leaned toward this approach, according to one of its senior producers. Producing quality content will attract viewers and visitors, and may lead them to want to pay for certain additional or premium content.

The next question becomes how to monetize that content.

Monetizing the Multimedia

When I worked for a community newspaper in Florida, I rarely heard from readers who said they read the paper, front to back. When they called to complain or offer praise, it was typically about one section they were passionate about.

This is why I believe segmenting content, and pricing it by the piece and by section might work. However, I also believe that trying different solutions and being nimble about it will work best.

For example, the New York Times will try a metered approach in the future, giving away some free content while charging for some after a certain level of views. This approach might gain traction, thanks to its flexibility and use of free content.

Whether a news organization is for-profit or non-profit, it will always need some type of revenue stream, and multiple revenue streams work even better. Multimedia can drive the transition to more online news and more revenue streams, making news orgs less dependent on solely advertising.

Image by Maxray06.

Note: This post is a short assignment for my class in Contemporary Media Issues about journalism’s recent struggles.

3 Ways Social Media and Storytelling are Alike

Stop tweeting and facebooking for a minute, will you? Yes, it’s popular and the love of many.

So much so that comedian Conan O’Brien predicts that in the year 3000, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will merge to create the ultimate time-wasting website called YouTwitFace. See the video above.

O’Brien may be joking, but social media is no joke.

According to statistics compiled by online marketer and “Socialnomics” author Erik Qualman, social media has overtaken porn as the number one activity on the web. Watch a visualization of the statistics here. Many other experts predict that the Internet of future will be much less cumbersome, becoming very portable, allowing people to communicate even easier than they do now.

So how does storytelling and social media relate?

  1. They both have the ultimate goal of connecting to an audience. Without establishing that connection, each becomes irrelevant and pointless.
  2. Both offer the opportunity to follow characters. Admit it, we stick with stories or visit social media profiles because we enjoy seeing what the characters there do next.
  3. Each have the power to inform, educate and encourage debate. All information sources have this in common.

Stay tuned for the next post in this two-part series: How to Use Social Media to Tell Your Story.

This post is the first part in a two-part series on social media and storytelling. Part two will cover how businesses and individuals can use social media to tell their story.

Why New Media Favors the Underdog

Pug laying on ground

Underdogs stories litter the new media landscape.

The creation of Napster turned into one of the web’s biggest game-changers ever, if not certainly for the 90s.

Shawn Fanning created the music-sharing site in June 1999 while in college and the site operated in its original form for more than two years. The music industry succeeded in shutting down the site in July 2001 through a court order, but not before Napster changed the music industry.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple in Jobs’ bedroom. Mark Zuckerburg and friends began Facebook while in college at Harvard, initially limiting the site’s members to just college students.

Ideas and Companies Start Small

Technology is full of underdog stories that started somewhere small. People love that type of story. It encourages the kind of thinking that says anyone can succeed with the right idea.

It’s why the idea itself, and the story behind it, is my favorite idea in new media.

Think about it. Without the story behind companies like Apple, Facebook, and even Google, these organizations would have never reached the success they enjoy today.

Dreams in life rely on the power of newfound notoriety and change. We all want to be somebody. Change something. We want to come out of nowhere and build something worth recognizing. It’s why we all identify and crave success stories like these.

That Idea is Fueled by Belief and Story

Sure, these tech giants found supporters and funding, but they all started with just a simple inkling of an idea. However, the founders believed in those ideas and started building the story that goes with them.

All companies start as underdogs. Surviving as a new organization in the technology world will always prove difficult thanks to the industry’s ever-changing landscape and blistering pace.

But that against all odds backdrop will always appeal to news media, tech insiders, the general public and anyone wanting to hit on the next big idea.

Image by Andrea016.

Note: This post is a short assignment for my class in Interactive Media Management and Economics about great ideas in the business of new media.

Why Every Story Needs a Revision

Failure and success crossroads sign

We all create stories that need help. A lot of help. Major revision help.

You might call it failing. But sometimes, if we’re smart about it, we can turn failure into success. Or use it as a teaching tool and momentum builder for the future.

Completing a rough first draft of a story, whether it’s a storyboard for a promo video, copy for a retail site or a multimedia journalism piece, is not the end of the world.

Why?

Because with a good story, it’s all about creativity and change.

Embrace the Word Revise

No matter what kind of a piece you’re working on, you must go through revisions.

When someone gives you feedback says they want to see this or that different in your story – don’t see it as a failure. See it as an opportunity.

A Chance to Grow

Each revision represents a chance for you to make yourself better. If you have to take a piece through six revisions, then you have a prime opportunity take the skills you’re using to the next level.

Yes, clients and the people you trust to give you feedback may not always give you the type of criticism you want, but that happens to us all. Many people see this criticism as failure.

Don’t.

No matter how many storyboards, photo edits, text edits, design layouts, etc. you go through, expect and accept revisions.

Once you do, your final story will become much more satisfying and failure will cease to exist. And in the end, not only will your story be better, but you will too.

Image by Cobrasoft.

The Most Important Connection You’ll Make

Audience Illustration image

Websites have become a more important aspect of multimedia storytelling than ever before.

Fancy websites rule.

Not just the ones with clean design, crisp copy and useful information. But the ones with buttons to push, videos to watch, games to play and places to leave comments. Who doesn’t want control these days?

You’d be surprised. Perhaps the answer is your audience.

Companies and individuals should embrace new media for the possibilities it offers, but they should also be mindful of the people who buy their products and services or consume their content.

Do they want to watch the videos, play the Flash games, exchange with you via social media? The most likely answer is yes and no.

Everyone is different. Know that and know your audience. They are the most important connection you’ll ever make in the field of interactive media, and storytelling.

We all use interactive media, so keep that in mind when designing your websites and projects. Also, bend to the will of your fans. They matter.

Chances are, they want some control, but maybe not constant control. Do some research. Ask them. Maybe they love slideshows, but hate videos. Be willing to find out and enjoy getting to know them.

Brian Clark over at Copyblogger has some great advice on listening to your audience, if you even more information.

In interactive media, it’s all about choice. We usually give our audience plenty of choices. They can click on some photos. Read some text. Listen to a podcast. Watch a video. Play a game. The list goes on.

Don’t forget to give your audience a choice to be passive. Maybe they just want to soak it up and enjoy what you have to offer.

Your audience isn’t just your audience. In today’s evolving World Wide Web, they are audience architects, building something special along with you. Don’t get too fancy on them.

Image by Takie.

My Three Favorite Viral Videos

Videos have become a bigger part of the world wide web.

According to a recent report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, online adults who view videos on video-sharing websites has nearly doubled since 2006. The report also states that more Internet users rely on online video for their television and movie viewing.

With stats like these increasing, especially on a yearly basis, videos with strong stories will become more important than ever.

Here’s my top three viral videos.

Keep in mind, these represent my absolute favorites. I’m not going by stats, categories or anything else like that. You might call this list the most memorable videos – to me.

Enjoy!

1. Randy Pausch gives his last lecture – “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”
This video is more than an hour long, well above the short viral video standard. Yet, it has more than 10 million views. Why? Superb content: a wonderful story and lesson combine for the perfect touch. Watch it. Now. 🙂

2. J-Mac: A Hoop Dream.
This video tells the take of Jason McElwain, an autistic teenager who captured the hearts and minds of millions when he went from basketball team manager to hoops hero in just under four minutes. What can I say? I’m a sucker for big dreams. There are several different videos of this story out there, but I like this one the best.

3. There’s something funny about a Font Conference.
If you’re a graphic designer or web designer, this video is for you. Wildly creative and full of characters, the world of fonts comes to life.

I look at these and I can tell that I, at least, love videos with a story and characters.

What are some of your favorites and why?

How to Finish Your Storytelling Project

Finish line sign

If you’re like me, you have a bad habit.

You get pumped about new projects only to see the excitement fade once you’re buried in the requirements. We’re creative storytellers. Sometimes the fuel just runs low…

You see, I’m a journalist by trade, and having worked at a small, community newspaper, I thrive on more of the quick hit kind of projects. I’m also a distance runner, so I equate this to going out too fast in a race with not enough kick for the big sprint at the end.

I’ve taken on a number of long-term, large projects recently, so I’m learning how to better sustain my creativity over time.

Here are a few tips to keep your creativity running strong:

  • Plan. The more we plan, the better. Yes, you can over-plan, but I like the old Boy Scout motto: be prepared. Planning can help you spread out your project and attack it one creative spark at a time.
  • Feedback, anyone? We all need some second opinions. What you think works may not even come close. Find out, and hey, maybe that feedback will spur a new idea.
  • Take a walk. Famed creative soul Julia Cameron recommends this in her book, Letters to a Young Artist. I do it sometimes. It works for me by taking my mind off what I have to do and centering it on what I want to do. Try it.
  • Find a Believer. Everyone has that one person in their life that they trust. Lean on them when you have to. When you think all has gone dark, it most likely hasn’t. And they’ll tell you so.
  • Turn on Some Inspiration. Figure out what inspires you at a moment’s notice. Use it. Always. My go to tends to be music by Seven Mary Three. Yours can be music, art, people, theater, cartoons – whatever works.

Image by cobrasoft.

Can You Have Too Much Media in a Project?

Thumb drive

After a first day of beneficial chaos, my classmates and I dominated the second day of content gathering in London on one of Elon iMedia’s project for public good.

Our faculty adviser, Ray Johnson, called it “the most productive day by a group I’ve ever seen.”

We’re back in the States now, and have an incredible amount of media to go through to create our final product – a digital prospectus for an elementary school in London.

We kept up a solid momentum for the last three days of the project and collected thousands of photos and videos. Now we have to turn all this media into a story, and it makes me wonder – can you have too much media on a project?

No. No way.

Here’s why:

  • A variety of media gives you choice and flexibility in storytelling.
  • You probably won’t regret not getting a shot or piece of footage.
  • You can give your client plenty of b-roll footage for future projects or as other sources of income.
  • You have plenty of places to find inspiration and stories.

Of course, a ton of media creates obstacles. You have more to comb through, it may be easy to lose focus of your final product and the sheer amount of material you have may eat up valuable time.

Here’s the strategy we’re taking on our London project:

  • We held a content and brainstorming meeting after two days to hash out exactly where the project was headed. We planned out our final product, so we knew exactly what we needed, but agreed we’d be flexible if we discovered any gems during the rest of the trip.
  • We created a shot list for video and followed it.
  • We created a log sheet for all media, so we know exactly what we have and how it might be organized.

These three simple steps have helped guide us and keep the amount of media we have from overwhelming us. That lets us concentrate on the important part of the project – the story.

To follow my journey in London, and the creative project my classmates and I produce, be sure to check this blog regularly. You can explore all the posts about London 2010 here. Also, please follow me on Twitter.

Image by svilen001.

Why Chaos Can Make a Storytelling Project Work

Buckingham Palace guards marching

Sometimes chaos can be the best thing for a big project.

My classmates and I discovered this today as we finished our first day on location at Barrow Hill Junior School in London. We gathered content today for a digital prospectus we will build the school as part of Elon University’s interactive media master’s program project for public good.

We arrived and received a warm welcome by the head teacher and staff at the school. We took a tour, brainstormed and attacked several different mini-projects.

As the day went on, some chaos was unavoidable. We all had landed in a new place (the school) today and an entirely different country less than four days ago. We all had to get acquainted with everything.

We did.

And the first day’s chaos – the rushing around, the meeting new people, the action of finally shooting something on video after mostly planning and brainstorming – felt wonderful.

We all have a hundreds of ideas flowing, and we can’t wait to see where the project takes us tomorrow.

Like I said, sometimes, chaos in a project can be an amazing thing. Welcome it, because it can fuel you and your colleagues like nothing else.

To follow my journey in London, and the creative project my classmates and I produce, be sure to check this blog regularly. You can explore all the posts about London 2010 here. Also, please follow me on Twitter.