Friday, May 24, 2013

Build something

Small news organizations are now able to showcase their good work online. So let’s do it.

If you work in a small newsroom, devoid of coders, developers and sometimes even photographers, building good online storytelling is probably the last thing on your mind.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Newspaper writers want their stories to be told. They also want their stories to look good. To catch the eye of the reader. To say, ‘Hey! Look here! You want to experience this!’

For many years, legacy journalists have been bound by the constraints of their capricious and outdated content management systems, digital and analog. And while the journalistic intelligentsia rolls its eyes whenever there’s another slideshow on a news site, some smaller news operations still wonder how to even make one to work in their sites (you think I’m kidding. I’m not).

I’m here to tell you, small news operation journalist, it’s time to think outside your site.

You post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Instagram, Google Plus and the rest. Your news organization’s combined tweets are very likely much larger than the New York Times’ ‘Snow Fall.’ All that work - your work - is posted somewhere else and you benefit from it because of the exposure and engagement you generate. You don’t question this. You know its value and your metrics justify it.

So let me posit a somewhat radical idea.

What if you grab that story you have that you’d like to showcase and take it out of your site and post it - much improved - somewhere else?

You can visit NewHive, Scrollkit or Jux and build your vision of what your stories should look like.

I've experimented building some stories with those tools, and they've greatly improved the way users - and journalists - have been impacted by them.

In my little corner of news-land, I was able to build print pages how I wanted them, but I was always forced to see the work reduced to a simple archaic format online (thankfully in my company, that’s about to change big time).

I’m not advocating for subversively driving away traffic from your news site. I’m advocating for adding value to it, and your work. You can link and embed. You can show that you’re not afraid to link elsewhere, even when it’s your own content

Think about it. The technical challenges of publishing a good-looking story are no longer an issue. So all you need is a good story to do this.

And you can do this. Because you’re a storyteller. You've always been one and you’ve rightfully prided yourself as one. So let’s give your work its due.

Full disclosure: My efforts haven’t produced the results I’ve expected in terms of hits, though we’re slowly starting to build some engagement. And you shouldn't just build something pretty just because you can. But I’m not discouraged by the current metrics because this is new to us and our users and I’ve just started the experiment. I do believe that the right story with the right tool will eventually produce desired results, and having experimented with them, I feel I’m ready to showcase a good story when it needs to be and that results will follow (and I’m about to test this very soon).

My question to you, is this:

When the right story comes, are you ready to do it justice?