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Storytelling formats: A primer

When should you consider a storytelling approach other than (or in addition to) the written word? Make decisions based on audience wants and needs, tailor to the platform and maximize opportunities to extend both reach and loyalty.

The 15-inch inverted pyramid news story is not always the best way to get information to readers, especially as news audiences increasingly access information on multiple devices and platforms. Depending on where your audience is, repackaging a story so that it feels tailored to that reading experience can improve both reach and loyalty.

For example, in a breaking news situation, readers may want a bulleted list of known facts in addition to the narrative of the issue. On Instagram or Snapchat, using their “stories” function to craft a visual narrative can be a more native use of the platform than a simple social link. Large investigations may warrant a combination of visuals, data visualizations and custom code to tell the best story. In the end, assessing raw materials available and what the reader may need for intrigue and understanding is of utmost importance in creating a digital story that stands apart.

In production, addressing potential limitations, including tools, your CMS abilities, platform and device challenges, and that ever-present newsroom problem, time, is of utmost importance. Finally, although you may be tempted to treat alternative storyform metrics just like any other story metrics, evaluate whether other measures of success should be considered. Does time spent on the page matter as much or more? What about impressions on a social platform? Over time, establish a baseline and iterate to find styles that work with your newsroom’s workflows.