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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.

Readers may want a bulleted list of known facts in addition to a conventional write-up of a breaking news situation, for instance. On Instagram or Snapchat, using the “stories” function to craft a visual narrative can feel more native to the platform than sharing a simple social link. Large investigations may warrant a combination of visuals, data visualizations and custom code to tell the best story. It’s important to assess both the raw materials you have available and the potential storytelling elements that will inform or intrigue a reader.

In production, addressing potential constraints — including tool availability, CMS capabilities, platform and device challenges and limited staff time — is of utmost importance.

Finally, evaluate which story analytics should be considered when working with alternate story forms. Does time spent on page matter as much or more? What about impressions on a social platform? Over time, establish a baseline and iterate to find storytelling styles that work with your newsroom’s workflows.