Audience first — on any platform

By · Monday, January 6th, 2014

A recent poynter.org post — Explore the Makings of Interactive Journalism — supports the thinking that every story, no matter the platform, deserves serious attention not only to the content, but also to the audience, at the start of story planning.

Anna Li interviews Andrew DeVigal, who is director of content strategy at Second Story. I met Andrew a few years back, when he was the multimedia editor at The New York Times.

Li describes how DeVigal approaches a story:

DeVigal, a self-described “natural organizer,” likes to partition the information into buckets to understand the different pieces of the story. In doing that, he will ask himself such questions as, “What is the information about?”, “Who does it affect?” and “What is at stake here?”

This approach reinforces the concept of stakeholders. Who is going to care about this story and how will it affect them? When a story puts the audience first, it is destined to be an effective read. Add interactivity, and the story will involve the audience on a personal level. It will put the reader in charge.

Another way to think about this concept: See the Big Picture. That is the theme in Strategy 7 of Think Like an Editor. And the “Think Digital” segment of that strategy — “Let a Reporter Take Ownership — puts the reporter in charge.

For enterprise stories on the Web, the “What’s the story?” conversation with the reporter puts the emphasis on presentation. The reporter, who is closest to the story, will welcome the opportunity to answer the question: What multimedia elements would explain the big picture?”

One example in the book to get the thinking started: Why has lightning struck a particular area so many times? “Click on the neighborhood and find out where lightning has struck and when, what damage it did and what the experts say about it.”

Browse the Second Story site, and you’ll find many examples of interactive storytelling, such as “Mount St. Helens: Return to Life.” 

A return to some basics  — why are you telling me this and why now? — is just what we all need as we head into a new year of storytelling on multiple platforms. Li gets us started. Where will this thinking take you?

Emilie Davis

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