Thoughts About Digital Storytelling

Here are three articles about the elements that help to make a digital story successful; great visuals, an element of gossip and a dollop of disgust.

Firstly Kainaz Amaria (NPR’s picture editor) and Imaeyen Ibanga (multi-platform producer at NBC News) are interviewed by Poynter as part of the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. They discuss how vital it is that the visual side of a digital story is thought about at every stage of the storytelling process so that it become central to a project in a way that it might not need to with other media.

‘It’s really funny, I think on certain platforms the audience will accept crappy videos, like on YouTube. But when they’re coming to a news organization, I don’t think they want it to look like that. I think they want it to look good and to be polished, but not in a TV kind of way. In a way that’s very authentic to the digital space.’.

Secondly Katherine May has written for Aeon magazine about how the internet has provided us with new tools to generate gossip, or ‘viral success’ as it’s known on the web.

‘No doubt the viral success of Serial is partly due to the deft and suspenseful storytelling of its makers at ‘This American Life’, a weekly National Public Radio (NPR) show, of whichSerial is a spin-off. But the show’s producers are responsible only for part of the story; their skill lies in leaving its seams unfinished. Serial – and an increasing number of narratives like it – relies on its audience to pick up where the script leaves off, generating a chaotic, exponential explosion of additional discussion through blogs, vlogs, Tweets and Facebook posts’.

And finally, NiemanLab have published excerpts from a new book by Alfred Hermida ‘Tell Everyone: Why We Share and Why It Matters’, which explores the science of finding gross stuff fascinating.

‘Researchers Chip Heath, Chris Bell, and Emily Sternberg decided to test how far people would go in passing on disgusting anecdotes, no matter how far-fetched. They chose twelve disgusting urban legends and altered them to be either more or less revolting. In one example, the story of a man finding a dead rat at the bottom of his glass of soda was made more nauseating by having him ingest bits of the animal. The less repulsive version had the man notice a bad smell and spot the rat before drinking the soda. The results showed that people were far more likely to share the most disgusting account of a story, even if the tale was truly repulsive’.