The first session at the Global Editors Network summit, which is taking place in Paris today and tomorrow, heard the founders of ProPublica, Storify and Circa.
Paul Steiger, founder and editor-in-chief, of US nonprofit and Pulitzer-winning site ProPublica; Burt Herman, founder and chief executive of social media curation tool Storify; and David Cohn, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Circa, a site that has re-invented storytelling for mobile, all shared their lessons and insights into storytelling on different digital platforms.
1. News outlets are finding innovative new ways to tell stories.
Paul Steiger used the example of Snowfall, the multimedia project from the New York Times.
2. Consider the 'fours Cs' of storytelling: Comparison, contradiction, change and collaboration.
Steiger gave examples of how ProPublica collaborates in innovative ways, such as by creating a Facebook group to generate conversation around patient safety.
He also says that data allows you to do all four of the 'Cs'. It allows you to make comparisons, but "is one of the most powerful ways of collaborating".
3. Journalists need to use old skills on new social media platforms.
Journalists have always been tasked with sifting through large amounts of information to get to the story, Storify's Burt Herman argued. Herman, a former AP journalist, says the role of the journalist when finding innovation has simply moved online.
He told the summit that social media is noisy. There are 400 million tweets sent every day, 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, and there are 4.75 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook every day.
Herman explained that journalists are skilled at storytelling and fact checking, and demonstrated how Storify allows them to bring the selected content from social media together.
4. Social is a source but also allows content to go viral.
Storify allows people who have curated a story to notify those featured by tweeting. The people featured then often share the Storify post. “It’s a way to make things go viral," Burt Herman explained.
Herman also have the example of how the New York Times asked readers to hashtag pictures of a particular storm #nytstorm on Instagram. He said that the news outlet was not only able to gather content, but "created their own meme", as the New York Times brand was being spread by the crowd who were tweeting with the hashtag.
5. Storytelling is not platform agnostic.
Different platforms require stories to be told in different ways, David Cohn told the conference.
For example, a video game designed for a large screen does not work on mobile. And Angry Birds is not a game to be played on the desktop.
In the same way, storytelling needs to be re-invented for mobile. "Mobile has given a pretty poor experience so far," Cohn said, with readers required to pinch and zoom.
Traditional articles are too verbose for mobile, Cohn argued. Circa, which launched in October and has angel funding, has therefore set out to create a newsreading experience for mobile.
Each story is broken down into elements – called 'atomic units' – of facts, quotes, stats, events and images. Readers can follow stories and the app pushes updates to readers as the story develops.
“Circa’s unique format makes news writing have greater meaning,” said Cohn.
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There are the raw 'live notes' from the sessions at this public Google Doc.