Story packaging styles for the budding content writer

16th Nov 2016
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Content writing has turned out to be a huge market and has created umpteen job opportunities for writers today. With the an increasing need for web content, internet writing requires a completely different approach for writing stories compared to writing for print media. It requires integrating different types of multimedia as on the web, visual narratives take precedence over that of plain text. This would mean creating a balance of videos and audio elements, creating hyperlinks and using relevant pictures along with the textual content of the article. It all comes down to packaging your stories while writing for the web.

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Most stories are written in either a linear or non-linear format. Linear stories are those that have a beginning, middle and end, mostly in that order. Non-linear stories are not bound by this structure. The fine line between these two formats comes down to giving the reader a choice when it comes to reading the article. It is also important to note that these packaging styles need not adhere to one single story but can compile several stories with a mixture of visual aids. With these things in mind, a writer can understand digital story packaging better.

Here are some contemporary story packaging styles compiled by Paul Grabowicz, Richard Hernandez and Jeremy Rue, three advocates of digital story writing, based on their book The Principles of Multimedia Journalism: Packaging Digital News, in a tutorial for digital story packaging. Through these, content writers can improve their methods of writing content for web and make it far more interesting.

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree is form of storytelling in which the main part of the story takes the form of linear text. Alongside this, videos, photographs, infographics, and audio clips are placed beside it like ornaments on a Christmas tree. The reader can therefore the textual content with multimedia add-ons.

A Toxic Pipeline, a Pulitzer Prize-winning series by journalists Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker, published by the New Yorker, is a fine example of the Christmas Tree. This series documented how dangerous pharmaceutical ingredients flowed into the global market from China. The main articles are present on the left-hand side of the page and the multimedia elements are present alongside it.

Embedded multimedia

Embedded multimedia is quite simple but is just as informative as the other packaging styles. The main story in embedded multimedia packages is usually textual content written in a linear fashion. Additionally, multimedia elements are further integrated within the main story. The reader can view these while reading the story.

Ring of Fire: Why our military’s burn pits are making soldiers sick by Katie Drummond was published on The Verge. It was about how US soldiers stationed in Iraq were subject to the harmful burn pits where military wastes were burned. This story has four segments of text embedded with a video, photographs and maps.

The Kitchen Sink

This non-linear approach is viable for stories that have extremely comprehensive content. The Kitchen Sink has multiple aspects of a story with different types of content ranging between text, audio, and video. This approach relies on organising the content in the best way possible by integrating several multimedia elements for a large amount of content. Hence, the name.

Rethinking Immigration, a story about immigration in Canada by the Toronto Globe and Mail was published in 2012. It contains several multimedia elements such as videos, infographics, and textual content. It also had a poll of reader attitudes and comments on immigration, which was further plotted on an interactive chart. This story package is a good example of The Kitchen Sink. It went on to receive 2,400 comments.

Immersive multimedia

Immersive multimedia is a completely different approach that takes the focus away from the textual content. Here, the story has a three dimensional representation immersing the reader in a virtual reality that tells the story. Very similar to a videogame interface, it requires readers to take several paths to discover the entire story. The elaborateness of it requires some professional technical assistance. Such stories are usually produced using different kinds of tools like interactive videos, Flash animation, JavaScript, or HTML5. Nevertheless, it is a new and improved way to get the reader to interact with the story besides having to do it the other way around.

Inside the Haiti Earthquake on Inside Disaster is an example of how immersive multimedia stories are told. The story is about the terrible earthquake that hit Haiti in January, 2010. It leads the reader into the story by giving them an option to choose to see the devastation by stepping into the shoes of a survivor, a journalist, and an aid worker through a sequence of short video clips.

There is no hard and fast rule to follow here. Writing for web is evolving and becoming increasingly interactive. Writers generating content for the web can implement these techniques and build on their existing styles to create better and newer ways to write for the web.

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