This is the conundrum to which I always return. While it is nice to do blue-sky thinking about what I might do if I was inventing public media from scratch, in reality I live within an organization, a station, a network designed over nearly half a century to tell great, relatively brief stories on the radio. Radio is the “first language” of NCPR journalists and the work they do is at the highest standard. Each weekday, their reporting has at its focus a one-hour broadcast program, which acts as a limiter on how many stories are told, and on how deeply a reporter can go into the details and into the back story of each.
Many stories cannot be properly told within these limitations. And the broadcast answer to this is the series—a succession of stories told by one or more reporters over a number of episodes of the program that, when taken together, provide the depth and nuance the larger story requires.
Here’s the problem—this approach does not translate well into new media. The best, the most in-depth, the meatiest work done by our journalists is atomized into digital chunks spread across a number of days and weeks. And the best audience-building tools in new media—syndication by other sites, sharing on social media—apply best to single, integrated pieces of (here’s that loathsome word) content, whether short form or long form.
We recognized this problem long ago and have taken numerous stabs at integrating series into something resembling a digital whole. For example we have long used series collection pages that present links to all the stories in a series and gives summaries of each.
More recently, we (and by we I mean our new media developer Bill Haenel) have introduced a series manager that presents the entirety of all the stories in a series into a single page container. It was a huge step forward and you can see the results for yourself in our Photography Week series, and our series Local Lifts, about ski hills across the region. But it still isn’t ideal—more beads on a string than a unified whole–with separate sharing and commenting on each segment, not on the series as a whole.
But on Monday we are rolling out an approach that we see as a watershed for NCPR in digital storytelling—a series that was conceived and produced from the beginning both as a digital whole and as a broadcast series. Our radio listeners will experience the series as usual over the coming week during the Eight O’clock Hour. But Monday morning, a media-rich, lavishly photographed and elegantly appointed (if I do say so myself) presentation of the whole will be available at ncpr.org.
How do you say “stay tuned” in new media?