How publishers can remind readers their news brands are essential

COVID-19 opens wide the gate to new digital and mobile audiences and publishers must seize the moment to present their news brands as an essential means of getting information, says Mario García, CEO of García Media.

by WAN-IFRA External Contributor | September 2, 2020

Above: Mario García, CEO and founder of García Media, during his recent Asian Media Leaders eSummit keynote address, Inspiration and Innovation in Storytelling. García founded the Graphics & Design program at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. He is also Hearst Digital Media Professor in Residence at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

By Debbie Goh

Offer service information and design platforms so that readers are able to locate virus-related content instantly, on a daily basis, said García. “You can give them a reminder of what your brand can do at a time when people need information the most,” he said.

“Audiences who would have not considered going into your mobile editions or digital at all are doing so, but you have to seize the moment,” – Mario García, García Media

The phone has become the platform of choice and “people will pay for very good local coverage which they cannot get any place else,” he said.

García shared three strategies for mobile storytelling from his new book, “The Story”: transforming mindsets, following stories, and designing for linear, visual storytelling.

Real transformation is a mindset

Many newsrooms still plan for the next day’s paper, even though they claim to be digital-first operations, said García.

Readers today, he said, consume news in a “leaning forward, leaning back” manner. They lean forward into their phones multiple times a day looking at information, and when they find something interesting, they lean back and read that.

Journalists and newsrooms need to transform the way they produce news to satisfy readers’ “wish for a mobile experience that allows them to lean forward, lean back, and involve as many of their senses as possible,” said García.

Follow stories, not editions

Achieve this by producing stories, not editions, said García, “because nobody waits for tomorrow’s newspaper or the 6 o’clock news anymore.”

Stories also don’t have to appear across all platforms immediately. A story’s flow today can begin as a push notification, followed by an update 10 minutes later, another story with more details two hours later, in print as a more developed story the following day, and three days later, as an in-depth weekend piece, he said.

Journalists have to be prepared to keep updating stories because “the news never abandons the people who are connected to the phone as their constant companion,” he said.

Newsrooms, he added, should train content managers to identify stories that need updating throughout the day and manage the flow of these stories.

Linear, visual storytelling

Storytelling on phones and mobile devices, García reminded journalists, cannot be the same as print. The print mentality is to never interrupt the text so narratives and visuals are presented separately, he said.

“In mobile, you interrupt the text,” he said.

“The movement is linear. It’s vertical,” said García. “You read and you see, you read and you see. This is how we write for mobile. You write and you show, you write and show. Photo galleries do not belong here.”

Unfortunately, most stories on mobile were created with a print mentality, with the “narrative going one way, and visuals going the other,” he said.

He advised journalists to plan their stories from the smallest format to the largest.

“If you are thinking of how that story will appear in print, you are not going to think audio, you are not going to think video. But if you are out there creating the story for the phone, you will compose the story in a linear way,” – Mario García

What’s the role of print?

Print, said García, must exploit what it can do best. Large, four-column photos and illustrations such as The New York Times’ “An Amputee vs the Sahara” cannot be duplicated on the small canvas of the phone.

Front pages should be newsy while inside pages offer long stories, he added. “When you get into print, you want to sink your teeth into stories,” he said. “This is the job of print. Large images, longer stories.”

About the author: Debbie Goh, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Culture, Media & Performance at the California University of Pennsylvania.

WAN-IFRA External Contributor

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