By Adam Westbrook:
What does it take to tell remarkable stories on the web? It’s always been a bit of a mystery to me. Some films, slideshows and websites rack up tens of thousands of hits in a week, while others seemingly go unnoticed.
What isn’t a mystery is how important good storytelling is. Although it makes financial sense for publishers to chase the short clickable pieces, we’re beginning to see a shift in the direction of long-form crafted stories (in lots of different mediums) with an emphasis on quality. With so much information online, people are looking for content which engages them and rewards their attention.
It’s time to join the race to the top, not the race to the bottom.
In the last year I’ve become convinced that the only way to make sure your journalism has the impact it deserves on a crowded web is to, as Brian Storm says, ‘bet the farm’ on quality. It was this idea that led to the creation of ‘Inside the Story: a masterclass in digital storytelling by the people who do it best’. It’s a collaborative ebook I’ve produced with the help of some of the best digital journalists working on the web.
Several of them are Dslrnewsshooter regular contributors, including Jonah Kessel and Felix Clay, and of course, Dan Chung himself. It’s full of advice focused on crafting high quality narratives, whether in video, still photography, words or even design.
Each contributor was handpicked and asked to share a killer piece of advice about how to tell good stories on the web – in just 200 words. This tough word limit forced them to cut the waffle and get straight to the gold. The result, I hope, is a book that you can get through in under an hour, but return to over and over again.
It’s got some really useful advice on how to structure stories the right way, from award winners like Poul Madsen and Henrik Kastenskov at the Bombay Flying Club, Amy O’Leary at the New York Times and Claudio Von Planta. The all important topic of finding stories and strong characters is covered by film makers like Drea Cooper of California Is a Place and Mackenzie Sheppard.
There are lots of books and plenty of great blogs about digital journalism, including this one, but I think Inside the Story is something unique. It was produced and designed to reflect the high-end quality of the stories we want to help other people produce.
Will it turn you into a renowned filmmaker overnight? Certainly not. If it was that easy, the craft wouldn’t be worth pursuing. But it gives you a valuable insight into the processes of people who have spent years honing their craft: take that advice on board, and you’re a big step closer to producing more great pieces of your own.