From “What is a Multimedia Story” by Jane Stevens:

A multimedia story is some combination of text, still photographs, video clips, audio, graphics and interactivity presented on a Web site in a nonlinear format in which the information in each medium is complementary, not redundant.

Multimedia story elements

The Good:

1.  I saw a story on The New York Times today  called “Kyrgyz Opposition Group Says It Will Rule for 6 Months” about a government takeover in Kyrgyzstan.  It’s a prime example of a well-done multimedia story.  There is a full-text article by Clifford J. Levy that explains the situation, still photos that capture some of the chaos, a video, links to related stories and an audio interview with Levy that gives background on the situation.  Each of the elements offer a different side to the story, and readers who don’t have time to explore each of them could simply pick one and still be well-informed.

2.  I especially enjoy simple, easy-to-read stories, and I thought this multimedia story from My Ballard was both of those things.  It highlights the vigil held for three Ballard High School students who died in a car crash earlier this week.  There were two large photos explained with a few lines of text, as well as a video of people in attendance.  The photos added because they quickly set the scene, but through the video readers were really able to feel the atmosphere at the event.  The clip shows people laughing, sharing memories and writing messages to the friends they had lost.  If the story had been just text or photos, readers would not have fully understood what went on that night.

3.  One of my favorite stories was written by Marian Liu of The Seattle Times.  Liu’s piece invites folks to attend the annual Sakura-Con convention that was downtown this weekend.  People are invited to dress up as their favorite cartoon and comic characters and enjoy the festivities.  The story is accompanied by some still photos to give readers costume ideas, but the video on the page features footage from a previous convention and really demonstrates the excitement and all-around chaos/fun of the event.  Each element works like a puzzle piece put together to give the reader a complete picture of the event.

The Bad:

1. I’m not even sure this would be considered a multimedia story, but I had to point it out.  The Seattle Times posted an AP story about the Mideast diplomat who caused a bombscare on a Denver-bound flight last night.  The scare ended up being a false alarm, but was making headlines regardless.  The Times posted the story, and then displayed a tiny link to a video that showed officials at the scene. However, the video gave very similar information to that in the story, and when readers open the link, it doesn’t directly go to the jet video, but rather just a list of AP videos.  Readers have to search for it.  What I thought was really bad?  There was an advertisement for cheap plane tickets on the same story page.

2.  I think this story could have been potentially a great multimedia story, but there’s a little too much “media”.  The UW Daily wrote a story about a student bonfire that was started on 17th Avenue near campus.  The story does a good job describing the event, but it is also accompanied by a video that shows the fire in progress, a slideshow that show the fire in progress and still photos that (wait for it…..) show the fire in progress.  All of the elements are good, but none of them add more to the story.  Just the video would have been nice.  But all of the elements together are sensational overkill.

The Ugly

3.  On the San Antonio Express-News site, there are many stories posing as multimedia stories.  For example, there’s a story about a new directive that states all city employees must take a sobriety test if they are involved in a car wreck, and on the page there are links to videos, photo galleries and more stories.  However, none of the elements in the story’s sidebar are actually related to the story. It’s as if My San Antonio simply wants to appear tech savy and therefore throws whatever they can think of onto their story pages to make them look like good packages.  Cluttered, messy and not informative.

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