September 1st, 2009
NOTE: You may want to check out a few of my previous posts before reading this:
- “Lifestreaming: Is the era of live-tweeting over?“
- “New Tricks: How to use Posterous“
- “New Tricks: Use FriendFeed to keep up with your digital contacts“
Journalism and social media go together like peas and carrots. (Or, as I prefer, cinnamon ice cream and hot caramel.) You spread social media technologies, philosophies and practices in your newsroom, and as a result, your co-workers may have created Facebook accounts. They may dabble on Twitter. In fact, they may also blog in addition to producing content for print.
These tools are all great as far as information gathering, story distribution and digital brand-building, but they’re not really innovative as far as storytelling formats go. One question I hear a lot from journalists is, “Is this all there is to social media? From a journalistic perspective, what’s next?”
As you know, I’ve been on a bit of a lifestreaming kick over the last several months. Predictably, my short answer has been this: “Storystream your content.”
A storystream helps bring to light, through a chronological narrative, a particular issue, process or concept over a more significant period of time than an eventstream usually covers. Used journalistically, it turns into a collaborative stream of consciousness that tells a story.
Good stories have multiple characters, and a storystream should be no different. For your storystream to be successful, it must consist of multiple points of view. Think of your storystream as a collaborative or collective narrative, with multiple authors.
Storystreams are new. Storystreams are different. And, most importantly, a storystream can connect a publication to its readers like never before.
My friend Kevin Sablan over at the Orange County Register sketched out what he thinks a storystreaming platform could look like:
Here are some steps to creating a successful storystream:
1. Establish a theme/set parameters: Creating a stream to document the life of an entire city would be immensely difficult. Whether the framework is rigid or abstract, it’s imperative to create parameters for people to express themselves. Some examples:
- Chicago at night (specific)
- Hurricane Katrina cleanup (specific)
- The color blue (abstract)
- Joy (abstract)
In addition, you’ll need to set rules. Be very specific on the types of submissions you’ll accept, its guidelines — character count, photo resolution, video length, etc. — and, if applicable, content rights.
2. Recruit contributors: Individuals may be able to carry one part of a story, but if your storystream has multiple authors, there will just be more content your readers can relate to.
Think of all those times you asked your readers for user-generated content. It probably seemed a bit disjointed from the rest of your publication’s journalistic activities, or just an afterthought, no? Recruit your readers in the real-time telling of a particular story, and you’ll have more than one person to help you spread the word about your storystream.
For its recent “A Day in the Sun” storystream, the Austin American-Statesman announced the project on its site, on Twitter and Facebook. Announce your project in multiple media with “you”-centric language. After all, the storystream is about your readers, not you per se.
One more note: When you recruit, be sure to refer back to your theme and guidelines regularly.
3. Curate your content: Once your storystream has new contributors, you’ll need someone to oversee the flow of content — and questions — you’ll get from them. Is it the content what you’re looking for? Is it good content? Does it fall within the guidelines you laid out earlier? Curate before you publish and the story will be clearer and better.
4. Promote and syndicate your content: After your storystream begins, talk it up! Re-post your content on:
- Other blogs
- Print product
Tell your friends about your project. Tell co-workers, digerati — both local and non-local — and explain to them what the project actually is. They may be so excited, they’ll want to contribute or spread the word.
5. Reward your contributors: Come up with some incentive for your readers to contribute. Invite your storystreamers in for an exclusive tour of the newsroom. Give them a percentage off their newspaper subscription for a couple of months. Give them a T-shirt. Buy them a beer. Do something.
If you follow these steps, your storystream will bring your readers closer to you than ever before. It will also get them excited to be a part of your news brand.
As always, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to post them as comments below!