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5 Things That Make a Story Right for Video

Online print journalism and storytelling has a place in today’s world. However, publishers should be investing in digital video, or at…
5 Things That Make a Story Right for Video

Online print journalism and storytelling has a place in today’s world. However, publishers should be investing in digital video, or at least experimenting with multimedia storytelling, if they want to compete for viewership. If you’re trying to balance both mediums, then you need to understand when information should be presented in print or video. It simply comes down to this: if your story moves or makes noise, it probably should be told with video.

1. The story contains moving elements.

Movement is more powerful when it’s captured in video form and can be viewed than through written words, where it can only be imagined by the reader. If there is a lot of action taking place in your story, such as reporting on a protest, then it will work best as a video.

The movement in this AJ+ video is essential to the story as viewers watch an 83-year old woman do ballet moves while skydiving. Storyhunter filmmaker Anna Torras Font shot this video.

2. The story contains sound.

A video is more expensive to produce, but it also has the potential to be more immersive and create a deeper connection between the subject and your audience than a written article. Hearing a subject’s voice and the sound in their environment makes for a powerful experience. The better the audio is in your video, the more real it will become for the viewer.

3. The story revolves around a central character.

Essentially, the demands of storytelling are the same for video as they are for print journalism features — you need a compelling story with interesting characters.

In this video by AJ+ and Storyhunter freelance journalist Alaa Adel Mohamed, a young boy is seen living with a rare condition, progeria, which causes premature aging. The emotion of this story really lies in being able to see how this condition affects him — emotionally and physically.

4. The story takes place somewhere interesting.

Sharing a story from an interesting location will make it a more memorable experience for your viewers. Depending on where it takes place — if it’s somewhere visually striking or a place where most people don’t have access — you might even consider filming it in 360°, so that viewers can immerse themselves in a new location.

This 360° film by The Huffington Post’s RYOT gives viewers access to camp in Myanmar that they would not be able to experience through print.

5. The story doesn’t need a lot of background information.

A short doc or news video for social media works best if there isn’t crucial background information needed to understand the narrative. A longer documentary can go into depth with history and context, but, unless you’re willing to invest in that, lengthy reporting may work better in print, especially if it contains a lot of numbers or dense information.

Even if you choose to tell a story with characters and moving elements through an investigative news article or print feature, you should at least consider adding video elements that can stand alone for social media and that could draw people to your site to read the whole story. You don’t even have to have an in-house video team to do this — you can easily hire a freelance video journalist with the expertise to produce a quality video for you.

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This New York Times piece is a great example of multimedia storytelling. In it, they incorporated videos, text, images, graphs, maps, and more to tell a visual and written story.

However, choosing the best medium for a story may depend on more than the content and these elements, though. It may depend on who your audience is. For example, if you’re targeting young adults, you should be creating videos for social platforms like Facebook. While this won’t necessarily bring them to your site, native videos on social networks are generally favored by algorithms and reach more people than print articles or outside links to videos. Plus, when they are on social platforms, the videos will be optimized for mobile, which is where young adults spend more of their time. If you need this audience to come to your site for ad revenue or other purposes, then you will most likely end up sacrificing viewership.

By D. Simone Kovacs, Writer at Storyhunter