What would it be like to transport yourself immediately from your current destination to the destination of your choice? From Star Trek to Harry Potter, to the ancient tales of Aladdin, we've been captivated by the idea that we could somehow move time and space to be in another world.
Until we have the power to wrinkle our noses and teleport, we must be satisfied with photos, videos and Skype. But is it possible to spin a tale and immerse readers in a story without asking them to leave their desk, couch or bed? What if we could tell a story and transport a person from his current reality into the storyteller’s tale?
Enter multimedia long-form. Also called interactive long-form or multimedia narrative journalism, this innovative way of telling stories means that we can actually put our readers in the center of the story in a way that wasn't previously possible.
The New York Times’s "The Dawn Wall" allowed readers to look at the route Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson took to climb the El Capitan mountain (a monster of a mountain, if ever there was one) from different points of view by manipulating their screens. It’s like climbing this devil without actually having to climb it (not on my bucket list after that view!). Pictures and text brought the reader along the gripping tale, but it’s the ability to manipulate the terrain of the mountain that draws you in like nothing else could.
National Geographic experimented with telling the Kennedy assassination story, material we’ve all seen covered before. But in this new compelling multimedia format, pictures, quotes, graphics, music and videos hook the viewer yet again into the story. The Atlantic’s "The Case for Reparations" allows you to explore the Interactive Census Map and redlining of Chicago. Interspersed with text and video, it brings what could have been straight up long form piece into something alive and absorbing which encourages the reader to dig deeper.
What is Multimedia Long-Form?
Our brains are primed for narrative. We love stories, we tell stories and we create stories. But the Internet -- even with rich media -- can still sometimes leave stories flat. The goal is to find a way to tell these stories in a way that makes them come alive, that puts the reader in the center in a completely new way.
Bryan Perry, creator of one of CNN’s long-form stories, explained,
We wanted to try to cast a better light on some of the enterprise and investigative reporting we were doing at CNN. Much of the standard story pages could be too cluttered with other modules and related content to give the reader the immersive experience that we desire for these stories. In 2012 we started experimenting with designs that would work on desktop and mobile devices, but would allow a more immersive and premium experience with the content.”
The piece, Slavery’s Last Stronghold, immerses you through video and photographs, co-mingled with text and sidebar information. It feels as if you’re reading an interactive magazine, with all of the corollary information you may have searched for after you were done reading, collected in one place.
What Does It Mean for Content Marketers?
Content marketers need to get in on this game. Think about the products and services you offer. Imagine being able to make some of those stories come to life in a powerful and absorbing narrative format like this. Keep your personas in mind -- what stops them from buying or engaging with you? Is it because they can’t visualize the experience of doing business with you? This type of narrative format may help hook them in.
Or do they need more of an understanding of your process? If so, the multimedia format might be richer than an infographic or blog post. An example from The Verge shows a holiday gift giving guide that is more curated content than multimedia long form. But it’s a start and an example of how we can introduce products on the Internet in distinctive and memorable presentations.
Content marketers dream of having the ability to lace through elements that compel their audience. Figure out a way to embrace multimedia long-form and get started.