Friday, July 31, 2009

Sell the story not the website

Andrew (Masters Students) works through the user-flow of his site with Tanja, a visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster's Final Online Project

It's about the story stoopid - to paraphrase Bill.

So even at the best of creative times when creating that 'thing', it's the story that goes with it that counts.

The Ferrari is the dream and the conjured stories of who might see you; the house is all the good memories you want to share living inside; and the website, it's the chance to buy that cheap ticket to a holiday destination - and the indelible stories that may follow.

I still remember Falaraki 1994 like it was yesterday.

When it comes to websites, notwithstanding the technical, creative and strategic thinking that holds it together, for journalists the overriding theme is to create and know how to 'sell' stories.

The electronic 'double glaze sales person', selling a product most people could do without, but can't resist once you hit that psyche nerve.

Why else is Britney Spears' life combed over by scribes and photojos. Hers is not an essential commodity, but one that when spun creates a 'glance-want-need' relationship.

So this year's final project with our International Masters students, the emphasis changed to how to create stories online rather than the notion of building a website.

And er no Ms Spears does not feature.

It makes common sense to say as a journalist focus on the story, but the online component of journalism can often be weighted down with the technical.

Fortunately, the Masters students get a good sense of that building websites such as these between January and April - combining CSS, Net architecture and visual thinking, some flash and above all how to write as journos and SEO spiders.



The word "multimedia" doesn't do the students' justice, because their present task was about understanding the workflow, user behaviour and principally how to sell a story online as the sole producer.

It's in part understanding the story dynamic; when users are likely to leave and how you might make them stay.

It's about getting to grips with the visual intelligence of online journalism, which increasingly will be driven by the aesthetics and impact of the visual push to the story.

It's about leading the site with a story strong enough to draw the user to follow breadcrumbs and access the site and then other stories.

I know I have said this before but this is something the Hollywood film studio sites do very well.

In lay terms a splash video followed by a link deeper into the story then perhaps the team behind it and I often use The Kingdom's ( Jamie Foxx) construct elements a a good example.

But it's a little more complex than just shoving video or some multimedia product at the top.

The proof will be when they submit their sites next week for assessment and post them online, where I'll give the links and you can have a look to see whether the students (graduating v. soon) pull it off.

Personally I think they've done a good job getting under the skin of creating and selling stories.