Let’s face it. No one — save for shut-ins and the Pulitzer Prize committee — wants to read a story that spreads over several pages of a newspaper. Pictures and graphics are not gonna help and putting on the net only exacerbates the problem. So what is a long-winded journalist to do? Here are some ways to make the long story more palatable:
Break it up
Newspapers ought to take a cue from DailyLit, a forward-thinking site that makes classic literature like Dickens and Dumas, as well as newly released books, available for online reading through installments. Users can select a book they want to read and receive daily chunks of it either through email or RSS.
RSS itself is a great way to encourage readers to follow a long with a particular story. Instead of making an excessively long story available online in one piece, deliver different sections of the story through RSS over the course of a few days to ensure the reader digests more of the story.
The same idea could be applied to Twitter: instead of sending a portion of the story through RSS, simply send a link to Twitter followers/readers.
Let the story stand alone
GOOD Magazine, which, along with the Las Vegas Sun, is at the forefront of new media innovation, makes a free 6×6 inch, mini-newspaper available in select Starbucks locations that concentrates on a single story. This week’s story is on carbon emissions and is made up of a large and detailed graph of how greenhouse gases affect the world. The first fold-out page is a full-sized ad that the reader sees before reading the story (ad revenue!). Not only is this a genius way of putting a story in front of readers who will likely have a few minutes to spare, it is also a great way to promote brand identity.
Now that more Kindles are finding their way into consumers’ hands and the iPhone and BlackBerry have made reading on a cell phone less of a chore, it’s time to adapt long investigative pieces or feature stories for reading on mobile devices. If people are willing to read books on a Kindle, they are likely willing to read the newspaper. And now that news sites are being optimized for the web, it’s time to optimize the stories themselves.
Whichever way the story is presented, it must reflect the growing segment of the population who don’t have time to read long pages of text. After all, what good is a story if no one reads it?