Multimedia… but why?

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I was browsing through last month’s issue of Complex magazine when I stopped at a timeline of the history of Calvin Klein.

“They should have made that into a multimedia presentation,” I thought. I then paused and asked myself why. Why would this already nicely designed infographic need the interactive treatment?

The short answer: to attract more viewers and stand out in a sea of online graphics.

There are so many sources of news in the crowded online market that making print articles available online is enough to attract a substantial readership, but not enough to stand out from the crowd. Considering many web readers skim content rather than read it, interactive and multimedia news stories force users to interact with the content rather than passively consume it.

In addition, a good interactive story can yield thousands of Diggs and Stumbles, hundreds of mentions on Twitter and other social networks, and a slew of saves on social bookmarking sites like delicious, which in turn means hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of visitors. All that is worth the extra man hours if it means higher page views which also translates to, for those concerned with the business side of journalism, greater revenue.

A nice multimedia presentation doesn’t even have to be a complex database like those created by the New York Times. Popular Mechanics’ interactive map of proposed North American high-speed train projects could have been a simple infographic, but its interactive Flash graphic was Dugg more than 1,700 times, bookmarked on delicious by more than 60 different users and was Stumbled a gajillion times.

In the same vein, the Associated Press’ relatively simple interactive graph of the 2008 U.S. Presidential candidates’ fundraising receipts was Dugg 545 times and Portfolio.com (which is already a great source of Flash journalism) created a simple six-slide slideshow on the “World’s Most Worthless Money” was Dugg a whopping 1,045 times.

What these interactive graphics all have in common is they are simple but compelling ideas that are presented in an interesting way. One could argue that the examples illustrate their respective issues better than they would be with plain text or a flat graphic. Web users are spending more and more time online and are better served with content that piques their interest rather than puts them to sleep.

In the end, the most important thing is that interactive news stories encourage the reader to walk away with a greater understanding of the concept presented before them and encourage a larger audience to do so. After all isn’t the point of journalism to spread the news to as many people as possible?


Also on 10,000 Words:

Online news games are fun (and informative!)
Where to find the best in Flash journalism
Eyetrack studies: What we’ve learned and how to conduct your own

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