5 Olympics Examples of Unique Digital Storytelling

Media attention is heavily focused on London 2012, and so is media experimentation.

With so many eyes looking for every kind of athletic news tidbit (or the opposite, avoiding spoilers), now’s a natural time for trying a new approach and seeing what works.

(Note: Lauren Rabaino also has a nice round-up of neat news projects.)

Here are a few Olympics items that caught my eye, along with some obvious pros, and then, additionally, questions to consider.


  1. Animated GIFs (in articles)
  2. Where: The Atlantic Wire’s GIF Guide to Olympic to gymnastics gold medalist Gabby Douglas (and more)

    Pros: GIFs, like in the late 90’s and early 00’s, are hip again. Because of Tumblrs like WhatShouldWeCallMe, they’re permeating many online groups, and they’re seemingly widely shared. If it helps illustrate your story, why not leverage that trend as a newsroom?

    Questions to consider: Does everyone feel the same way about animated GIFs? For the average user, do the automatically-moving images distract from any written content? (Is that okay?)


  3. Meme-ish Photos on Facebook

  4. Where: Maybe elsewhere, too — beyond just Buzzfeed — but I noticed NBC News (not just NBC)

    Pros: Because of Facebook’s newer image-heavy focus, they are likely almost-automatic inserts into Facebook newsfeeds. Among many social media users, the font is recognizable (perhaps normalized), and people are used to “liking,” commenting on and sharing images of this type. Again, if it helps illustrate your story, why not leverage that trend as a newsroom?

    Questions to consider: Before this becomes more popular, does everyone feel the same way about meme-ish photos on Facebook? Does it accomplish any goals of getting folks to your content, or is primarily for engagement on a platform? (Is that okay?)



  5. Organization Page Curating Others’ Content
  6. Where: Maybe elsewhere, too, but I noticed Huffington Post’s Olympics Facebook page

    Pros: The philosophy resonates with many internet users. Taking a different approach than most news organizations, Huffington Post’s Senior Editor for Big News + Live Events Craig Kanalley curated other Olympics media content alongside Huffington Post’s best. “That’s what the Internet is all about,” Kanalley told me. “Link to others when they have something really awesome, and they might link back to you when you have something awesome.”

    (Huffington Post’s never afraid to link out, in general, but the Olympics Facebook page seemed unique compared to other organization’s approaches on Facebook, including, for example, Reuters.)

    Questions to consider: How much do readers appreciate news orgs “sharing the love”? Does it speak well of your organization in the eyes of readers, helping you later, or does it cause more harm somehow, perhaps by detracting from your content’s views? (Is that tradeoff respectable, serving the purpose of informing readers, and thus okay?)


  7. Dedicated Twitter Accounts
  8. Where: Many places, including NYT’s @LondonLive

    Pros: Retweeting a dedicated account breaks up a follower’s stream by the profile picture alone—it’s foreign. If the staffing exists, having more than one account reaps all the benefits of the attention-grabbing nature of retweets (see #5 here), plus, in some cases like this one, the benefit of a topic’s many dedicated followers (read: abundant die-hard Olympics fans).

    Questions to consider: All the same ones here.


  9. Spoiler Buffers
  10. Where: Several places, but I noticed the structure of The New York Times’ alert emails

    Pros: Some people don’t care about tape-delay and want to watch things on TV without knowing the results. Even a simple two-words heads-up like “Sports Alert” in NYT’s email alerts and tweets prevented at least me from continuing to read on and spoil an event.

    While I have no study to back this up fully scientifically — and I didn’t reach out to NYT and ask if it was intentional — there is at least one study suggesting that the first 11 characters of a headline or link provide enough information for a user to know what the content is about. In an email last week, web usability guru Jakob Nielsen – who conducted some of that research – told me that he does suspect that Twitter is similar to other online content: users focus disproportionally more on the first two words or so, particularly because there’s “so immense information overload in this medium.”

    Questions to consider: Should tape-delay by a company earning money from doing so prevent a news organization from reporting immediately (and normally) on what makes news? (Is it okay to be kind?)

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