Looking for best practices to train your staff on the latest technologies? See these five recommendations from our recent webinar for developing multimedia narratives.
The amount of time consumers spend with digital video continues to grow — up to 73 minutes per day now in the United States, according to eMarketer, or nearly 30 more than they did just four years ago.
This shift has allowed media and non-media companies alike to cover stories with new perspectives and even opened doors to alternative formats such as virtual and augmented reality.
In recent years at AP, our text-based reporters have undergone training to learn the best strategies for developing multimedia narratives. Recently, we hosted a webinar featuring news directors from the western U.S. and Latin America to describe the results we’ve seen from these efforts in their regions.
Below are some recommendations they mentioned for achieving success:
1. Foster a video-first environment.
In the past, news meetings with our journalists from the western U.S. would often start with a review of the stories — usually text, by default — we had published in the past day. Video was “like a separate thing,” said Anna Johnson, AP’s news director for the region.
Today, those discussions often lead off with video or photo plans, and include a recap of how our visuals were picked up by customers. Reporters know to approach each story, planned or unplanned, with video first in mind.
That thinking “really has to be intentional and deliberate,” Johnson said. “It has to be something you do all of the time, not just some of the time.”
2. Start small.
One initial pilot program we launched focused on California for three weeks with the goal of producing one video story per day from our team based there. In addition to teaching reporters in the field how to film, we also worked with editors in the newsroom to edit the footage as it came in.
If we didn’t hit the goal, Johnson said, that was OK — we didn’t want to place too much pressure on anyone too early on. And it invigorated the staff to know that we were able to reach the goal consistently by the pilot’s end without requiring significant additional investment.
“Our efforts have also allowed us to identify top performers and give them more training for ambitious projects that distinguish our coverage,” Johnson said.
3. Emphasize experimentation.
AP’s news director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Paul Haven, asks his team to aim for a mix of enterprise and breaking video stories.
“Having the mindset of ‘Let’s just go take a look … ’ allows you to basically go into peoples’ lives and find interesting stories,” he said.
That’s what Haven and his colleagues did earlier this year when they drove along the 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. In addition to documenting differences on either side, they also broke news by discovering that the number of Mexican refugees in shelters dramatically decreased because of political rhetoric during the past year.
The project, which also featured time-lapses and 360-video as well as footage from drones and box cameras, served as a case study for the editorial potential of the medium.
4. Hire journalists who have the willingness to learn.
Going forward, as we look to grow our team, we’ll be on the lookout for reporters who have cross-platform experience, Haven said. More importantly, though, they should have the desire to keep learning different ways to present journalism.
Our journalists around the world today are expected to pull out their smartphone and start recording should they happen upon a breaking news scene. More than half of our staff members in the western U.S. shoot video today on at least a somewhat regular basis — only a handful are dedicated video journalists.
5. Provide feedback and training opportunities.
Previously, whenever heat waves struck Arizona — which they often did and still do — our reporters would describe the weather’s effects and what they were seeing in words.
When it came to video, though, how do you show heat? It’s not like a tornado or even ice or snow. A brainstorming session near the onset of our video efforts yielded the decision to follow the most-popular person in the summer — the air-conditioning repairman.
We were able to publish the “day in the life of” story that actually brought audiences along for the ride, much more so than is possible through text alone. Strategizing along with mentoring prove not only to improve peoples’ skills but also keep them consistently engaged, as well.
After a story has been published, journalists can now also benefit from real-time feedback from viewers either through commenting on publishers’ websites or social media (even if not all of it is relevant).
Jake is the text and multimedia product manager at The Associated Press and the former editor of Insights. He previously covered college sports as a reporter for AP and helped design its multi-year strategic plan.