Editorial leaders from three continents converged at the annual Brainsnacks session of the 2017 INMA World Congress to describe their unique efforts and lessons learned about successful content initiatives.

“I’m going to tell you an experiment we’ve done very recently … where we bridged print and mobile through social platforms,” kicked off David Alandete, managing editor of El País in Spain.

“It’s actually a very simple thing. This bot looks into your archives … and depending on what you ask it, if you’re interested in Trump or you’re interested in Europe, it will answer your questions. It will give you the latest news.”

David Alandete, managing editor of El País in Spain, speaks at the INMA World Congress Brainsnacks session on Sunday.
David Alandete, managing editor of El País in Spain, speaks at the INMA World Congress Brainsnacks session on Sunday.

The service is accessed through special coded circles printed with stories and scanned by readers using their mobile phone: “If you want to get (more information or the latest) results in real time as they happen, you scan the code with your messenger app.”

The scan-triggered, mobile-delivered new extensions can be applied to any story, he said. “And starting next week, every writer will have his or her own code. The readers will be able to scan it and see all the columns the journalists are writing.”

Next steps include applying the technology to, for instance, advertising, Alandete said.

Russell Torres, vice president for digital video and strategy at the Today Network, is expanding on owner-Gannett’s 2-year-old efforts in virtual and Augmented Reality content.

Russell Torres, vice president for digital video and strategy at the Today Network, speaking at the INMA World Congress.
Russell Torres, vice president for digital video and strategy at the Today Network, speaking at the INMA World Congress.

“A few things that are happening right now,” he told the audience of about 120 people. “There’s a convergence that’s happening in Virtual Reality. Passive VR when you just watch something happening through goggles … arguably is becoming a thing of the past. Cost barriers to creators are decreasing ... and speed of production is decreasing. You can now get VR cameras from Nikon for US$300 to US$500.”

Torres is quick to point out, that “it’s not just about storytelling in Virtual Reality, but also building business.”

“Content costs, but good content or great content actually costs more,” he said. “This isn’t about big-J journalism. It’s about experiences. ... You also have convince the user this is worth the click to experience in the goggle. It’s not just about putting a camera somewhere. It’s about having somebody to guide you through the experience.”

While the investment in gear and expertise might be considerable, the good news is that the number of staff needed to be productive in VR and AR video is not necessarily huge. Torres said USA Today Network is doing it with “a relatively small team of five people.”

At Independent Media in South Africa, Chief Strategy Officer Vasantha Angamuthu explained to the crowd not so much a particular enabling technology as an overall emphasis on using and integrating every available formats and platforms into their storytelling.

Chief Strategy Officer Vasantha Angamuthu of Independent Media in South Africa discusses the video elements of an editorial project.
Chief Strategy Officer Vasantha Angamuthu of Independent Media in South Africa discusses the video elements of an editorial project.

A case in point is the “Don’t Look Away Project,” a social activism campaign taking on abuse of women.

“We’re one of South Africa’s leading companies,” Angamuthu said. “We have massive reach in the country and increasing into Africa. We wanted to use this power for good and focus on the social justice issue.

“We went back to some very basic, simple storytelling for this campaign — very powerful first-person accounts of abuse. We included lots of call to actions for readers because we wanted readers to be engaged.”

However, the key to success was applying all available tools, she explained. The front page of the broadsheet was used tell stories and share statistics. Digital video was used to share first-person stories: “The video storytelling was very powerful. These were quite harrowing stories.” Interactive graphics, social media calls to action, integration into the newspaper’s mobile app, and sponsorship of local events and activities fill out the effort.

In 2016, the campaign reached 6 million in print and digital, she said. In 2017 the campaign is pushing harder on social networks and doing even more first-person videos.