If there is one thing that has remained the same throughout my 47 years in the media industry, it’s the importance of having a good story. That is the inspiration for the title of my new mobile book, The Story, which was entirely conceptualised, written, and designed to be consumed on a smartphone.

If you have a good story to tell, the rest should come easily. Yet, as my book explores, today we have myriad channels through which to tell each story. 

The Story digs deep into three main concepts:

  1. Transformation (and the need for change).
  2. Storytelling (how we write and edit for the smartphone).
  3. Design (all the essentials of creating a good visual environment for content on smartphones).

This book is the result of two years of studying how we consume news and information on smartphones. It also is the foundation of a course I teach at Columbia University and it captures my experiences conducting in-house workshops for major news organisations and corporate communications departments worldwide.

While storytelling continues to be our reason to exist, much has changed in how a story moves in a multi-platform world.

As someone who visits a different newsroom almost every week, I am well aware that publishers and editors understand the importance of the story, but newsroom dynamics have not changed enough to accommodate the way stories move in a mobile-first environment. 

Users have grown accustomed to scrolling on the phone to keep reading stories in a linear, visual manner.
Users have grown accustomed to scrolling on the phone to keep reading stories in a linear, visual manner.

Editors consistently tell me that “we are a digital first” newsroom. Yet when I sit in on the morning meeting, I realise that — even if the physical walls of the newsroom have come down and the “digital people” sit with the “print people” — most content planning is still structured around a singular edition that will be printed and distributed the next morning.

As an industry, we need to forget the notion of editions. Tomorrow morning is too distant in the life of modern readers who want to be constantly updated. Mobile first is about chasing stories — not filling editions.

Once we have the stories, the next important step is to write and design them for consumption where a majority of the audience will be reading them: on a mobile device. One important component of The Story is a discussion of “linear storytelling,” a detailed account of how our industry should produce content for smartphones.

The Story captures what is happening today through the lens of someone who has lived through at least five revolutions in the newsroom during: from hot to cold type, from typewriters to computers, black and white to colour, the arrival of the Internet, and now mobile journalism. Yet through all those revolutions, one thing is still at the heart of journalism — how we write stories.