How do newsrooms decide what formats to create and use?

By Amalie Nash


Denver, Colorado, United States


A lot of media companies are good at considering multimodal storytelling when planning their biggest projects. A multi-day series, for instance, will include short videos, audio versions, interactive graphics, and other elements.

But on a daily basis, many companies default to traditional text stories. 

At Newsday in New York, alt-format storytelling is part of the culture and workflow and became that way because of deliberate efforts and training. Rochell Sleets, managing editor, said Newsday pays close attention to results and specifically the amount of time readers spend with the content and conversion rates.

“I think one of the biggest things that captures people is through visuals, and a big way to keep people is through interactive elements,” Sleets said. 

During a recent Webinar hosted by Product & Tech Initiative Lead Jodie Hopperton and me, we offered up advice for how to think about multimodal from the newsroom and product perspectives.

From a newsroom perspective

  • Multimodal needs to be part of your newsroom culture.

  • All journalists should be trained and equipped with the needed tools.

  • Questions journalists and their editors should be asking from the start:

    • Who is my audience for this story?

    • How does that audience prefer to consume content?

    • What user need does this story meet?

    • Does this story lend itself to a particular multimodal storytelling technique?

    • Are there multiple options and entry points for telling this story?

From a product & tech perspective

We need to provide the framework for building and delivering these stories:

  • Evaluate cost vs. impact.

  • User needs of current/target audiences.

  • Distribution channels.

  • How to measure success.

  • Ability to support.

This chart illustrates how to think about the concept daily:

A daily checklist of multimodal planning.
A daily checklist of multimodal planning.

Buy-in from those involved is also important. I asked Sleets whether her newsroom embraced or resisted multimodal storytelling.

“Because we share data every day, once you have something that is working and is successful, people want to be part of that,” she said. “The key is to get in early in the process to plan it out to make sure we’re doing our best visual storytelling across platforms.”

Here are some other takeaways:

  • Think audience first.

  • Plan short-term experiments vs. long-term workflows.

  • Build it into your day-to-day planning and processes.

  • Agree on goals and metrics.

  • Involve more people (not just small teams).

  • Get creative!

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About Amalie Nash

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