Why “shoveling” between formats doesn’t work

The headline says it all.

It doesn’t.

I thought we had all learned our lessons about “shoveling” our content from one medium to another without tweaking it, even print-to-online stories. But no.

As much as I love NPR, they are the culprits for inciting enough irritation to write this post.

I clicked on a story. They offered a soundbite from the radio of a written story. Naturally, I clicked on the radio version, and I thought I would skim the story at the same time. Easy enough.

No. The story was ver batim the same story the radio reporter said. It was like looking at a transcript.

Why this is so frustrating is because of a few reasons. This applies in general to all news organizations, by the way:

1. It wasted my time: I would love to invest my time into reading and listening, but only if there was something unique to experience from each format. I don’t want to waste my time watching a video, when I know what happens (who does).

2. It’s lazy: Don’t put up duplicate stories on your website just because they are different formats. Each medium has it’s advantages to bring to a story. If the reporter wasn’t hustling enough to get info for a print story, or do a quality video, then he/she shouldn’t do it.

3. It’s wasteful: Using storytelling formats is a great thing, if you use them correctly. We have all of them for specific reasons. It’s a shame to see potential for something great to be tossed out because of “shoveling” stories.

Stories are like languages, you can’t get by using cheapo online translators to converse with someone. You need to be somewhat fluent, understand dialects and regional differences. Videos, audio bites and print stories all have their own flows, and transitional elements. I would expect a major broadcasting network like NPR to know this.

Lesson: Don’t duplicate your story. Expand your story with each format you introduce. If you do, you certainly won’t regret it.

If you want to see an example of a story that does it right, check out Denver Post’s American Soldier feature. They intertwine all their formats well and integrate each with great web design.