Digital Publishing
2 mins read

Data from an Australian newspaper shows readers prefer online stories in text format, with sparse multi-media

Cast your mind back. Combined with the heady prospect of infinite space, multi-media projects like The New York Times’ Snow Fall had editors diving for every platform imaginable to bring their journalism to life — partly because it was all shiny and new. But this was mostly driven by the pressure to find new revenue streams in any way possible.

No doubt a lot of this digital journalism was stunning to look at. But there was one thing that seemed to be forgotten in all this: the reader.

Readers simply didn’t engage in a way that justified the time invested.

Content-rich tablet apps came and went, and newsrooms were forced to reassess what part multi-media played in their content offerings.

Then came the clincher: the mobile phone. Readers didn’t have the technology — or the time — to tap on all these moving bits and chapters and pop-up screens on a small device. They wanted their content in a simple and digestible format.

The March edition of Wired magazine supports this view. It revealed 71% of readers globally want to read their news in a mostly text format.

Like most newsrooms we have experimented with rich storytelling techniques with varying degrees of readership return. We have rested on the fact — for now — that multi-media must be simple and must complement a story. Interactives — or richly built article pages with multiple moving elements — simply drive less engagement and traffic than a standard article page.

At the Melbourne Herald Sun, we replaced our interactive tablet app with a simpler news format plus a much better digital edition. Engagement went through the roof.  We are now seeing a spike in the number of downloads of our digital print edition.

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