From the palm of their hands, reporters can easily gather, produce, and share stories to any platform from nearly anywhere. Welcome to journalism today. No need to cart around clunky equipment. Mobile devices streamline the process of gathering and producing content as well as distributing it to just about any platform–social media, websites, and beyond.
Today’s audience is mobile, which is the driving force behind the changes in how journalists report the news. With so many people consuming content on mobile devices, journalists need to think about the user-experience. Is what you’re posting optimized for viewing on a mobile device? Or, will the audience be left frustrated and swipe away?
In my presentation at the 2016 annual conference of the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, I discussed four elements that can provide a positive user-experience: mobile-friendly layout, text in videos, social graphics, and vertical video. These have been the focus of my recent teaching in my mobile and social media journalism course.
Mobile-Friendly Layout. The layout of a web story should be easily digestible. To start, the headline should be short and shareable. With people sharing articles on social media, the headline is typically the text that will be pulled into a post. The use of lists, bullets points, and headings help to segment out a story into chunks, making it more easily viewed on a small screen. Between the headline and main text of the story, use bullet points to add a few key points of the story. That way people can get an idea of what the story is about almost instantly.
Text in Videos. The use of text in social media and website videos is becoming more common as mobile users often don’t have the volume turned up on their phone. Sometimes this has to do with being in a public place. Short text on a lower third or full screen helps viewers comprehend the video story without having to turn on the audio. It can also pique their interest in a story, giving them a reason to listen. In addition, text elements are useful in video stories that don’t have reporter tracks. The text can provide context and background information. Use bold fonts and colored text when appropriate. Don’t cram too much text on the screen.
Social Graphics. One way of creating engaging social media posts is by incorporating graphics. More and more news outlets are using social media graphics because they’re not only eye-catching in a sea of posts, but they also allow you to include more information than is possible in a single tweet. For example, The New York Times frequently produces social media graphics that include a powerful quote from a story. Adobe Spark Post and Canva are apps that allow users to quickly create these visuals for social media.
Vertical Video. There’s much talk in the industry about whether video should be shot holding the device horizontally or vertically. There’s no correct answer. It depends on the platform. If you’re shooting for a TV broadcast or web story, the general rule of them is to turn your device horizontally when you shoot video. The video will fit the orientation of those types of screens. As mobile consumption continues to grow though, news outlets are turning to vertical video to optimize their content for viewing on phones. Snapchat and Facebook Live, for instance, are designed for vertical video. “What we’re trying to do is make sure that we’re producing video that works specifically for each platform, so we don’t expect one video that we produce is going to work across our site, across social networks, across devices,” Mica Gelman, senior editor and head of video at The Washington Post, told Journalism.co.uk.