Posts Tagged ‘Music in journalism’

Photo slideshows drive page-views

November 19, 2010

Here is a fascinating article in Columbia Journalism Review about how photo slideshows drive traffic to news websites.

Not mentioned in the article is the key role that appropriate music can play in a successful slideshow. When a slideshow can be “auto-played,” making the changes congruent with the rhythm of the music is an important technique that can enhance story-telling.

And according to the article, the quality of the slideshow will only grow in importance:

But when even bad slideshows succeed economically, where’s the incentive to make them good? That incentive, eventually, will have to come from advertisers, as they tire of the tricks that their editorial friends are playing on them. Earlier, I noted that advertisers don’t care if dozens of page views are coming from the same user, because their ads are still getting shown. But eventually this will reach a point of diminishing returns. Telling the same person about a new movie a dozen times is not as effective of telling a half-dozen people twice.

Advertisers have an easy way to hold sites accountable: rely on unique visitor, rather than page-view, counts. The page-view metric has become diluted by editorial and business tricks like recirculation tools, landing pages, and slideshows. As Gawker Media owner Nick Denton puts it, “Some page views are worth more than others.” That’s why he now judges his staff and sites’ success on a less-manipulated number: how many people come to visit, not how many pages they visit once they’re there. Denton’s reason for the switch is editorial—he wants more exclusives, and he thinks uniques are a good way to incentivize them. Advertisers should follow suit. Their ads will have greater reach if sites know that it’s unique visitors, not page views, that matter most.

And with that change of mentality will come a switch of strategy. No longer will the worst slideshows be as economically viable. Slideshow quality will rise as sites try to create iconic slideshows that bring in new visitors interested in hearing a story told as only the Internet can. Slideshows will no longer have to be a savior in scourge’s clothing.


Advanced digital storytelling: Music is a big part of it

June 18, 2009


Here’s a post from Deborah Potter on Advancing the Story about the innovative online journalism being conducted by a partnership between Fortune magazine and the online mag Flyp Media, which recently published a lively interactive piece on the Bernie Madoff scheme.

This will ruffle feathers of those who still fear use of music in nonfiction platforms like journalism. But I think refusing to use tools like music that engage the viewer is a shortsighted strategy. As journalists compete in an ever-crowded Internet for viewer/listener attention, we need to utilize every tool at our disposal, so long as we use it ethically. And we need to follow the example set by Flyp, which is to treat every online story as its own piece, rather than a dressing-up of a print story.

What do you think of music in this video?

May 15, 2009

Ever met a musician who overplays? His fingers fly over the fretboard or keybard, but he never really stops for a breath. That’s because he’s never learned to use silence as a musical tool.

One very effective way to use music in video and other multimedia projects is to use its very absence. That is illustrated beautifully in Edmund Fountain and Catriona Stuart’s “For Their Own Good,” a project they did this year for the St. Petersburg Times/ (Disclosure: I’m a former colleague of both journalists).

It’s a moving story, wonderfully told. The spare, piano-based music is just right for the project. And just as the piece approaches its emotional climax, the music abruptly stops – focusing attention on the most moving moment.

You can see and hear the piece here.

Angela Grant over at News Videographer recently asked her viewers their thoughts on the way music was used in the project. You can see my comments, and hers, on her site. Check it out – it’s an interesting difference of opinion.

A is for Audio: The ABCs of Multimedia

May 15, 2009

Just for fun on a Friday – Mark Luckie’s ABCs of Multimedia. My favorite: N is for nOOb!

Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark on music and writing

March 13, 2009


Roy Peter Clark is America’s preeminent writing coach. The vice president and senior scholar of the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fl., has coached countless writers, editors and other journalists through the years. As many who have heard Roy speak know, he’s also a fine musician who uses music as a teaching tool as well as a means of enjoyment.

I wanted to know how Roy thinks about music and its interplay with writing. Here’s what he had to say in our email conversation:

Q: A good story and a good piece of music can share some similarites, it seems to me: an attractive opening, development of a theme, a sense of tension. How do you compare the process of writing a story and composing a piece of music? Are their some characteristics that good music and good writing share?

A: There are similarities and differences, of course. The most important similarity to me is that writing a story and composing a song both require sitting down, getting your hands moving, and discovering lots of cool things you didn’t know along the way. A story title may be in my head, or a musical phrase, but they will stay there until I sit on the chair or bench and get my hands moving on the keyboard.

Q: You’ve written about how some of Paul McCartney’s writing tricks – using an “accident” such as a misplayed chord or a random phrase – mirror some of the tips you have offered for writers. Can you elaborate?

A: I have not taken a music lesson for years and years, so most of what I’ve learned has come from listening, watching, and experimenting. Usually, I can never actually repeat what I am seeing on, say, an instructional video. But that’s OK. Usually, I learn enough to play something, and that something usually includes a cool sound — a chord change — that I didn’t intend, but that sounds good. The trick is to capture that move and put it in your tool box.

Q: I’m interested in your thoughts on the use of music in multimedia journalism. Do you think there’s room in the toolbox for music? What are the perils of using music to augment multimedia journalism?

A: One of the great teachers on how to use music is National Public Radio. Because they are a sound medium, music is crucial to how they experience the world. They don’t usually play music behind a story — unless the story is about music — because sound tracks are editorial — not only do they create mood, but they make a statement. A chord in a minor key says: Shit, the world sucks. So I prefer music used as interlude, that is, as something that comes in between elements of story. NPR does this brilliantly — and responsibly.

Q: Who are some of your musical heroes? What do you consider some of the best-written songs in modern times?

A:  Heroes almost all from the rock era: Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, Buddy
Holly, the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and the best bands of the British invasion, especially the Beatles (but not the Stones), the Animals, Dave Clark Five. Absolutely loved the Young Rascals. More recently Springsteen, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Louis Prima (lots of other New Orleans musicians). The late great Eva Cassidy. Getting a little into American classic jazz: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, Nat King Cole.

Q: Has being a musician in any way affected your writing? Has being a writer ever affected your use of or appreciation for music?

A: I do think of the structure of a piece of writing like I sometimes thinkof a piece of music, especially when it comes to the repetition of
themes, the movement from one part to another. And I use musical examples all the time in my teaching of writing.

Thanks Roy. I have my own thoughts on some of the subjects Roy discussed, which I will save for another post soon.

Why not writing a story is innovation – Publishing 2.0

February 25, 2009

Here is a post by former colleague Josh Korr, now working in Washington at Publish2, who looks at the compelling question of how to rethink the stories journalists tell, and the ways they tell these stories.

Multimedia… but why?

February 12, 2009

Here’s a post I found particularly compelling about the value of multimedia presentations.