How does the medium change the content?

by Jason Preston on October 21, 2008

If lean-back content works better in a magazine format than a newspaper format, and lean-forward content works better online than it does on paper, then clearly the medium is not as independent from the content as we assume.

I like to say that just because someone is blogging doesn’t mean that what they’re writing isn’t journalism. And that’s true.

But certain types of content work better online than others. What are they?

Creative people are the first people to experiment with media formats. Find out what tech entrepreneurs are doing and you’ll know what big corporations will be doing two years from now (there are always exceptions – both ways).

Brian Clark just started a new blog called Lateral Action. The first four posts relied heavily on flash video and only slightly on text.

Media Storm is using video technology to create stunning multimedia journalism that will change the world and the way we define news.

YouTube is proof that millions upon millions of people will each spend hundreds of hours watching video in two and a half minute segments.

The New York Times develops stunning interactive visualizations that do a far better job of conveying multiple angles of a complex situation than any written article could.

Publishing on the internet is about saying more with fewer words. Go say more by writing less.


1 Chuck 10.21.08 at 1:00 pm

I’d never thought of “lean back” vs “lean forward.” That’s pretty interesting.

Maybe we could talk sometime about presenting the same content in parallel with different mediums. A visual, an animation, a short-form blurb, and an in-depth read–pick your favorite.

If the web is about interactivity, being able to decide how I want to take in information seems a natural fit.

2 jope 10.21.08 at 2:14 pm

Heh, I was musing to your sister at The Pitch that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a serious-minded offshoot of comics/cartoons evolve that cannibalizes part of the print/online text-based news markets.

3 DoreenatDMS 10.22.08 at 6:54 am

I agree that multimedia journalism undoubtedly plays a role in communicating a story… always seems to have some interesting executions (“Graficos”). But with many people writing and blogging these days about the future of newspapers — and I realize where I’m posting this comment, Jason 😉 — I haven’t discovered (yet) as much commentary on the future of photojournalism … it was only when I first saw’s “The Big Picture” a few months back that I was reminded that online was missing out on this extraordinary form of journalism

4 Jason Preston 10.22.08 at 11:06 am

Chuck – that’s a great idea. I think it’s a lot more work on the part of the newsroom to produce parallel content, though. Ideally, a skilled editor will have a good sense of which type of news fits a certain medium best, and can then weave a narrative (I think users still want narratives and stories) that combines multiple formats effectively.

At least, that seems to be the fiscally responsible solution 😉

jope – That’s actually a really good idea. If I weren’t busy doing 500 other things I’d start that.

you getting into the comics-news business?

DoreenatDMS – you’re right that photojournalism is often overlooked. There are a lot of people, including myself, who talk about business, wages, and writing practices, but not a lot of people who are exploring what it means to hack the format with photos, videos, or other visual tools available online.

5 Hi_Hater 10.29.08 at 1:48 pm

Exactly, when you can blog from your cell phone, the idea of comparing it to journalism goes out the window. Speaking of which, check this phone out! (

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