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Integrate multimedia, make fingers happy: Journalistic storytelling on tablets

At the moment newspapers are typically copy pasting content from print or online onto tablets, but media specialists think that there is a need to re-purpose content for the tablet. So where should publishers look to find the right recipe for storytelling?

In her research Saila Kiuttu, a journalist and a former producer for multimedia products for the Finnish News Agency, explores the ingredients of journalist storytelling on tablets. She then does a comparative analysis to reveal how some of the best representatives of different journalist genres perform.

Her paper is titled 'Integrate multimedia, make fingers happy: journalistic storytelling on tablets', where she interviews eight professionals in the field of digital journalism and reviews dozens of tablet applications.

Based on these and former studies on the topic she then comes up with eight characteristics that should be used to refine journalistic tablet applications. These characteristics exploit the essence of the tablet interface. One of them is making fingers happy; tablet users want to interact and play with the screen. Tablet applications also crave for multimedia elements like photos, videos and audio. The elements should be integrated into the text, not on a pre-fixed position. Not all information should be shown at once. Complex graphics, for example, are easier to read if presented gradually in layers.

The content analysis in Kiuttu's research compares the use of the characteristics among some of the most advanced representatives of different journalistic genres: the Guardian, Wired Magazine, Atavist, the New York Times' feature story Snow Fall and NPR. According to the analysis, there isn't a perfect application yet. For example, none of the representatives seem to exploit the touch element even though that is the essence of a tablet device compared to online and print.

One of Kiuttu's conclusions is that some of the journalistic genres have developed tablet storytelling faster than newspapers; Wired is an example. This may be due to the fact that magazines simply have more time to create their content. For newspapers, the quicker publishing cycle makes it more challenging to create tablet-specific content. Based on her evidence, Kiuttu argues that if the newspapers want to keep up with the competition and continue to attract readers, there is an urgent need to acquire the set of characteristics for everyday publishing.