Storytelling Comparisons

Here’s an interesting question that Bob Sacha raised: what is the best way to communicate a story? Print, multimedia, TV broadcast or radio? Bob noted that in December 2011, four media outlets (NYTimes – print, NYTimes – multimedia, NPR – radio and Buffalo TV News – TV) ran the same story about an 82-year-old jazz pianist from Buffalo, NY. Bob provides links in his blog post. He also asks the questions:

  • Which worked well?
  • What did each version leave out?
  • How did each version start and finish?

But, ahem, Bob didn’t answer his own questions. So here’s my take on the strengths of two of the four forms:

PRINT
Strengths:

  • Imagination and visualization: because you don’t have images, you form (mental) images. I can picture a young, lythe Adelaide down in North Carolina…
  • Information and backstory: Print can easily include tid-bits about Mr. Dunlop’s arrival at the nursing home 4 years ago, how he played in the Army and at nightclubs, etc.

Weaknesses:

  • Slow to get through. This is particularly a problem on the web. I do a lot of my web reading when I’m in front of a screen, like, for instance when I’m (ahem) at work. Can’t dilly-dally too long there.

MULTIMEDIA
Strengths:

  • Audio – both narration and ambient sound enrich the experience. Hearing Mr. Dunlop’s voice adds character, richness and a closeness you just don’t pick up in the print version.
  • Visuals – same. Well-crafted images here are a joy to behold. Warm colors. Great lighting. Wow.
  • Information and backstory: I also pick up information about Mr. Dunlop, particularly throught some images of him getting medical attention from a nurse and the sound of his voice. It’s not as “factual”, but it is backstory and information about the qualities of this man.

Weaknesses:

  • Slow to get through. This may be even a bigger a problem than print. People do a lot of browsing at work, and it’s probably easier to explain reading a story than watching a slideshow if the boss walks up. Makes me kinda’ nervous as I watch it.

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