How to: Scrollytelling

The scrollytelling, the long form, the multimedia reportage – whatever you want to call this format, it has a varied history behind it. And that for a comparatively short time. When the epic “Snowfall” of the New York Times appeared in 2012, everyone wanted to do “snowfall”. The boom was over comparatively quickly over. The reason: also “snowfall”.

What sounds crazy at first and second look, is still understandable. “Snowfall” was a terrific story. That makes you really prisoners. “Snowfall” is also a curse. A benchmark under which you can sail mostly so moderately elegant.

Let’s go for the first time in this howto, that you can look at “Snowfall”, but should not immediately set the standard for your own stories. Which brings us to the heart of the matter: multimedia stories are so appealing because they offer an incredible number of options. They are also so difficult for the same reason. Maybe you know the story of the donkey who stands in front of two haystacks, can not decide for either of them and eventually starves to death. Multimedia stories have a lot to do with haystacks. Lesson 1 So you have to decide!


Therefore, this “how to” works differently than the episode before. First, let’s talk about it:

Which you should do under no circumstances

  • Multimedia means you can – do not have to. Here is a quote, this time from former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder: The good thing about options is that you have them. But that does not mean that you have to apply each of these options as well. Specifically, do not try to forcefully house video, audio, text, images and all the other pretty gadgets. Rather, on the contrary, think beforehand which means most suit your story. And keep in mind that you can overwhelm users and thus hunt out the most beautiful story.
  • Longform sounds like length. So it must be long, the piece. This is not to be dismissed, but nevertheless: Longform does not mean that the user comes with endless time and patience. So please, no scientific papers, no swarming texts, no 10-minute videos. Say what is. Also applies to the Longform. How long must a long form be? A question that you hear again and again. Simple answer: she does not have to do anything. When it’s over, it’s over.
  • Do not have a plan? Deadly mistake in the long form. More than any other story you need a storyboard.

The right plan

What do you want, what do you have, what can you do? Before you can answer these questions for yourself, you should not get down to work (ideally, you’ll think about the answers to these questions before you start producing).

In practice, it proves to be very helpful if you clearly assign which function takes which medium. The Excel fetishists among you will celebrate: With a small table you can achieve a lot. If Excel is not enough or if you just do not like it: With the “Storylinecreator” you can plan very complex stories very well.

So in concrete terms: which parts do I pack into a video, what do I do with audios, what can I see on photos? Which functions do these elements fulfill? How do they relate to each other? Nowhere is it written that each of these forms must appear. A multimedia story can work well without videos.

Above all, you have to look at the planned locations of the event and the protagonists very closely. Sounds a bit like casting, it is, after all.

The right team

Unfortunately, with a story plan, this complex topic is not yet there. Instead, you need, properly read, a team. Because at least there has not been a single lone fighter to sustain such a story (the author is happy about any reference to stories that have gone differently).

Unfortunately, there is no perfect plan for a team. This varies from case to case, just as the stories are always different. Ideally, therefore, take the Excel spreadsheet described above and assign the individual elements to the individual team members. Okay, if you are only two, that is unnecessary. Otherwise, the clearer the assignment and the more people are scheduled according to their abilities, the better.

In any case, should be there but someone who is familiar with technology and programming. Although you can create such stories with a few tools even without programming skills (more on that later), nevertheless: Without anybody with technical expertise, you will come up against limits. What a pity, if one already operates such an effort.

And yes, the eye reads: Get someone in the boat, who is responsible for the visual!

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The right structure

When all this is done, it gets really complex. Because multimedia stories do not have to be told in the usual linear way, in a chronological order. On the contrary. Scrollyteling means to make offers to the user. He can use that, but he does not have to.

This in turn means: You never know what and where the user is currently doing. So somehow you have to do the trick, that the user can look at the story from the most different variations and still be able to understand it. Sounds paradox, right? One decides for probably very good reasons for a video, but then has to assume that the user does not look at the video.

What has proven itself: the division of history into chapters. This has the advantage that there is something like a red thread on which you can move along. In any case, I have not yet seen a successful story that can afford the renunciation of chapters (or departments).

The right tools

If you do not do everything in-house, you need software that turns your collection of text, images, videos, and audios into a handsome story.

Chatted out of my own sewing box: I have not yet found the one software for all occasions. For example, “Pageflow” is great software – if you want to work mainly with videos, photos and audios (exact description: here)

That’s why I still have a second version in store with “Atavist”, if it’s supposed to be more text-heavy. This has always been easy, but Atavist has now switched to the big WordPress family. Apparently, they do not know what will happen. However, a combination of WordPress and Atavist could be exciting. Previous users can continue to use Atavist, but new ones can not log in at all.

Hard on the rise is the software “shorthand”, as well as reading good about “storyform” and “storybuilder”.

Absolutely recommendable in this context is the site of Matthias Eberl, who always presents new tools and developments on the subject. My recommendation: create trial accounts and just give it a try. Because I do not like the one, unconditional and exclusive recommendation.

But one thing is for sure: once you seriously deal with the possibilities of storytelling, you will quickly realize that there have never been so many great ways to tell stories.

And this perspective alone should be worth the trouble.

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