The lead producer for the BBC Internet Research & Future Services, Tristan Ferne, found 12 different story formats used in digital news . This list came out in September 2017 and is still quite comprehensive. I have, however, modified the list with my own additions of visual storytelling formats since new formats emerge every day and they are adopted and developed further as we speak.
In this study I found 9 different forms of storytelling. The examples on this page are from the media I covered in this project. Note, that they are best experienced with a mobile phone.
Short video, short documentaries, explainers
Pioneered by AJ+ and NowThis, now vastly in use in most of the newsrooms. Uses video, stills and animation or is combination of these. Mostly captioned and subtitled.
Stories, AMP stories, swipeable cards
Card-like visualisations with headlines, captions and text banners. Evolved from the storytelling tools inside social platforms like Snapchat Stories and Instagram.
Linear, narrative visual storytelling mostly used mostly in feature stories. Parallax scroll used to create smooth transitions in between different parts of the story. Popular tool developed by an Australian digital storytelling tool Shorthand, which is used for example at the BBC.
Data visualisation, visual essay, visual story, blended media storytelling
Graphs, infographics, interactives or highly visually told story, that has no main text narrative element but the text and typography is part of the visuals and blends with others.
- Guardian: Bezos empire and How Cape Town is running out of water
- Washington Post: How key senators changed their positions to bring down Obamacare repeal
- The Pudding: Music borders
- Guardian Lab’s podcast web interface: Strange bird
- NBC Specials: Bail reform
- Quartz: Was the Nepal earthquake twice as big as we thought?
- New York Times: How rohingya escaped
Structured articles, listicles, newsletters and briefings
Listicles are usually numbered or otherwise structured under one theme or title. Articles structured to themes with strong typography or visuals. Listicles became popular in BuzzFeed and Huffington Post, but also widely adopted format in mobile news media. Guardian Mobile Lab has studied the idea of “atomized” stories with their Smarticles, where you can continue reading the story where you left.
Personalised storytelling, adapting stories
Used to filter the stories by one’s personal choice, creates personalised article in the end. Found to be very engaging: people spend more time with a story that they find meaningful to their lives.
360-degree visuals, virtual and augmented reality
nd A lot of testing and expectations around virtual reality and augmented reality. The Guardian and the New York Times Magazine have done a series of virtual reality stories for their own apps. Google teams with NBC to create VR experiences, but it’s not with news in the first place.