During my internship I spent much time experimenting with different apps, programs, and forms of content. This post explores a few of the ways I made use of digital media, and explains some of the ways I would like to use digital media in the future.
Interactive Photo Spheres
This photo sphere was taken with an app called Bubb.li, and although the app is only available for iOS, Google offers Photo Sphere which produces similar images (less spherical, more panoramic), and the Cardboard Camera app which allows you to capture interactive photo spheres your readers can view online, or through Google Cardboard VR. WordPress only allows direct embeds from certain websites and apps, but there is software that can help embed Bubb.li spheres directly to WordPress, such as Embedly, though this costs money (This is I why had to first embed the photo sphere to Facebook).
Spherical photos provide immersive, interactive content that are great for showing:
- An outdoor restaurant with a spectacular view of the sun setting over the bay
- Luxurious spa pools
- Elegant hotel foyers
- Exotic travel destinations
- Venues, especially for weddings, to give a bride-to-be the experience of standing on the altar at a specific country club, banquet hall, etc.
360° photos are backwards, or inverted, panoramas — instead of looking out at a landscape, they look at a stationary object. These too are interactive, and allow the reader to move the image around the object, getting a full 360° view of, say for example, an exotic car, or a wedding dress, an art installation, or an awesome haircut from an awesome local barber.
There aren’t very many apps or programs available to make 360° photos. Many are meant for CAD applications, and require a long learning-curve with a lot of time invested. However, there is a great app called Fyuse which makes it simple and quick to take 360° images. Fyuse works on both iOS and Android, but older phones — and cheap phones — aren’t going to have the hardware requirements needed for running the app (this a problem I keep running into with my Galaxy J1).
Images Overlaid With Text
These images I’ve edited and then overlaid with text using a free online version of Pixlr, which also comes as an app. Ripl is a much better program/app for overlaying text, but it costs $10/mo. There is also Adobe Spark for desktop, which is amazing, or Photoshop, of course. The Adobe Spark app, however, is currently only available for iOS.
These are great for social media, but are very obviously advertisements/advertorials. You can also intend for these images to complement a tweet, to supply additional information in a personal way that doesn’t feel so advertorial.
My Maps is a corollary of Google Maps. It allows users to create their own maps, adding markers to locations and attaching copy, pictures, and links to each of those markers. The maps can be embedded to most websites, making it possible for readers to explore the travel destinations, restaurants, or theme parks, for example, that have been plotted onto the map. Layers can also be added, so that readers only see plotted restaurants, or plotted hair stylists, depending on which layer they select.
The following is a sample map I made of restaurants featured by The Digest.
Live coverage of events using social media is an excellent way to engage the community, and to become a bigger part of the community you participate in. Live coverage can be as simple as live-tweeting an event, and can include (should include) pictures, and video clips using either Facebook Live or Periscope.
Here is an example of a gubernatorial town hall meeting I live-tweeted. Following the event, I embedded the tweets into an article into Storify, which allowed me to create further content from the event.
As I mentioned at the end of Storify article, I wasn’t able to engage in much direct conversation because I hadn’t started those conversations before the event. If you want your live-coverage to be seen, and to have an audience that interacts with your coverage, then some work beforehand needs to be done to make sure you’ve cultivated an audience that is aware of your upcoming live-coverage.
There is a growing number of local, start-up news outlets using live-coverage for more than just presenting the local news. These outlets (particularly Billy Penn in Philadelphia) will use live-coverage of community events to help build the community around them. These local events function for them much in the same way an event planned by the outlet functions — as long as everyone knows the outlet will be there, the outlet can get just as much community engagement and brand awareness as if they had organized a concert.
I think it would be interesting if an outlet, before attending a local event, ran a small social media campaign about the event, maybe including a few blog posts, to build up a conversation about the event. The outlet can then make their curated audience aware that they’ll be at the event, covering the whole thing live, and then giving the audience a reason to interact with the outlet/staff members while there — let everyone know that if they can find a staff member (they can follow live-coverage for clues) at the parade or the festival, the staff member will be required to buy them a beer. Or, if the outlet is participating in a 5K, then whoever beats the staff members to the finish line gets free refreshments and lunch.
Video is a great way to create engaging content. Shooting can take a few hours, in order to gather enough quality material, but editing has been made simple with programs like Final Cut Pro (Mac) and Adobe Premiere. Editing can still take some time, but as long as you know what the program can do and decide to be a perfectionist, it isn’t difficult to create high-quality video.
The following video (I shot and edited the whole thing) will be running on a blog post to accompany a print article I wrote about coworking. The print article was an explainer, focused on what coworking is, and included quotes. The blog post will include a brief summary of coworking, an interactive map of coworking places in our area, and the below video, which gives the audience some insight into what it’s like to work at a coworking office.
Videos come in a myriad of styles, whether man-on-the-street interviews, explanatory pieces, or how-to videos; or featuring interviews or stock video or even graphics. Video can be used for just about anything, like the coverage of a community event, or a timelapse of a hairstylist working, or to feature the inside of awesome building, or of staff members trying interesting drinks or plates from a restaurant of interest. Short videos can offer a lot in the way layered content, and I look forward to gaining more experience with my own video production.
Social media is networking, and networking online, just like anywhere else, depends on engagement and conversation. An effective social media strategy should always include retweets, reposts, comments, and shout-outs.
Until recently I haven’t been too involved with social media, aside from Facebook, back when I had a social life. I’ve had a few personal blogs, the most recent of which continues to hum along nicely. Blogging has taught me a few things about using social media, including the need to regularly post quality content, to regularly comment on many other blogs, to always be looking for new, relevant blogs to follow, and to always engage those who comment on my own blog. I’ve also recently ramped-up my LinkedIn account, and have been actively reaching out to other LinkedIn members and sending them messages when I invite them to connect with me. This activity has allowed me to quickly build up my network and, more importantly, has led to several ongoing conversations, a few phone calls, and one offer to get coffee.
The idea of a content event is to curate a specialized audience around a niche topic, and to let the audience know that at this time and place online, the outlet will be covering everything the audience needs to know about that niche topic.
For example, leading into the wedding season, the outlet can locate via social media the influencers relevant to the target audience, the people who have made names for themselves dealing with weddings in one way or another. The outlet engages these people in conversation, and begins to post and comment about, and link to, things that have to do with weddings. This leads into the outlet announcing that beginning on, for example, April 15th, they will spend 5 days diving into everything that has to do with weddings. The outlet has engaged the wedding networks, and told this audience when and where to find lots of great content about the very thing they’re so interested in. The upshot to this, then, is being able to tell boutiques, venues, caterers, florists, etc., that for five whole days the entire local wedding market will be paying close attention to their media. The outlet then spends those 5 days posting a dozen articles they have written and ready to go, with all staff members using social media to tweet links for this barrage of great content, and engaging everyone that’s talking about weddings. Using the above methods I’ve talked about, an outlet can spend a month or two building up the niche-specific content while still keeping schedule with their normal publications. This content event could also coincide with a wedding expo, or the release of wedding issue.