NPR could use the web better than print

Poynter reported yesterday that NPR will be combining its news application desk and multimedia desk into a single 14-person team—a move that will allow them to focus on finding the best way to tell stories visually and interactively online.

As a radio network, NPR may be particularly well suited to taking advantage of web as a medium given the creativity with which radio has taken advantage of its constraints. Radio shows have long used inventive techniques to extend the capabilities of audio entertainment. It will be interesting to see how NPR’s new team will innovate.

The Internet deserves innovative story telling too.  With all the interactive power computers can lend to online media, it’s a shame that many news organizations have stuck with text, photos and video—the staples of print and broadcast.

The best the web has to offer right now are what are called parallax-scrolling websites that present media in slides as the visitor scrolls down the webpage. The New York Times has done several and other companies like Apple have used the technique to advertise new products.

But this is hardly the boundary of the web. The Internet has incredible database, search and graphic technology that, for the most part, have remained untapped.

Of course, creative web stories are costly. Coding and production in addition to the costs of researching and reporting limit the scope of what is feasible for most stories, especially when the return on investment is questionable.

But the web offers the opportunity to do things that have never been possible in legacy formats. It’s worth experimenting, because any innovation could well change how we experience news.

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