Some of the most exciting innovations in the world of content are to be found in news and journalism, as new and old publications search for new ways of engaging audiences in a constantly evolving publishing world. What can corporate communicators learn from them?
Vox Card Stacks
Card Stacks is a format that breaks complex or long-form information into short, bite-sized chunks and offers them up on separate ‘cards’ on the Vox site, under specific categories or headings. That could be digging deeper on the Eurozone crisis, fracking, inflation… quite simply anything that adds to the sum knowledge on a subject, and breaks that out in a straightforward way.
Within the fracking stack for instance, there are sections entitled ‘what is fracking?’ and ‘does fracking pollute the air and water?’. Facts within the story link back to statistical information and data from independent organisations, along with data visualization such as charts and maps. All information is delivered concisely and simply and has been edited by one key journalist.
In many ways this type of content is nothing new – any in-depth newspaper insight piece or TV news explainer might proffer the same information – but the value of the format is in the way it’s been structured. What’s the key to that success?
1) breakdown and access: the content feels like an ‘idiot’s guide’ but doesn’t talk down to us; it’s assuming a lack of knowledge but shares only what’s really important
2) shareability: there are share buttons on every page and the content is embeddable – you don’t need to re-invent this insight
3) design: the design of the cards is appealing, easy to navigate and stylish – it entices you in and enables speedy digestion of the information.
What can corporates and others learn from Vox Card Stacks?
Don’t shy away from explaining your processes, your techniques and your stories to your audience and customers: there is nothing like sharing some of your insight to reinforce just how clever you and your team are.
Break down complex stories into ‘bitesize chunks’: the best way to explain a complicated process is to break down into short and sharp bundles of information.
Create visual interest: think about what aspects of your information, your content and your data you can share visually. Break up long chunks of text or narrative with charts, graphics, images and data, but keep that data or information simple and easy to digest.
What else can we learn from Vox?
In this blog I haven’t even delved here into the maps, data, breadth of content, opinion and ‘tone’ of Vox… all of which build on its appeal.
Quartz is a business news site that launched in 2012 and prides itself on quality content and insight. That’s not to say the content on Quartz is dense and intractable; much as Vox re-invents the look and feel of the news magazine, so does Quartz, with simple graphics, clean images and delivery of content in varying formats.
Quartz content sits on a single scrolling front page and varies from simple graphics created in-house with basic stories attached (see the sleep story below) to speech transcripts from individuals with global resonance and straightforward news stories on key issues of the moment commissioned from a large team of staff writers.
There’s a smattering of sponsored content, from the likes of the Harvard Business School and some bold advertising banners and videos.
What are the takeaways from new publishers like Quartz?
Snackability: most of the content on Quartz is ‘bite-size’ and snackable, that is, it’s easy to read and to digest. There’s nothing grandiose or traditional about these publications – they’re exactly what you would design if you thought about creating a news digest from scratch in today’s multiplatform, multimedia environment.
Keep it tight: When you are creating content for your website, or you are planning your blog content, think short and sharp (much shorter than this blog!) and think about how to illustrate what you’re writing about – you don’t need fancy maps or charts, a simple Excel export or Canva creation will work effectively to enhance a clear message.
Simplicity in presentation and design: As with Vox, much of what Quartz delivers is simple in tone and language. The interface is clean, with bold colours and typography. Think about how you can strip your content down to the basics to enhance its look and feel. Here’s a great example from Xerox-sponsored content magazine, Real Business.
Gay Flashman runs Formative Content, a UK-based content marketing agency helping businesses tell corporate stories. Formative creates compelling, intelligent, multi-lingual content for clients – everything from long-form insight & thought leadership, to infographics, memes, videos and webinars.