Robert Niles: Journalists Should Build “Explainer Articles” to Complement News Stories

In the Online Journalism Review, Robert Niles argues that journalists should focus more energy on creating persistent, encyclopedic “explainer articles” that can be updated on an ongoing basis as new information develops about a topic, and linked to whenever a relevant news item is published:

I’ve long advocated that journalists and newsrooms create “wiki”-style explainer articles for stories of enduring interest in their communities. Edit them in-house, but link to them whenever you write a post or piece about that story, as a way for infrequent visitors to get “up to speed.” They’re great search engine bait for the curious, as well.

Changing your mindset from story-writing to asset creation shifts your focus from a single element of news production toward the larger process of serving an audience. Ultimately, your audience determines if something is an asset. After all, if no audience sees value in it, it has no value.

With explainer articles, journalists and news organizations can provide a comprehensive source of background information that people are otherwise likely to leave their websites to find, after reading an individual news item. These articles can perhaps even help news organizations see the web as more than just a rapid-cycle place in which content must constantly turn over to generate page views. After all, a journalist who has covered a particular beat over a significant period of time is likely to be one of the best sources of authoritative, reference-able knowledge that will receive sustained attention well beyond a short news cycle.

Apologies, for this post the comments are closed.