Living in Texas for a few years now, I’ve discovered what a big deal rodeos are. They are way more than a sporting event. They are a cultural experience. Concerts. Rides. Rodeo. BBQ cook offs. They are a big deal.
So, when news came out this week announcing the concert lineup for this year’s Houston Rodeo, I was excited to see the list. The Houston Chronicle’s Facebook page had a story announcing the lineup. The story, done in narrative form, did list a few of the headliners, but didn’t provide me what I wanted which was the full lineup with dates. I could get that information but only if I would click through a photo gallery that would show me the lineup, which is a strategy to basically squeeze lots of page views out of a user. It’s a bad experience.
An ABC station in Houston did a better job. They also had a gallery you could click through to see who was performing each day but they also offered a bulleted list.
I wrote last year about the annoyance of not giving readers what they most want in the body of a story in the format that is best for them. In my past post, I used an example from ESPN where in a story about that week’s college football poll, they didn’t offer the actual list showing where each team ranked in the poll. They made readers click a link for the list.
The above from The Chronicle is a great example where some planning and brainstorming with the producer of this content could have led to a much better experience.
Here are three things they could have done:
- Run the list by date of who will perform and put a photo next to each performer and allow the user to scroll through the list.
- Do the same thing in idea No. 1, but use a video from each band and also allow users to scroll through the list.
- Treat the story as a listicle, “5 biggest stars coming to Houston rodeo.” And of course, at the bottom of the listicle, provide the entire list.
What has to change in our content approach is thinking first and foremost about the experience for the reader. It’s not just about writing a great story but we must consider the best formats and tools we are going to use to tell that story. Reporters have to think about how their content is going to be consumed and how best to approach the story. Narrative approaches still are used too much. It’s because it’s what many are comfortable with. But as mobile becomes such a huge part of our traffic and audience, we have to recognize that there are simply better formats and approaches. It needs to be a story-by-story decision. I think an approach where reporters are pushed and encouraged to think with others in the newsroom about the best way to tell and display their stories, can be an exciting creative process.