Golden on getting storytelling right... without the 'TL:DR'

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A full programme over the three days of the IfraExpo/DCX promises speaker after speaker loud in praise of print's ability to engage its readers.

Right from the start, opening keynote and WAN-Ifra president Michael Golden - a retired New York Times vice-chairman - explained that "we are all here because journalism brings us together and our storytelling is a fundamental human need.

"It is how we connect with people, and the connection or engagement is fundamental to what we all do."

Storytelling and engagement was a constant theme through the first day of the expo, held again in the Berlin Messe, with exhibitor speakers also spruiking ways to track, measure and build the time spent on reading news in print and online, amid pleas to take the fourth dimension seriously in getting and keeping eyeballs on news and advertising.

Golden's message was that journalism was "core to what we do" and that in measuring engagement, we need lots of diversity in storytelling: "There is no single formula and it depends on who you are talking to. International news is different to local news, where you are talking to a very wide group of people and the response varies in medium and topic.

"Journalism has to stick with the truth; inform all our readers by staying true to the story. This is what distinguishes us from fake news - that curse on society - and highlights the difference between what we do and the developers of fake news."

Donald Trump was bound to crop up in the dialogue, and Golden used an NYT story about him as an illustration of great storytelling: The investigation into Trump's early years and where his money actually came from, which ran to 13,000 words and eight newspaper pages. The NYT also published a very much shorter version on the same day called Takeaways From the Investigation.

Golden (pictured) said, "I had come up with a new acronym for the long version - Too Long: Didn't Read."

And he added, "then we have to work out if the storytelling is working".

Data "is our friend", and provides insights into how deep readers went, whether they looked at the video if one was included, and whether they followed the links if they were any.

"We can then check if the trends are meaningful and build engagement which leads to the vital paid subscribers," he said.

But Golden warned that data could also be a foe, "and hurt our business and our society". He cited the smartphone as "the best spying device ever" in the wrong hands, posing a threat which had to be taken seriously. "We have a very important story to tell society - the challenge of storytelling is one we must undertake together."

Later NYT chief information officer Cindy Taibi told of the Growth of the Women in Tech taskforce at the city institution, and its impact on recruiting, training and boosting the work/life balance for a growing number of female tech employees."

When it came to getting management to listen, she said, it was an example where "data was our friend".

Maggie Coleman

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