Innovation in 2017

Trendy, creative storytelling using Tumblr (not just another SNS)

Written by Huong Tran

Journalists are constantly on the lookout for new, dynamic ways to tell stories as it’s increasingly difficult to grab attention and maintain quality of news at the same time. Traditional news tend to bore the younger audience to death. But there is a way to be the cool funny guy in the group without dumbing the content down, it is Tumblr!

Tumblr is a social blogging platform which is incredibly easy to use, multimedia rich, simple and powerful tool for creative storytelling. According to the 2014 Global Web Index, it’s the fastest growing social network (120% increase in number of new users, compared to Facebook just 2%). This 10 year-old platform appeals to most younger audience with 70% of its users are between 16-34 years old.

How is it helping journalists to do a better job?

The first thing you see after logging into your Tumblr account is a Dashboard where you can generate 7 multimedia reporting posts: Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio and Video. There are publish options that you can choose from: Publish now, Add to queue, Publish on…(schedule it), Save as draft, Private. It doesn’t have word limits like Twitter, which allows you to explore issues in greater depth and interact with readers.

7 types of posts on Tumblr

You can promote content and others’ stories (Reblog), build a community (Like, Follow, Reply, Answer), find story ideas, network with other journalists and newsrooms. Tumblr is a goldmine for creative uses of visuals (photos, animated GIFs, videos). It’s where humour and self-expression are highly encouraged.

Journalists can reveal news gathering, curate/report news, collect news quotes, post photo essay and accept submission. Tumblr’s versatility, as in different ways of presenting and embedding content, was something the Guardian want to experiment with.

The Guardian

<img src=“image.jpg” alt=“instagram app” title=“instagram”>

75 year-old grandpa has got over 180k followers on Instagram

Take this story about a 75 year old grandpa who learnt to use Instagram to stay in touch with his grandchildren overseas as an example. This guardian post uses images, gif, nice colours and simple texts. As a reader, you will find it more fun to follow the story. This post received 843 notes which is the amount of likes and reblogs.

The Washington Post

The Washington Post is one of many news organisations using Tumblr to engage with readers, connect with a younger audience and document experiments in journalism. Its storytelling style is somewhat quirky.

Take this photo montage of brains for instance, which is promoting a new book called “Malformed: Brains from the Texas State Mental Hospital.” Or this animated gif of an exploding turkey to warn people of accidents with deep fat fryers.

NPR –  Tumblr has “a nice community built in”

If you follow NPR on Tumblr, you know how much they adore this creative platform. One of their special NPR project is: “Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt” which documents the journey of the creation of one T-shirt by NPR reporters around the world. They broadcasted a series of photos, gifs, BTS of the hard-working team and videos.

Melody Kramer, an editor and digital strategist for NPR, and one of the six main NPR Tumblr curators, said there are some other benefits in using Tumblr. It allows users to play with the code to create customised page design, search through the blog’s post archive or browse posts in a particular period of time.

Newsweek – “We’re finding that more people like to share the pictures.”

Shaminder Dulai, Newsweek’s photo director, took over the Newsweek Tumblr in October 2014. He has a goal to make its Tumblr account visually appealing to readers and drive them back to the website. He focus on photographs with accompanying text from the related article. He had a strategy shift over the summertime, that is “Less is more”. Posting a little less proves to enhance the performance of the post. This story about protest in Hong Kong in 2014 is a clear example.

<img src=“image.jpg” alt=“protest police” title=“protest police”>

Protest in Hong Kong (illustration image)

If you are a journalism student, I highly recommend you to join this inspiring and fun platform and keep yourself updated with the latest in the world. Visit my previous blog post about a data story here

About the author

Huong Tran