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Interactive Images 101 For Newsrooms

Interactive images are sort of like traditional print infographics, except bit by a radioactive digital spider that transforms them into heroic superhero graphics, writes Aimee Heckel, explaining they are one of the easiest, most flexible and exciting ways to digitally transform a story. Read more from CrowdCheck.  

Interactive images changed journalism for me.

When I first began exploring with digital journalism several years ago, they stuck out as one of the easiest, most flexible and exciting ways to digitally transform a story.

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Aimee Heckel
Interactive images are sort of like traditional print infographics, except bit by a radioactive digital spider that transforms them into heroic superhero graphics.

Some, like Thinglink.com, allow you to adorn a photo or video with dots that pop up with more detailed text, videos or other photos. As the name implies, Thinglink is a collection of links. These allow you to easily organize and present details of a static photo. Thinglink is user-friendly and looks clean, so it’s my favorite option.

Others, like Prezi.com, let readers dive deeper into a photo. The image does not stay static; it zooms and pans (and is totally fun to play with). Prezi is actually presentation software that is commonly used in classrooms and boardrooms, but it’s embeddable and with the free app, and it’s smartphone-friendly, too.

My third recommendation is NewHive.com, which is essentially a blank page. Easily add components, shapes, text, audio, video, pics — your imagination is the limit. This takes a little more of a design eye (so it’s easier to yuck up, from experience), but staff photographers and page designers might enjoy this option, too.

Brand Connections

The number game

All of these options are embeddable, so they do not drive traffic away from your website; they only enhance your stories.

However, one added bonus is the apps themselves often promote images. So add a link back to the original story, and you might gain extra readers from across the country.

For example, I used NewHive to present this profile of an illegal motorcycle jumper, Evil Cheesey, and NewHive promoted it. It has since been viewed 12,000 times, which is a huge number for a NewHive “expression.” A NewHive staffer actually shared my expression on Twitter before my story went live on my newspaper’s site, so I was able to determine that at least the first several thousand of those hits came purely from NewHive users.

Another NewHive page I created, “The Process of Elimination,” ended up being the most-read article on the Daily Camera website for more than one day, a rarity for a features story. The subject’s blog went from about a dozen subscribers to 1,500 in two days. The story itself was soon picked up by Readers Digest.

Here are five different ways to use interactive images in your own newsroom today:

1. Use them to tease your front page. The Colorado Daily used ThingLink to help promote the front page of its print edition on social media. This is a great way to distribute a bunch of information quickly in a visual format, rather than posting headlines with links on your newspaper’s Facebook.

2. Use them instead of maps. Prezi allows readers to zoom into specific areas on a map to get specific information. Here’s a great map that reporter Sarah Kuta at the Boulder Daily Camera used to share the route for last year’s BolderBoulder race.

3. Use them to build a mini, embeddable or external webpage with no coding. Longmont Times-Call reporter Whitney Bryen used NewHive to organize a package with multiple digital pieces. Instead of being limited by our content management system, we created our own presentation, Bryen says.

4. Use them as a creative way to string together many videos to preview or review an event, show or sports game. Instead of a traditional preview for this aerial dance performance, I took short video clips of a rehearsal and pieced them together on a graphic. The show itself was quirky, so this quirky presentation seemed fitting.

5. Use them for awards stories. Got a long list of names, award recipients or head shots? Check out how Bryen organized about 60 different community members on one page. Each headshot features a button that links to the person’s story on Timescall.com. This image garnered 899 image views, 466 click-throughs and a thumb’s up from a Thinglink staffer.
Aimee Heckel is known as the “Modern Lois Lane” for her explorative work in digital journalism. Read her modern journalism blog at ModernLoisLane.blogspot.com. Reach out to her at AimeeHeckel.com.

Read more from CrowdCheck.


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