An editorial guide to creating stories in Core Publisher's responsive design

Jan 29, 2015

Credit VPR.net

So you have a newly designed Core Publisher web site that's responsive and looks beautiful. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you're creating stories in Core Publisher (or any content management system) to make sure you get the most out of it.

Spend time on headlines

Headlines are more important than ever. The Internet is a noisy place and the headline is the best shot you have at cutting through that noise and letting people know you have something worthwhile. Headlines travel everywhere -- Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, mobile devices, tablets, web browsers. If you write a good headline, you write a good headline in many different places. And in Core Publisher, headlines are nice and big and bold

With that in mind, I suggest brainstorming a few headlines before you start creating a post. We mentioned this in a 2013 piece:

Write a headline first — before you begin crafting your story. The headline should be a simple, straightforward, specific promise about what the story’s about. You might discover a different headline through your reporting, but starting with something precise will help focus the story.

You can find more headline tips in this webinar or in this checklist we created.

Help people navigate your stories

If you're writing a story or webifying a radio story, make sure to think about the experience you're creating. Someone will find your post (especially if you nailed the headline), likely while scanning Facebook. Likely on a mobile device. That person will land on your post. How are you telling the story to that person? If they see a big sea of text, there's a good chance they'll move on to something else.

So help your visitors navigate through the post. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Get right to the point at the beginning of the post. People are impatient and want to know what your story is all about.
  • Use bolded subheads to break up the text and to tease out different parts of the story.
  • Use pullquotes to highlight interesting things people say.
  • Links, links, links. Use links in every story you create. You can link to other posts, helpful resources or to other news organizations. Links are an essential part of telling stories on the Internet and allow you to connect your stories.

Be visual

You should include at least one image with every post. This can be challenging, but it makes a big difference on your home page and when people share your stories on social media. 

The Core Publisher responsive design gives you a few options for images. If you have a beautiful photo, make sure you give it the treatment it deserves. You should also consider plotting images throughout the post to help tell the story. (Be careful about placing images near underwriting). 

If you haven't watched/read this post about visual storytelling, I suggest checking it out. And if you need some ideas on acquiring and finding images online, this will help.

Match the format to the story

Before you begin creating a post, ask yourself: What is the story I'm trying to tell? This question, along with the headline exercise I mentioned earlier, will help you figure out what you need to create. Every story's different. So every story shouldn't be 400-600 words of text. Maybe you can use images to tell the story. Maybe you can find a video or two to embed. Maybe there are audio clips you can sprinkle throughout. And maybe the story only requires a few of paragraphs and an image.  

The point is that there's a tendency to fill up a post with text, especially when you're webifying a radio story. But you should think hard about the story you're trying to tell and what purpose the text serves.  

On the same level, be careful about adding elements for the sake of adding things. Do you really need a map? Does that map help tell the story? Does that map look good on a mobile devices? 

Make sure it looks good 

Seems obvious, right? But before hitting publish, give your post a look over. Does it look good? Have you formatted it in a way that keeps the layout simple and doesn't distract from the story? Have you used webby elements to break up text? 

You should also make sure your story doesn't bump into or sit next to underwriting in a way that might confuse the reader. If an ad block is causing a photo to bump down the page, try aligning it differently or moving it to a different place on the page. 

And don't forget to look at your post on a mobile device -- that's how many people will be looking at it.

Experiment

Finally, have fun with it. Core Publisher gives you the flexibility to try some different ways to tell stories. You should use that flexibility. Test out different ways you can tell stories using audio, photos, videos and other elements.