Media Magazine

More Validation for the Two Tempos for Storytelling in a Digital World.

Posted on the 02 July 2014 by Themarioblog @garciainteract

The first paragraph of John Battelle's piece, titled A Return to  Form Media, includes two references that are quite revealing about the state of the media today.

Here they are:

"By the time I started Federated (Federated Media,, a decidedly online company, the time of print as a potent cultural force was over.

"New voices – the same voices that might have created magazines 20 years ago, now find new platforms, be they websites (a waning form in itself), or more likely, corporate-owned platforms like  iOS, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, and Vine."

In that first paragraph Battelle reminds us that  the status of print (in the midst of the media quartet) has been altered to a less robust one, and, a second warning: websites are waning.

The two tempos are essential for publishing today

I tend to agree with both, but what made me re-read the Battelle's article has more to do with his philosophy than with his statements and predictions about the media.

Like Battelle, I agree that print is not to be buried. Quite the contrary, it is to be celebrated as it changes to accommodate its new role in the midst of the media quartet. Like him, I don't romance print. In fact,  I constantly remind my clients of the things that print did so well that digital could and should emulate, starting with the curation of content.

"As we abandoned print, we also abandoned  a few critical characteristics of the medium, elements I think we need to identify and re-integrate into whatever future publications we create," Battelle writes.

Battelle advocates a return to what he refers to as "form," something which we have promoted in various blog posts here. 

This thought is at the heart of how editors and publishers can begin to turn their newsrooms around, not with a digital first mantra, but with a digital first now philosophy that is clearly outlined and which finds an appropriate place for each of the platforms in the media quartet. It's worth reviewing the centerpieces of this philosophy again:

1. Curated information with a beginning a middle and an end: 

From Battelle: 

Let’s start with form. If nothing else, print forced form onto our ideas of what a media product might be. Print took a certain form – a magazine was bound words on paper, a newspaper, folded newsprint. This form gave readers a consistent and understandable product  - it began with the cover or front page, it ended, well, at the last page. It started, it had a middle, it had an end. A well-executed print product was complete – a formed object – something that most online publications and apps, with some notable exceptions, seem never to be.

In the Garcia blog:

"-People want their time with these digital platforms, whichever it is, to have a beginning, a middle and an end. The bottomless barrel that is an online edition is NOT what we want all day long, not with our smartphones and tablets, for sure. I equate it to a workout in the gym: you are happy to know that it will come to an end, and there is that satisfaction when it does. A feeling of fulfillment."

2. Questioning the "stream"---that constant flow of information that we welcome, but which gives us a sense that we are never truly "through" with our information absorbing process.

From Battelle:

Battelle refers to the stream as the ceaseless cascade of always updated stories .

" I want to question whether “the stream” is really a satisfying form for providing what great media should deliver – namely voice and point of view. I would argue it is not, and our obsession with producing as many stories as possible (directly correlated to two decades of pageview-driven business models) has denatured the media landscape, rewarding an approach that turns us all into hummingbirds, frantically dipping our information-seeking beaks into endless waving fields of sugary snacks."

Battelle, like me and a majority of the readers I have listened to in focus groups worldwide, wants something other than the "stream".

"I, for one, want a return to form in media. I want to sit down for a meal every so often, and deeply engage with a thoughtful product that stops time, and makes sense of a subject that matters to me. A product that, by its form, pre-supposes editorial choices having been made – this story is important, it matters to you so we’ve included it, and we’ve interpreted it with our own voice and point of view. Those editorial choices are crucial – they turn a publication into a truly iconic brand."

The meal that Battelle wants to sit down to at certain times of the day is essential.  It is the second in the two-tempo mode that I advocate.  Yes, we want the constant flow of information, but we long for the "teddy bear" that is 

3. The benefits of engagement and brand recognition:  

Battelle highlights what we are aware of already: print products engage with you and you with them.  When we are reading our copy of The New Yorker or The Guardian, we have made a commitment to read and we are constantly reminded of which BRAND we are engaged with. We are, in a sense very connected to product and brand, but very disconnected from the periphery (as in pings, e mail and social media alerts, etc.)

It's more difficult, but not impossible, to have the brand as present in mobile platforms, for example.  Many brands are competing for our attention. We may have the Facebook, Twitter, etc. logos staring at us.  We may switch from one brand to the next in our quest for constant information and, I must add, stimulation.

But I am finding out that there are ways for us to rectify the issue of brand deployment in mobile platforms (subject for another coming blog post).

Battelle is right when he concludes in his piece that: ".... as we consider the future of media, and before we abandon print to the pages of history, we should recall that it has much to teach us. As we move into an era where media can exist on any given piece of glass, we should keep in mind print’s lessons of form, editions, and brand. They’ll serve us well."

Give the two tempos a chance

Indeed, the constant flow of information (or "stream") may not be the most satisfying of techniques, but it is one that we embrace and I have not seen signs that it should be eliminated or substituted.  But we also appreciate and welcome the curation of content, at least two or three times during our day.

More importantly, we are getting closer each day to the moment when editors begin to give each of the platforms its appropriate treatment.  This is the first step in the creation of a two-tempo philosophy of presenting information, where we acknowledge that our users consume information in a variety of ways, at different times of the day, and moving from one platform to the next with great ease.

Two tempos for storytelling shows us the way.  I am delighted to read the John Battelle piece and to see that he, too, advocates the importance of form and curation in the midst of a tsunami of non stop information.


Mario Garcia: Columbia University lecture Two Tempos for Storytelling

Here is the Hearst Digital Media lecture which I gave at Columbia University School of Journalism April 26, 2014, as part of my time at Columbia as the Hearst Digital Media Professional in Residence.        
TheMarioBlog post # xxxxxxxxx
Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus. comments powered by Disqus

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog