Digital does not mean short / Le numérique ne signifie ni le court ni le rapide

Speaker: Carla Borrás, Director of innovation and digital media at Frontline on PBS / Intervenante: Carla Borrás, Directrice de l’innovation et du numérique de Frontline sur PBS

“In the digital realm there can be the notion that short is better,” Carla Borrás said. She explained that this perception stems from the bad reputation of young news consumers, that are displayed as craving snap bite-size content.

“It’s, of course, more nuanced than that,” Borrás explained. Making the room raise their hands if they had binge-watched a show, read a long-form article or been to a concert in the past week, Borrás underlined that audiences are not averse to long-form consumption as long as the storytelling is strong.

“Long-form is not dead – it is in fact alive and well,” Borrás underlined. Detailing how Frontline and PBS has invested heavily in interactive journalism, with stories like “The Last Generation”, she argued that telling stories with interactive elements can revive long-form storytelling.

Citing statistics that show that less than half of Americans say they can name a news organisation they think reports objectively, Borrás highlighted Frontline’s transparency project. By publishing full and uncut interviews on platforms like Youtube, Frontline aims to increase the public’s trust in their reporting. According to Borrás, the transparency project has also shown that Frontline viewers have a large attention span and appetite for long interviews, racking up more than six million views of Youtube, with an average view time of more than twenty minutes.

Podcast is another format where Frontline is seeing an opportunity to develop long-form storytelling. The fact that podcast listeners tend to tune in while multitasking offers a unique opportunity to tell stories that aren’t bite-sized, according to Borrás. The next season of Frontline’s “Dispatch” podcast will tell stories that span over multiple episodes.

Borrás underlined that for aspiring long-form journalists, it is key to understand that while digital medium offers many tools for storytellers, solid reporting remains the cornerstone of a good story.

“Always think story first, because that’s what matters the most,” Borrás said.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. I got a front-row seat to this when we got into virtual reality. The reporting and the story still need to be good”.

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