The 10 laws of multimedia

“To be great, multimedia has to make the story better than it would be in a legacy form,” Al Tompkins said.

To that end, Tompkins shared his 10 Laws of Multimedia with a group of educators at the Poynter Institute.

Law #1 Make it interactive
It gives control to the user, and with our interest in metrics, interactivity increases stickiness — basically the amount of time spent on the site.

Law #2 Be search engine friendly
Design your site and your headlines with SEO in mind.  Avoid Flash animation or images in the upper-left of your page.  Spiders look at first 1-4 words in a headline, so you want to pay special attention to the way you write them.

Law #3 Aggregate and generate
Don’t be afraid to publish good work that other people do in addition to the work that you generate.

Law #4 Go raw, let viewers experience information on their own terms
Use raw video and other source information to let audience members see it for themseves.  Put your evidence online.

Law #5 Leverage your digital assets
You may be generating information that the public will be interested in, i.e. putting your editorial meeting online.  If it’s completely unique content that people really want, they’ll pay for it, i.e. at least one newspaper experimenting with a pay wall for obits.

Law #6 Involve the public, but make it meaningful
Give people a way to share what they know.

Law #7 Tap into local passion groups
Give people a place to meet like-minded individuals ala Facebook.  Help them form communities.

Law #8 Map it
Mapping gives you a wide shot and specificity in communicating information.  The “Faces of the Fallen” project is one example.  Try quikmaps for easily creating an interactive map.

Law #9 Feed your needs, too
Get yourself in front of the world online.  For example, check out the oil ticker on the NewsHour website, which they allowed other news organizations to embed in their own sites.

Law #10 Save elaborate presentations for projects with staying power
If it’s going to be a lot of work, make sure it has shelf life.

“The most important reason to do multimedia is to improve the journalism,” Tompkins said.