We need a digital reporting tool and Storyplanet shows promise

A digital reporting or storytelling tool can provide a one-stop solution for presenting multimedia contents. Storyplanet, a new web-based tool, shows promise of becoming such a digital reporting platform.

Why we need a digital reporting/storytelling tool

A family or company event, a freelance report, a multimedia press release or sales pitch –  increasingly, the “stories” we want to tell and share come with multiple contents: texts, photos, videos, audios, photo sound slideshows, customized map, data visualizations, etc.

We have seen interactive, multimedia stories on websites of news media, but most people don’t have the same resources and support that news media provide for their reporters and editors to create multimedia stories. Is there, or should there be, a way for anyone to create and share a story, with multimedia contents, an interactive interface, and without a support team?

In my journalism classes, I have been looking for ways for students to create interactive, multimedia reports. The biggest obstacle has been the interactive interface where a visitor can navigate the different conents – it used to be mission impossible without a good knowledge of Adobe Flash animation. Another obstacle has been web hosting – if you want to share a digital report online, the contents (audio, video, slideshow, etc.) must be hosted on a server.

A digital reporting solution I developed for my classes

Thanks to the proliferation of web tools and services, I find a solution that is close to what I want for a digital reporting tool. As I demonstrated in several other posts, I was able to create and share digital reporting packages by making use of free website creation services such as Wix and IM Creator, along with various social media services.

Click on the screenshot below to view a multimedia story about Tent City, a makeshift “village” by homeless people in Lakewood, New Jersey. All of the contents are created or hosted using free tools/services or free versions of the paid tools/services. The tools/services utilized include Youtube, Audacity, SoundCloud, Soundslides, Dropbox, Google Maps, Tableau Public, and lastly, Wix.


This method has its cons. Wix is a web-based website design tool, so its workflow is not optimized for multimedia story creation. For instance, a common task for digital reporting is to embed social media contents; to do that in Wix, you need to use the HTML command which is buried deep in the work space. Besides, Wix doesn’t host contents – you’ll have to upload audio/video to other web services then embed them in the Wix package.

Storyplanet, still in beta, is a promising solution

So, a digital reporting or storytelling tool should provide such a one-stop solution:

  • Accommodate multiple media types
  • Workflow and interface optimized for story creation
  • Content hosting (no need to upload contents elsewhere)

Storyplanet, a dedicated storytelling platform in its beta since May 2012 and scheduled to launch publicly this year, shows promise to become a digital reporting or storytelling solution that I’ve been waiting for – it creates an interactive package out of different media types, it allows user to upload photo, audio and video, and it features an interesting concept of workflow: grid and tile.

I have not been able to test Storyplanet myself – been on their waiting list for beta tester. A journalism.co.uk article introduced the workflow of Storyplanet with a screenshot of the workspace:

Each story is built on a grid, which users can then add “tiles” to, which effectively form each page of the story, and appear like slides in a presentation. The grid format means tiles can be arranged in different structures based on the desired flow of the story and navigation between pages can also be applied.


Click the screenshot below for an introduction about Storyplanet – the intro itself is an interactive story created with Storyplanet. Pay attention to the different types of contents used in the story, the left/right and up/down navigation, and the fact that all the contents are hosted by Storyplanet.


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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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