FLYP articleExcerpt from my post for Poynter Online. Read it in full here.

There is no silver bullet for a journalism revenue stream or the struggle to reinvent storytelling for the Web. But there are fragments of a bullet that we can piece together.

Jim Gaines, editor in chief of FLYP, an online magazine that combines traditional reporting and writing with animation, audio, video and interactive graphics, thinks he has found a piece of that bullet. It includes rethinking the way storytelling is done online.

Magazines and news organizations may want to keep an eye on what Gaines and his team are doing with FLYP and learn from the site’s successes and shortcomings.

Experimenting with digital distribution and multiple storytelling media

FLYP published its first issue in March 2008 and now has produced 35 biweekly issues. The magazine, an experiment in telling stories through multimedia, is part of the company’s overall goal to become an online publishing company that creates all sorts of publications.

There is no reason, Gaines said, for publications to spend so much money on ink, paper and distribution, expenses that can cause magazines to fail.

Two of the advantages of the Web are not having to worry about these costs and not being limited to one storytelling medium. FLYP’s approach often involves multimedia that allows users to watch a video, flip through pages, listen to an interview and click through an interactive graphic.

“When we think of which medium to use, we think, ‘how do we get the story off the page?’ ” said Gaines, who has worked as managing editor of People, Time and Life magazines.

Charles Whitaker, director of the Academy for Alternative Journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, said in a phone interview that FLYP does a good job of guiding users through a digital narrative, while at the same time giving users control over how they experience the story. Whitaker talked about preserving the experience of flipping a page, saying, “For old-timers like me, there is something comforting about that.”

The question is whether it’s enough. Michael Turro, director of publishing technologies for M. Shanken Communications, the publisher of Wine Spectator, Food Arts and other magazines, said in an e-mail that restructuring magazine publishing isn’t as simple as changing how a magazine presents content to readers. Many emerging tools, he noted, give audiences the power to create their own media spaces.

“As they become more sophisticated in the construction of their own media spaces,” Turro said, “media participants will look for content chunks that they can remix in a way that makes sense to them.” He said publishers should stop wasting their time creating Flash-heavy, multimedia presentations and instead provide tools for readers that allow them to remix the content in a way that makes sense to them, whether through pushbutton technology or something else.

Read the full post here.

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