Crossovers: NPR Is Taking Video by Storm

Multimedia, a buzzword about a decade ago, is now the norm. Once a pleasant surprise to see video on the same page as text or a comment forum after a piece of content, the idea of multimedia has evolved from something exciting to something expected. We consider a website substandard if we can’t interact with it and other users on that site.

This multimedia emphasis has greatly influenced the way we tell stories, by making our experience with content more immersive. The Internet has grown into a behemoth of beautiful content, with radio transitioning to podcasts and magazines migrating to tablets, but those transitions are more about keeping up than testing new waters. New technologies have enabled all content creators to branch out from their traditional mediums, and some are doing it in an astounding way.

DSLR video has greatly contributed to this. The tech advancement triggered not just a shift in medium but an entirely new way to tell stories. Interestingly, R&D for video in DSLR came from news outlets’ requests for their photographers to be able to provide video when covering stories.  AP and other news syndicates understood the need to have their correspondents multitasking as traditional coverage of news started to shrink.


With this massive improvement in the capture of moving pictures, outlets that would not even dream of touching the prospect of the idea of the notion of video started adding video snippets overnight—and those snippets looked great. More importantly, those video snippets were produced with the same equipment outlets were buying for photography, a major cost savings.

The advances have not stopped there. Now you can buy a professional-grade field sound recorder for a couple hundred bucks instead of thousands. And photo geeks are leading the way in time-lapse software that exceeds the abilities of large-scale professional software like Adobe Lightroom. Essentially, if you can dream it, you can produce it—without having to appeal to media moguls like Rupert Murdoch for capital to start a media company.

And so, writers are becoming photographers. Video producers are starting their own blogs or podcasts. In our new Crossovers series, we showcase content creators who are plunging into other platforms to tell their stories. From the radio station rocking a kick-ass blog to the newspaper delivering timely video for their website, we’re honoring people who are trying something outside their norm—and doing it well.

Multimedia might not be a buzzword anymore, but it is experiencing a rebirth that makes early attempts of integration look something like this:


How NPR Is Taking Video by Storm

The first Crossover honoree, NPR, is one of my favorites—both for their traditional work and the new things they are doing. It has long been one of the best storytelling outlets on the planet. While NPR used to remind me of something my dad would make me listen to on road trips or my grandma would play while spending afternoons with her as a kid, it is far from a stuffy radio outlet. With programs like This American Life, Radiolab, and long list of others, they have been leading the way in radio storytelling for decades and are experiencing a new renaissance.

NPR Newsroom

Whether it’s their YouTube channel overflowing with sweet videos or their awesome blog that lets you choose if you want to read the story or listen to it, NPR has been keeping up with the 21st century.

About a year and a half ago, they went deep with video storytelling. (They’ve been on YouTube since 2006, but their earlier videos were basically just photos with audio.) For an epic feature on the international garment industry, Planet Money stopped talking about economics; they hit the road. Funded by a kickstarter, a “team of multimedia reporters covering the global economy” took a journey around the globe, passing through 10 countries, 3 continents, and 1 archipelago. The intro is below, but it is best watched from the minisite.

Not only did they produce some amazing videos about cotton making its way into the t-shirts we wear, they produced a great minisite to view their trip.


So, why did Planet Money/NPR attempt a crossover? Why go to the effort to branch out? Because the crossover makes you a better storyteller. As a photographer, you think of things visually. As a radio producer, you think of things conceptually. NPR has always been great at telling stories with words, but they must rely on imagination to paint the picture. By bringing in photographers and videographers to tell stories, they are not only enhancing their content, they are becoming better at producing it. Using all mediums, they are forced to think of things more deeply than with just audio.


NPRs leap into the world of multimedia has taken on many forms. From mini-sites like Planet Money making a t-shirt to a science-themed Tumblr named Skunk Bear, NPR did not just take a leap; they splashed in with a full-force cannonball. If you think of an NPR radio producer as a person running a race with an arm and leg tied behind their back while still keeping up in mass media, it is easy to see they were ready to go wild, digging into humor, science, silliness, and creative storytelling.

It is no surprise that they are killing it. This is the beauty of access to low-cost high-tech; we can expect great storytellers to tell even better stories. We can expect two-dimensional stories to take on more dimensions. We can expect to have our senses come alive while exploring the world online.

Be careful, though, a trip to the NPR YouTube page could suck you in, making you lose hours watching all of their witty, interesting, and funny videos. You have been warned.

Why Hip-Hop Makes for Great Visual Content

There are plenty of fascinating things in this world that make great visual content, and we see the same areas being explored over and over: science, health, business, tech. But there is one area of interest that seems to be continually mined for inspiration: hip-hop. From fascinating data visualizations to unique interactives to videos, this particular corner of pop culture shows up in our feeds a lot. 

Want to Climb Everest? This Cool Guide Walks You Through the Trip to the Summet

Big projects take big planning, and climbing Mount Everest isn’t any different. The challenge for an undertaking like this is keeping all the details in order, and making sure you’re prepared – the cost of failure is very high. For their Everest Guide, Winfield Outdoors created a smart flow chart we really like. They could have just given us a boring directory of articles, but instead they visually guide us through the many important steps needed to reach this lofty goal.

#TBT: 10 Vintage Ads Featuring Creepy Kids

We like a good #TBT because vintage visual content provides plenty of inspiration. From classic ads to historic data visualization, plenty of things from the past still hold up. But some things should definitely be forgotten by history. While perusing the plethora of vintage ads on the Internet, we noticed a surprising trend: a lot of vintage ads geared toward kids have a creep factor turned up to 11. Whether it’s the inappropriate products being sold or the Children of the Corn vibe in the way they’re depicted, it’s a little unnerving. Here are a few of our faves. 

Data Visualization 101: Heatmaps

For quickly visualizing variables across a region of the world, there are few better tools than the heat map.

What It Is

A heat map (or choropleth map) is a thematic map in which the area inside recognized boundaries—such as states, counties, or territories—is shaded in proportion to the data being represented. They can be used to represent population density, diversity, average temperatures, per-capita income, social views, and many other geographically important measurements.

Patatap Will Have You Creating Visual Music in No Time

Well, this is addictive. Patatap is a ‘portable animation and sound kit’ which lets you create melodies by tapping your keyboard or your phone. Along with each sound a corresponding shape animation is played against a backdrop of color. On the desktop, just hit spacebar and the soundscape transforms, as do the colors.

FEMA’s New Data Viz Tool Helps Communities Understand the Risk and Impact of Disasters

FEMA just launched a new data visualization tool aimed at help communities better understand the risk and impact of disasters. The tool charts historical disaster declaration data reaching back to 1953, giving a clear, county-specific picture of the type of disasters that have struck and how much FEMA spent on assistance. With this knowledge, communities can be better prepared for the unexpected and put their focus where it matters most.

Why Good Designs Starts in a Word Processor

Scope creep is something that plagues many industries, but creative work takes the cake for being the most ambiguous when it comes to expectations. In the design phase, client feedback (you know, words like “clean” or “modern” and phrases like “make it pop more” or “that is not at all what I explained to you”) can turn a great contract into a money pit for your firm. Managing expectations is tough when you start in the wrong place.

360 Music Videos Are Here: Google Tech Puts You in Control

What if while watching a video you could look anywhere you wanted? We’ve all imagined it… and now that dream is here. Google recently introduced 360° video playback. Just move your phone around (or use arrows on your browser) and you’ll get a virtual reality panoramic view of the filmed world. It’s super trippy and we think it’s going to be a big deal.

Tools of the Trade: 8 Creators and the Pens, Pencils and Markers They Love

Being creative doesn’t take any specific tool, but after years of work and exploration we all develop our favorites. Maybe the ink from that pen flows just right or makes the perfect tiny dots. Maybe that marker has the color with the most punch. You know what’s best and so do these artists using pens, pencils or markers. We rounded up 8 from past features to learn which tool they like to keep close, and what kind of work they’ve used them for.