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 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.

Gamechangers: Honoring Content Creators Breaking Away from the Norm

I have no memories of the days of giant ad agencies, martini lunches, and art departments that actually used sketch books to create ads. I never had anyone like Don Draper as a boss. I wasn’t even alive in those golden days of huge budgets and captive audiences. Times have changed—dramatically—since the advent of instant communications, online video, Google analytics, and follower counts. Things are more efficient than ever but somehow often more ineffective than ever.

These 3 Trends are Killing Your Creativity

After nearly two decades working various jobs throughout the creative world, I’ve noticed a recent phenomenon in our industry’s culture. Creatives now are focusing more on insignificant things—like fashion trends and lifestyle accessories, while quality work is becoming the sideshow. Right-brainers have always done a knockout job of differentiating themselves from the rest of the pack, but I think these 3 distractions  may actually be hindering the creativity we for which we strive.

From Action Sports Athletes to Pop Culture Superstars: There are Some New Style Influencers in Town


Welcome to a new paradigm. Surf, skate and snow are no longer the sports reserved to low budget, flannel shirt wearing, flip-flop clad punks. The standard ‘throw on a hoodie and drink beers by the fire’ for after surf or apres ski is not so typical anymore.  Now that action sports athletes have emerged in the spotlight as very well paid and very well-dressed icons, they are contending with the usual suspects of fashion and style like models, rappers, and movie stars.  With bigger pocket books, and more attention than ever before, the philosophy of no suits and no stress has been substituted for Oscars parties, private jets and hobnobbing with who’s who at events all over the world.

H.G. Wells Time Machine: A Poster Made in Time Lapse


Sometimes illustrations look so daunting that it is hard to believe that a human, even with the help of a computer, can produce such incredibly intricate artwork… but somehow they still manage to produce these things of wonder. Beyond the most skilled at computer illustration, the way these creations come to life is truly a mystery… that is until now. Kevin Tong is the master behind this poster, featuring a tribute to H.G. Wells Time Machine, and has been gracious enough to provide a time lapse of his craft.

Earth’s History in 2 Minutes


Let’s start with the fact that this was done by a 19 year old. Then we can add that he is in a beginners video production class. Then lets add that he was able to find all of these photos with quick and easy internet searches for photos. Now add to the whole picture that after he uploaded the video, in three months he received over 1 million views. It is a different world from when older generations used linear editing systems.

How Would Kerouac Like Becoming an Infographic?


Jack Kerouac’s gravestone reads, “He honored life.” Said to be a progenitor of the hippie movement and pioneer of the beat generation, he lived a simple life. Kerouac claimed that he wrote his novel, On the Road over the course of three weeks on a 120-foot roll of teletype paper. The makeshift roll was actually tracing paper sheets taped together and the novel was typed single spaced, without margins or paragraph breaks. His antics made it hard to doubt that he marched to the beat of a different drummer than most.

Take That You Ugly Ship


“Your ship looked like s#!t, so we painted it,” is the tag line from the Vimeo video showing the process of sprucing up this busted ship. Deemed “The Fun Ship,” this massive vessel has been beached at Llanerch-y-Mor near Mostyn since the summer of 1979.  For those of you, like myself, that do not know where to find Mostyn on a map, it is around the way from Liverpool in the UK (see map below). Liverpool based Empirewise Ltd had big plans for the ship to transform into a 300-room hotel, static leisure center and market, but not much has happened since its arrival in ’79.

Time Travel with Digital Photos


Roads run through places in the USA forgotten by time, roads which meander through places that seem like they have not been updated in decades, if not centuries. Sometimes the nostalgic look is on purpose, to capture traditions of the past; other times the run-down look is simply because the places have been left alone by progress. The wonders of digital photography allow us to manipulate photos in many ways, but in the last handful of years that ability has allowed us to transport the images back in time.