#Innovationtelling — a new storytelling technique in mobile journalism.

Storytellers in all fields use analogies, metaphors, fables and other semiotic and rhetorical techniques. These are like vehicles which transport images and knowledge from one layer to another. For example the story of “Tootsie” teaches us the value of true love. “Cinderella” tells us how inner strength can overcome great challenges. The metaphor of the “cloud” visualizes the real-time structure of our present digital order. And so on.

In principle in today’s digital sphere we tell stories in short and compact mini-formats, which we link and as such extend. One important finding is: You can only understand and learn more of this exciting new digital way to tell stories and link knowledge, if you work with it hands-on. You can’t just theorise about it. As soon as I came to understand this, I am determined to explore more of these snippet-formats and bring them on: Short clips and stories, in real-time, multimedia, produced on mobile only and almost instantly shared on social media.

This new umbrella-technique of storytelling I brand as #innovationtelling, because it is born out of “open innovation” principles. I make use of #innovationtelling in all story-snippets on new developments in mobile journalism. Furthermore I explore in snippets-formats innovative tech and apps on diverse social media platforms. Like in this test-sample interview produced @ snapchat:

Open Innovation has been researched among others by the American economist Henry Chesbrough, who focuses on Lean-startups — “lean” (flat) and user-oriented enterprises — in the 21. century. Open innovation refers to the dynamic that an enterprise blends external and internal knowledge in order to increase and speed up its innovation strength. Additional methods are crowdsourcing and interactive participation of the prosumers — the consumer who turns producer.

In particular open innovation can be applied to or rather works at the heart of mobile journalism (#mojo) and social journalism. Here it connects perfectly well with the #mojo focus on intimate interactive production techniques in real-time and reciprocal beneficiary user-relations which transform content into the liquid form of ongoing conversations. In my view #mojo is much more than using a mobile device. Instead it is useful as an umbrella-term for the global paradigm shift from gatekeeping journalism to social and interactive journalism. Definitions often work exclusively. The beauty here is: #Mojo can be applied inclusively, by definition, it blurs the lines and can be executed by everyone with a “mo” and common digital sense.

Having said that I like to draw your attention to the relation of innovative openess for external knowledge and experience with the conventional internal code of conduct of journalism. The latter referring to research and digging-techniques which guarantee credible and fact-checked content which has been proven critical and skillful for quality journalism since at least the early days of the 20th century. The credibility and in-depth of information given in the stories or, most often, in the story-capsules, remain key. Journalists were, are and will be hold responsible for gathering, sourcing, analysing information, and then presenting the information/knowledge/facts in a credible story, making it relevant and beneficiary for users and public.

The conclusion is that the traditional code of conduct in journalism will apply also in the era of artificial intelligence (#AI) and digital clouds. Yet, in #mojo and social media research these principles require new techniques. On the one hand, journalists will be measured by the ethical standards of their reporting and building up within the information flow. On the other hand and nowadays, journalists build their personal brand by their standards of authenticity and credibility. Internal journalistic code of conduct is extended to recent tech and applied on the knowledge transfer with external stakeholders and user-communities.

One example for open innovation in journalism can be seen in the trend, that all global media companies open journalistic newsrooms rolling out the entire cross media landscape. Look at Bloomberg, whose success was built on financial products and terminals only. Today their new journalistic newsroom benefits from the strength and circulation of the financial products and vice versa the financial products benefit from the credibility of the journalistic content. That’s a win-win.

As well the face-detection software introduced on Snapchat and using latest #AI applications counts as a prominent example of open innovation in mobile journalism. The #AI software is activated in selfie-mode and then puts playful filter-masks on the real face on camera, like animal features, colourful feathers and crazy headdresses. Yusuf Omar is one of few mobile pioneers worldwide who explores all the latest tech for journalism and investigative journalism. He describes it as “hacking” the tech and repurposing it. At present he works at The Hindustan Times in New Delhi where he and his team build up the largest mobile only newsroom worldwide with about 750 reporters.

In July 2016 Omar produced and shared interviews with female Indian sexual abuse survivors who told their story to a worldwide public, first via social media and successively on all possible cross media platforms. The women were enabled to do so by making use of Snapchat face-detecting filters which would mask their identity but leave the emotional expression and authenticity visible and audible. Hence, Omar hacked the #AI-Filter-tech in Snapchat for an innovative purpose in an investigative journalistic story. Furthermore in the process each woman was able to choose her own filter, connecting with a new identity — as a public storyteller and groundbreaking witness — and partly gaining back more control over her story and her life.

Omar published his insights and more detailed background information on his approach later on Medium and in interviews with the BBC, The Guardian and many news organisations worldwide. In his talk at Mojo Meetup in London on August 15, 2016, he said: „The point is, you must see the potential and experiment with all the platforms and don’t judge from first sight. Snapchat on first sight is for teenagers sharing nudes. You must see far beyond that and find out how can you repurpose this tech for journalistic storytelling.“

If this understanding of mobile journalism is not a true journalistic model and displaying the ideal marriage between tech and investigative content plus empowerment — what else could be rightfully called so? It is the most exciting and social innovation technique in today’s world of journalism. It could become an valuable and feasible USP for news organisations who are willing to keep up the pace of the digital innovative engine and transform their organisation accordingly. Open innovation in the heart of #mojo is the new “digital queen”.

My thoughts on #innovationtelling are inspired by the journalistic work of @yusufomarsa and by @hutschek who shared his knowledge on open innovation with me and motivated me to rethink storytelling. Thanks.


For newsrooms, comms teams and organisations looking to get into multimedia storytelling and immersive technologies with seamless and cost-efficient methods our Now Age Storytelling Consultancy offers comprehensive support in hands-on trainings and strategic deployment.

We’re available to run hands-on workshops, consulting for digital transformation, product development and change management, to custom research and for speaking engagements.

Want to chat? Connect with me on LinkedIn or Email us.

Find out what we think will happen in multimedia storytelling with emerging technologies in 2019 and the near future and follow @devadasrajaram @memplexx @nowstorytelling on Twitter.

Dr. Marie Elisabeth Mueller

Written by

I love to learn together and to empower people with digital skills. 👓📲💥Multimedia Training | Digital Newsroom Solutions nowagestorytelling.co

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