Picking Your Medium
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Picking Your Medium

At Adrift we often talk about being Story First. Which in a nutshell just means that we create the story before we choose the medium. We do this because it is very easy to get wrapped up in the do's and do not's of each medium, but also you might get stuck in the trap of enforcing a story on a medium that does not work well with it.
For example, podcasting, which is where we got our start. It's a brilliant medium, can create the same magic as books by projecting images on to your minds eye, but given the wrong story can exacerbate issues with content that might not have the structure that podcasts require. Podcasting in the last two years has exploded with everyone wanting to jump on the bandwagon, but the truth is, it isn't right for everyone. Many stories were brought to the medium that would have been better served as a blog post or a short video. It is another manifestation of "Couldn't this meeting have been an email?".
You want to give your story the best possible chance at finding the biggest possible audience and the medium is everything. Of course each medium has multiple subsections, for example video has ultra short form (TikTok), short form (Youtube) and long form (feature film). Before you dive into those subsections it's worth understanding which mediums work best for what kind of content. Lifting ourselves out of those subsections we are left with four top line mediums.

The Written Word

Don't be scared, we know writing can be difficult, but it also can the most powerful tool for storytelling. What the written word offers over the other mediums is clarity. From the outset your audience can understand the structure of what you are trying to convey and quickly find the information they need.
The written word also has the benefit of having no assists. No audio or visuals to help, just your audience and your words. When you write "imagine a misty mountain", your audience conjures up their perfect misty mountain.
We find the written word is best suited for those stories that you either need to explain in detail with no compromises or ideas that may require a bit of jumping around. It's much easier to search text than it is to hunt for that second you missed in a video.

Audio

Audio and all of its subsections are a brilliant playground for stories. They offer a low cost entry into big worlds and ideas. It offers familiarity that no other mediums do through listening to conversations that feel like you are part of them.
It's also the easiest to get wrong. That familiarity is built on structure. That structure builds expectation. Audio exists in the spaces when you tend to be doing other things. Exercising, commuting or driving. It's because of it existing in these spaces that it is passive by nature. While you think you pay attention to audio, you more than likely drift in and out. Which is why structure is so important.
Even though you may feel your favourite comedian's podcast has no structure, the general flow of how they command conversations is what is fuelling the structure. That flow is what builds your familiarity with it.
The stories that work well with audio are personal ones. The ones where people are the focus of the story, not things. This is why music resonates so much, or you create space for that podcast that makes you feel relaxed. Audio also offers the opportunity to go long in the way that other formats do not. All you need is a bit of structure.

Video

The ultimate black hole for money and time. The trouble with video is everyone thinks they are a movie director. Unfortunately this where corners get cut and stray ideas create infinite scope expansion. So why on earth would you make a video?
It's the easiest medium to consume. Your ears are told what to listen to and your eyes told what to see. It's the most accessible medium for an audience to engage with a story.
Use video if you want to engage with someone right now in simple terms. Yes, your favourite Christopher Nolan film isn't simple, but every good video starts with a simple idea that you then layer on to.
If you want your moments to stick with your audience video is the way to go. Just remember the key to video is prior preparation, not doing your best Spielberg impression on shoot day.

Interactive

The ugly duckling of the group. This is where video games, virtual reality and even immersive theatre live. We see companies and creators shy away from interactive due to its perceived complexity or stigma towards video games.
Here's what interactive isn't good for. Doing anything quickly.
The positives are how far interactive can go. Many media specialists will talk about personalisation. Written word, audio and video cannot come close to the amount of personalisation that interactive offers. You don't even have to build for personalisation as every person who interacts with your story will see it differently. Whether you need to display dry corporate content in a different way or immerse your audience in a multi threaded storyline, interactive has your back.
It's also become easier to create these experiences than ever before. Recent tools have made creating stories in these environments more accessible than ever. With the added bonus that you'll reach audiences you never would have without interactive.
The big feather in interactive's cap is really build once distribute anywhere. This is something we're working on with our storytelling platform Noctus.
If you have a story that needs more options than a linear medium can give you and if you want your audience's full attention interactive is something you should look at. If you need it tomorrow, it might not be the best choice. Although we are working on that.

The Wild Card

At this point you are probably thinking "Didn't you say there were only four mediums?". Well yes, and no. When new technologies and storytelling styles come to be, they usually fall into one of the prior mediums. This isn't always the case. As a storyteller the best thing you can do is tell the right story and the right time. The medium, doesn't really matter. If you're sitting in front of fire with a group of people you want to hear the story, tell the story. Keep your eye out. These opportunities come around more than you think.