Print vs. Screen: Which tells the best story?

If there is one thing I have learned from my experience with internships or through my education as a Communication and Media major, it is that content must adapt to the platform which it appears on. For example, a social media manager at Cosmo would never post the same exact content to the magazine’s Instagram, Snapchat and website. Although the message or the story may be the same, the amount, type and look of the information published is formatted and optimized for each platform.

If there is another thing that I’ve learned, it’s that the audience should be your number one priority, even before writing a single word. Each platform, whether it be print (analog) or digital media, invites a different audience which expect different features and types or information. Conversations about the difference between analog and digital media are common! (In fact, here is a fellow WordPress blogger’s post on the topic!)

Today, one of the biggest differences between platforms exists between print newspapers and news websites. In order to describe these differences in a concrete way, I’ll compare and contrast Jon Emont’s story titled, “Python Swallows and Indonesian Villager Whole”, which was published in The New York Times and the same story as told by the CBS News website under the title, “Indonesian man’s body reportedly found inside python.”

One expectation of digital media which differs from the expectations of analog media is offering multimedia. Carroll (2014) agrees. The author discusses digital media’s ability to transport readers to similar content or interesting places (Carroll, 2014, p. 32). The New York Times story on the man-eating python begins and ends on less than one-third of a singular page in the newspaper and consists only of words. In contrast, CBS News’ digital story on the same topic begins on one webpage and ends in a variety of places. The audience can be taken to similar stories through the links located in the CBSN Live column on the left. Or, the audience could see the image placed below the title and, if they feel inclined, share it through email or on Facebook, Twitter or StumbleUpon with one swift click of the mouse (or even swipe of the finger). Or, the audience could click through a slideshow of the 15 “most deadly serpents.” It seems that digital media has the added burden or engaging the audience in more ways than one.

Image-1 (1)
Image of article in The New York Times
Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 5.59.12 PM
Image of article on CBS News website

A second difference between analog and digital media is offered by Carroll (2014): “scan-ability” (p. 34). In order to engage the online audience, digital media must get right to the point and offer the most interesting and pertinent information first. This is to allow readers to scan the article and leave the page quickly while still feeling that they know the major points and details. For example, the online story of the man-eating python gives the most pertinent information within the first 28 words of the article. The print version sets the scene and describes the video which captured the swallow all before giving information about the incident. IronPaper outlines how authors of digital media can write specifically for “scan-ability” and includes tips like: position images within the article, write in small paragraphs, and keep the article concise.

A third difference between analog and digital media is what it takes for authors to be considered credible. Carroll (2014) states that due to misinformation and misrepresentation often found in digital media sources, establishing credibility online has become increasingly important (p. 36). This increased effort on digital media’s part is easily illustrated easily by contrasting the author sections in analog and digital pieces. In The New York Times, the author section resembles this example: “By JOHN DOE”. Print sources carry a prestige and high degree of credibility to them, so this is transferred to the author of the paper’s articles and authors. However, online this is not the case. Online articles typically have an author section which is more like the picture below.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 6.08.35 PM
Author bio on website of The Huffington Post

This is to verify the source and ensure that the author has the authority and credibility to report on the topic at hand (Carroll, 2014, pg. 41). Howard Finberg found that the public largely accepts online news as a credible news source. Additionally, he and his colleagues found that the public is open to the new practices of digital reporting. Findberg suggests that this is the time to ensure that the public forms a positive and optimistic view of digital news sources’ credibility. This may be another reason why online publications publish extensive author bios which provide the audience with the authors’ expertise and allow for the audience to trust the source.

A fourth difference between analog and digital media is the degree of immediacy that digital media provides (Carroll, 2014, p. 34). This can be easily illustrated by comparing the titles of each article.Image-3

This title published with the article in The New York Times leaves much to the reader’s imagination. It does not give the reader much information as to how this story unfolded or what it is going to reveal, which pulls them in to read the full article.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 6.36.15 PM

This title published with the article on CBS News’ website describes that a man’s body was reportedly found in a python. It was not watched live at a three-ring circus, which a reader of the article in The New York Times would not know. This title allows people to read the title alone and walk away with a better understanding of the story without actually having to scroll through it on their smart phone’s screen.


Digital media and analog media tell the same stories but they tell them in very different ways, to different people, and on different platforms. The biggest difference between digital media and analog media is time. Digital media’s content is adapted to be comprehended in the fastest way possible. Analog media is more inclined to takes its time and explain content in a detailed, creative way. These types of media do not mirror each other because their platforms contrast, just as their audiences do.


Which do you prefer- analog media or digital media? Which do you think is more credible? Why?


One thought on “Print vs. Screen: Which tells the best story?

  1. I like that you called the offering of multimedia and expectation. I had never thought of it as such, but I think you’re right. If I were to visit an online story that was primarily text and maybe a picture or two I would be less likely to stay interested. There’s something to be said about the expectations that we all have for online sources to not only inform us but to keep us entertained.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s