Any and every news focuses on question types ‘Who, What, When, and Where’. Explainer or explainer journalism aims at informing the reader about the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’. It attempts at going beyond and behind the news and gives readers the background information about the particular story so that they understand the story and all its nuances. Explainer journalism aims to report and explain events as they start unfolding, one after another.
Though the concept may sound new, its roots lay in traditional journalism. Previously, web newspapers would run stories to explain what is happening in the news. Once the web-based news erased the issues of newspaper based journalism, explainer articles started getting published as soon as an original story broke. Examples of explainer journalism include “The Guardian’s Pass Notes” that examined various issues in a conversational way. A good attempt at explainer journalism was practised by The Week magazine that strived to summarize the news of seven days into small, bite-sized information chunks.
The explainer format is especially beneficial to digital media/content marketing because it gives the writer a position of authority as a subject matter expert (SME). The educational aspect helps most brands to stop reporting stories of conflicting interests or criticizing their own industries. Any B2B brand that is committed to content marketing would want to entertain, educate and captivate the audience by writing and explaining about the industry that they are in. If you want to explain why you think your brand is providing the best offer, you need to explain your point to the audience in great detail and put your claim in the proper context. As an example, a bank would do a world of good by publishing explainers on financial topics that they counsel clients about as in how to survive in the stock market, retirement accounts, how to make sound investments, cryptocurrency, etc.
The explainer has indeed changed the way digital media functions as it has shown the path for creating trustworthy content and the ways by which to contextualize relevant news stories for the audience. The audience, too, gets to know in-depth information about their areas of interest. The goal, however, remains the same. If you are a digital media company, you would need to channelize attention and if you are a brand, you need to sell the product. Explainers are the easiest way to achieve both these objectives. Any brand that pays attention to what the audience is saying in terms of concerns, issues etc. and digs deep in search for audience-centric angles, will surely find a unique editorial voice. Explainers would, therefore, place the brand much above its competition and establish it in the top tier of digital publishers.
Explainers have enabled media providers to show insight and intelligence in their content. It has also attracted search engine traffic as readers might ask the ‘Why’ type of questions. It also means that the media platform receives additional traffic from Google News that tends to find its space on the opening pages for explainer style content along with basic news and other stories. It is all the more important these days as media has got new tools to enhance it. It might not just be words. Today, data can be presented in a very interesting, eye-catching manner with the help of illustrations, infographics, videos that graphically explain and summarise tricky concepts, easily and quickly.