Archived Webinar

Storytelling in the Mobile and COVID-19 Eras


Presented by Mario Garcia, CEO and founder, Garcia Media

A pandemic’s upside. This is an opportunity to prove how essential newspapers are. No marketing campaign could have done more for your brand, for showing that you provide essential information, than this pandemic.

Spreading like … too soon? The pandemic has accelerated the audience move from getting news in print to their mobile devices. Forget “digital-first,” now it’s mobile-first.

Engaging your audience. Be sure to have a robust social media presence. The best newspapers are also doing regular newsletters on COVID-19, as well as virtual events.

Dealing the cards. For digital and mobile presentation, Mario Garcia recommends “cards,” block-like graphics containing information such as FAQs, quick numbers, and breaking and evergreen content. These cards can be shared and carry the newspaper brand.

Mario Garcia said it: “You have an opportunity to be essential, and stay essential, to your audience. People will remember what you did during this (pandemic), and they will stay with you — even those who didn’t subscribe.”

Guardian angels: One of the newspapers that is using mobile presentation the best is the Guardian in the U.K. Other terrific mobile publishers: The Orange County Register, with a daily full-page graphic coronavirus tracker for California and the nation, and The Miami Herald, which displays a spadia every day urging readers to access its digital news.  The Miami Herald's message explains that, while the paper is committed to print publishing, it may be that — in this crisis — it may have to go digital-only for at least a while.

Mario Garcia also said it: “Print after the epidemic is over will have a less prominent role. The paper is not going to be the same to people, they will drift to mobile.”

 Can you hear me now? Sound especially appeals to millennials. Use the audio capabilities of mobile publishing. You have the opportunity to interview doctors, recovered patients and more.

Mario Garcia’s take on coronavirus content. Remember the old j-school adage: Don’t write about the army; write about one soldier. In this pandemic, don’t overly focus on the numbers. Instead, tell the story of the ICU nurse, the obituaries of the victims, frontline responders. Connect with people beyond the numbers.

Practicing what he preaches. Mario Garcia wrote and designed his latest book, “The Story,” to be read on a mobile device — against the advice of his publisher who insisted on putting out printed books, each telling one of three themes. “At 73, I said, I am not designing this book for print.” The publisher proved to be right: The digital edition costs $6.99, but the three books are about $60 each, yet sales of the digital and print versions are nearly the same.

Lean in. And out. Mobile caters to an audience that is leaning in (reading breaking news quickly) and leaning back (taking a deeper dive into a story).

Newspaper revolutions. You could follow them by the titles of Mario Garcia’s books, beginning in the 1970s advocating for design in newspapers to the 1980s introducing color in even traditional papers like The Wall Street Journal to the 1990s applying design to web publishing and the 2000s when iPads and other tablets needed design help. Mobile is the latest revolution — and its most profound.

Go with the (work)flow. Digital has disrupted the journalism workflow. Where once a newsroom wouldn’t go with a story until all facts were learned, now you go with what you have and add as the story develops — aware that people with their phones are updating themselves.

Don’t have a content manager? Get one. He or she is the traffic cop for deciding how the story gets treated across all the platforms. In a perfect world, you go from the smallest device to the larger platforms.

Perfection not required. People do not require a Spielberg-type film quality to report on a car accident. They’ll accept reporting from a smartphone video.

Update overload. Not every story needs constant updates. Concentrate on four or five important stories that your audience will want to follow.

Mobile journalism 101. You write and you show — the opposite of how you do it in print. Think children’s books, which integrate image and text. No children’s book just shows text followed by a photo gallery. In print you don’t interrupt text with illustrations. But in mobile, the reader looks at the illustration and then reads.

Think beyond print. Eighty percent of stories on mobile now are written for print. It should be written for mobile, and then converted for print.

Linear logic. Speaking of Spielberg, think about how to display mobile journalism the same way a film director uses a storyboard.

TL;DR? Actually, it turns out that people will consume long reads — as long as it is told in a linear way.

Hostile landscape. Art directors: remember that landscape graphics just don’t work on mobile. Images have to be vertical.

Mobile display is not just for the big boys. All you need is one person in your newsroom who is interested. There will always be someone in infographics who will want to do this kind of reporting.

Designing for mobile. Fundamentals apply: Make it easy to find, easy to see, easy to read. The first screen should be a mini-poster with a headline and a visual. Mario Garcia likes to take inspiration from posters for photography gallery shows. Another great presenter: Snapchat, which never thought in print.

What print does best. First, print displays large photos that would be impossible on the small screen of a smartphone. Mario Garcia tells print editors to forget about briefs — do longer, in-depth stories with large photos. Likewise, print is able to display big advertisements.

Mario Garcia also said it: “These are the best times to be a storyteller! A lot of people my age lament what was. I celebrate what is.”

You asked: How do we, a small paper, successfully use audio and monetize it? You have to rely on sponsorships. Mario Garcia: “I don’t think smaller papers have exploited sponsorships as they could.”

You also asked: How do you handle sidebars? Stop thinking of it as a sidebar. You don’t want to do the old practice of having a link that steers the reader to a different place. Tell the linear story and put the sidebar at the end of the story.  

Have designs on contacting Mario Garcia? Contact him at

Always on a Tuesday. Each Tuesday during this quarantine, Mario Garcia conducts a Zoom session at 9 a.m. EDT. Find the link at or email him.

View a recording of the webinar on our YouTube Channel

View PowerPoints here

Mario Garcia, design