As the summer winds down and the academic year gears up, Capstone HQ has been collecting plenty of cool stuff we think you’ll love. We hope these ideas will help you tackle interesting and ambitious projects with your publications.
What’s MEL, and why should you care? Read on.
Before we dive into the rest of the newsletter, here are a few things we’ve been up to this summer:
The Capstone team developed a series of profiles for Purdue about choosing a bigger life, a piece for Drake University that might just persuade you that the world is getting better, and a project about incredible World War II photography for the U.S. Naval Academy’s Alumni Association.
I still work with a few clients on an individual level. Recent stories I’ve worked on include a piece on the value the humanities for St. Olaf. I did profile for WPI on Netflix engineering leader Karen Casella, who makes every road trip with kids more bearable. For Grinnell College’s alumni magazine, I did a story on a quartet of successful young entrepreneurs.
If you’re interested in working with me or with the Capstone team, send us an email and let us know what you’ve been thinking about.
Now, a few more things worth your time.
1. Go big. A few weeks ago, The Ringer published an ambitious piece on the 100 best television episodes of the 21st century. The incredible piece includes a couple hundred words on each episode, video from these episodes, and dozens of other tiny delightful details that make this piece a treasure trove worth returning to again and again. It’s also easy to imagine how such a piece could be sliced and diced for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, short web stories, and a print magazine.
Could you do something like this with your own publication or website? 100 reasons to love your school? 100 best places on campus?
2. Think small. At Capstone, we’ve often advocated for the idea of investing more, not less, in your print publications. (If you need a refresher, our stats-heavy case for print publications is here.)
That doesn’t mean that you need gorgeous, glossy Vanity Fair-style issues. In fact, one of the most-read publications at Capstone HQ is MEL, the tiny, newsprint piece that is packaged in Dollar Shave Club razor packs each month. The 16-page piece fits a dozen or so 200-word stories into its publication, complete with simple, fun illustrations and one or two in-house ads.
We can imagine something similar for a school that wants to develop a layperson-friendly way to showcase some of its best research once a quarter, or to do mini-profiles of faculty, students, or alumni. (Contact us if you’re interested in developing a publication like this.)
3. Tell the obvious story. A few months ago, there was afascinating interview with Helen Rosner on the Longform podcast.
One of most-loved and still-discussed stories she and her team did while she was an editor at Eater came out of a surprising insight: “obvious” stories can be amazing ones. Here’s how she framed it: “I think you can spend so much time thinking about ‘What’s the story nobody’s telling? How do I find the unfindable? And you can drive yourself crazy doing that.’ ”
That led to them to do a deep dive on what happens in a single night at a restaurant. One Night at Kachka is a story she describes as a “four-dimensional mold of a restaurant; what it looks like to be here as time passes.” The concept is simple. The execution is outstanding.
What might “leaning into the obvious” mean for your school? Soon, we’ll share what that looked like for some Capstone clients.
4. Build a story with staying power. Can you create stories that will be valuable six months, a year, or even two years from now? Yep. Read this guide on developing stories that are ready right when you need them — or that you can save for the moment another story falls through at the last minute.