Journalism, Storytelling, Uncategorized — January 7, 2014 at 1:37 am

Storytellers: Find a protagonist


Good storytelling requires a protagonist.

Building a story around a central figure will make the story more interesting. Protagonists aid narration and improve storytelling. We see the story as one person’s plight or struggle. We follow their successes and their failures.

Take the case of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post for $250 million. There are many ways to tell this story. But the approach that makes the most sense is using Jeff Bezos as the main character.

It certainly helps the story that Bezos is very rich. And very eccentric. He can afford to buy the Post.

But that fact ignores a nagging question: why would he ever do such a thing?  Newspapers are old technology. Bezos is a new tech guy who runs the best-know Internet shopping site – He has no real experience running a newspaper.

Is the Post even worth saving? The newspaper has a storied past. It uncovered the 1970s Watergate scandal that lead to President Richard Nixon resigning from office. But in recent years, the Post has been sliding. It struggles to remain profitable and retain readers.

By comparison, Wall Street loves the Bezos. Investors overlook Amazon’s flaws and continue to plow money into the company despite a string of losses. Amazon and Bezos are darlings.

Bezos may indeed be the newspaper’s savior. But one immediately asks: Is the guy crazy? Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe he has some special sauce that will fix the Washington Post’s troubled business model, giving the dying newspaper industry a rebirth.

In telling the story, we can focus on Bezos and show how he, like many entrepreneurs, has struggled. Amazon survived early prophecies of doom; branched out into selling music, movies, electronics and toys during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s; and made it through the dot-com bust of 2000 and 2001.

The retailer expanded into selling jewelry, clothes, sporting goods, automotive parts and just about everything else, becoming the Internet’s top retailer and a leading platform for third-party sellers.

But what makes Amazon so interesting is the man who built it: Jeff Bezos.

Protagonists are key to storytelling. Always build a story around a protagonist. Use the circumstances surrounding that person to help narrate the story.

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