Type “webdocs” into Google and you’ll get returns of “new website launching soon” and talk of “the next big thing”.
But webdocs are not simply documentaries published online: they are documentaries designed for publication on the web, allowing the audience to interact with the contents in a hypermediated environment. Such content is available in clusters of information through which the audience navigates their own way, with media such as photos and videos serving the more secondary purpose of illustration.
Studies devoted to this new form of media appear as early as 2004, but only recently have investigative journalists begun to think of it as a valuable tool for in-depth storytelling even as the medium’s popularity continues to increase.
French and French Canadian media outlets have led the way in commissioning these webdocs, many of which have attracted international recognition and awards such as the 2008 webdoc by Samuel Bollendorf and Abel Ségrétin, Journey to the End of Coal.
Interactive documentary, journalistic tool, or the next big thing: webdocs are a hypermediated medium in a hypermediated environment, the product of an increasing tendency to mix different media – and the web is teeming with people looking for optimal ways to do so. Some are finding ways to adapt webdoc apps such as Klynt for use on tablet and android even as others are developing their own platforms.
For those who wish to stay ahead, the Centre for Investigative Journalism is organising a Webdocs Workshop for Investigative Journalists on 19 January at City University as part of the CIJ Investigative Film Week 2013.
The workshop will be taught by Matteo Scanni, author of the first ever Italian webdoc The Iron Curtain Diaries 1989-2009.