How AVP Helps StoryCorps Tell the World’s Story

Everyone on the planet has a story to share.

Perhaps it’s an inspiring narrative of perseverance in the face of intense persecution. Or maybe it’s a silly anecdote that aptly demonstrates the power of kindness in life. No matter the person’s story, StoryCorp’s mission is to tell that story for the world to hear.

StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization that aims to preserve and share humanity’s stories to create a more compassionate world. They do so by collecting audio recordings of people telling their stories. They then pair those stories with photos of the story and its storytellers.

Telling the world’s story is a lofty mission. Less obvious might be the challenge of all the work behind the scenes to describe and organize all of the audio and image assets generated by this endeavor.  

The Problem: Is Their Platform Effective?

StoryCorps’ digital archive is a relatively new addition to its mission, having just recently launched in 2020. Previously, people could only access the stories onsite at the Library of Congress where the recordings are deposited. Now, many of these stories can be easily accessed through the StoryCorps website.

Of course, with any new website or platform it is critical to focus on purpose and users. StoryCorps wanted to ensure that its digital archive was easily accessible to those wanting to use it. They also needed to know how to make the archive more appealing to a wider audience. 

To get the help they needed, they turned to AVP. We (AVP) had previously worked with StoryCorps on a separate project from 2015 to 2020, and they knew our expertise could help answer their questions regarding their current system. 

How did we tackle this challenge? Read on to find out!

The Solution: An All-Hands-On-Deck Archive Research Study

After discussing StoryCorps’ specific needs, we identified a few questions we needed to find answers to:

  • Who actually uses the archive?
  • Who doesn’t use the archive but should?
  • What is the experience of using the archive like?

To answer these questions, we split our research into four phases.

1. Internal Discovery

Interviews and workshops were conducted with StoryCorps staff and stakeholders. This was done to help AVP gain greater context for the StoryCorps Online Archives and to understand current stakeholder and organizational priorities.

2. User Survey

We then interviewed current users of the StoryCorps Online Archive to better understand the organization’s audience and how they use the archive. We also wanted to learn what users might want from future updates in the archive.

In total, we surveyed 439 users over four weeks. 

3. User Testing

After the survey, we deemed it beneficial to see how StoryCorps’ users interacted with the Online Archive. To see this in action, we selected 11 different users who fell into one of StoryCorps’ prioritized audience segments (producers, educators, hobby historians, journalists, and the general public).

This test revealed how users navigate the archive, how they search for assets, and how they use the content they find. 

4. Inspirational Archive Interviews

Finally, we sought input from the experts. We talked with leaders in the fields of oral history and digital archives to get their feedback on the best content management and collection practices. 

This included details such as metadata, audience engagement, and licensing requirements. We felt these interviews would give us the last bit of insight we needed to truly bring StoryCorps’ archive to the next level.

The Findings

What did our scrupulous studies reveal about the StoryCorps Online Archive? We can’t include it all on this list—there were simply too many findings. So instead, we’ll offer a couple of highlights.

Focus on Two Audience Categories

We found all prioritized audience segments fell into two higher-level categories, which should be considered when moving forward with archive development efforts:

  • The Explorers: People who enter the archive to have an experience. These encompass educators, hobby historians, and the general public. They aren’t concerned with getting every bit of available information and are happy to interact with content in a web browser.
  • The Precision Searchers: Individuals seeking advanced search capabilities need to know how to utilize the content outside the archive. These are primarily content creators/producers, journalists, and StoryCorps staff members.

Drive Engagement with Clarity

To keep users engaged with the archive, AVP identified two key changes StoryCorps could make:

  • Improved search and browsing capabilities: While users can usually find things they need in the archive, it’s not as intuitive as it could be. Offering more specifications and filter categories in the search function could grant current and future users a more seamless search experience.
  • Clearer use and licensing protocols: People want to know how they can use the interviews they find in the archive. Clearer messaging around permissions will embolden users to navigate and utilize the archive with greater confidence.

These findings, among others, were detailed in a report to help StoryCorps communicate with external funders on the needs, approach, and funding requirements to fulfill their goals.

The Results: Future Funding Secured

As a result of our research, analysis, and reporting, StoryCorps managed to secure the funding they needed to implement the recommendations we supplied. This project is just beginning, and we are excited to venture into this implementation stage with StoryCorps.

Get Real About Your Data with AVP

At AVP, we know data is simply a reflection of real human experiences. That’s why we take a human-centered approach to data management and analysis. 

We apply this mindset to everything we do—whether it’s a strategy and planning project, a software development initiative, or a system implementation. We believe such an approach leads to insightful and impact-oriented outcomes for businesses, just as it has with StoryCorps.

Ready to see what a human-centered approach to data can do for your company? Contact us today to learn more.

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