China’s Island Factory – analysis of a digital story

Name: China’s Island Factory
Author: Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
Date of launch: 9 September 2014
List of Assets and written storyboard:

  1. Cover picture – with title “China’s Island Factory”, lead, name of the producer and date
  2. Full-screen video –  aerial view of the Sierra Madre – the Philippines ghost ship stranded on the reef
  3. Text – the boat experience of searching reefs and islands on South China Sea
  4. Pictures next to the text – three different pictures showing the Chinese reclamation work on Johnson Reef Island. Pictures would change when the mouse is scrolled down
  5. Full-screen  video – the journalist introducing how China turns Johnson South Reef into an artificial island
  6. Text – China’s presence on the South China Sea
  7. Pictures next to the text – a map showing the controversial nine-dash line claimed by China and exclusive economic zones under UN rules
  8. Cover picture for the second part of the story – The Nine-dash Line
  9. Text – details of China’s claims and the development in recent years
  10. Videos between the text – one video showing the interview with Prof Yan Xuetong of Beijing’s Tsinghua University and the another one with Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose.
  11. Pictures next to the text – The first map showing the nine-dash line , an map showing the Spratly Islands and another map outling the first and second island chains.
  12. Cover picture for the third part of the story – Reef settlers
  13. Text – introduction of Pagasa, a tiny island with Filipinos living on it.
  14. Full screen video – aerial view of Pagasa
  15. Full screen video – the journalist introducing Pagasa with different shots
  16. Text – interviews and experience on Pagasa.
  17. Video between the text – an interview of Mary Joy, a Pagasa resident
  18. Picture next to the text – a photo showing the children living on Pagasa, one with Pagasa school and the other one with a rusting tank
  19. Cover picture for the final part of the story – China’s waiting game
  20. Text – introduction of Sierra Madre, a Philippine ghost ship
  21. Picture next to the text – a photo showing the rusting holes on the ship
  22. Full-screen video – horizontal view of the ghost ship
  23. Text – the experience on the ghost ship with interviews of the patrolling soldiers.
  24. Pictures next to the text – a soldier keeping fit, basic sanitary facilities, a Chinese ship sailing close to the ghost ship
  25. Full-screen picture – showing caught fish drying on the ghost ship
  26. Full-screen videos – Philippine air force parachuting the supplies to the ship, the journalist introducing the history and current status of the ghost ship
  27. Text – a wrap-up of the story – the possible development of South China Sea
  28. Picture next to the text – BBC team with Philippine marines
  29. Full-screen picture – a view with sea and sky

This digital story is successful with a number of reasons. To begin with, it made good use of the images and videos to supplement the text. BBC News provides information in different platforms, including online, television and radio. The digital story combines the essence of different formats to illustrate the full picture of the South China Sea controversy.


The images and videos appearing in full size demonstrate their importance in the story. Not only to supplement the text, the visual materials can arouse readers’ interest to scroll down the page and keep reading the story until the end. As South China Sea controversy is not an easily understandable topic, the way the story told can also give readers better understanding on the issue.

The interactivity of the digital story provides readers an option to know more about the details. For example, a reader needs to click on “play” button of each video in order to have the video played. If the reader does not have enough time, he or she can simply skip the video and just read through the text.


The story is divided into four parts. It is good to have a cover picture for each part of the story. In addition, the numbers 1-4 on the top-right corner of the page can help reader to navigate to different sections anytime. This also gives reader the option not to read the whole story in order.


The way to illustrate the pictures next to the text is a good way to tell the story. Readers would not feel interrupted when they scroll down the page as the picture is on the right hand side of the text instead embedded between paragraphs. This provides a good reading experience for readers.


However, this can only be done using a desktop computer will full-screen browser. If the story is shown on a smartphone or tablet, the pictures would appear between paragraphs. Thus, readers cannot read the text continuously without interruption in this case.

aerial view

Some of the content is considered a bit too much. For example, the aerial view of the ghost ship at the very beginning of the story is not essential. Though the first paragraph of the introduction mentioned the ship, the main content of the ship is in the last part of the story. Thus, I think it is possible to remove the video of the aerial view at the beginning so that the readers can go straight to the text.


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