In today’s saturated digital space, it’s no longer enough to be the first to report breaking news, maintain a strong social media presence or to be an SEO know-it-all. Why? The sophisticated and digitally savvy news readership is after quality, in-depth and trustworthy content.
A few news organizations have detected a change of pace and started investing financial and human resources into digital storytelling innovation. I’ll examine the latest and most interesting digital storytelling experiments. Content marketing experts take note! This is what your clients will be after sooner rather than later.
In December 2012, The New York Times published Snow Fall, a six-part story interwoven with interactive graphics, animated simulations and aerial video article. It became the first example of a new digital storytelling genre: the longform scrollytelling or a long read that reveals more information and multimedia content as the reader scrolls through. Since then, the American newspaper has continued to experiment with the format.
The Huffington Post took things even further and launched Highline in 2015. Each piece in the digital magazine is an exquisite example of longform scrollytelling. One of their more groundbreaking stories is a multimedia piece on U.S. Millennials that includes impressive animations inspired by 8-bit video games.
Pew Research reveals that online readers are no longer interested in short text pieces that focus on key information in the first paragraphs. Reason enough for the major media companies to include more and more non-traditional elements into their work. The BBC, for example, has added chatbots at the end of their articles titled “Catch Me Up” that allows the reader to access a series of questions and brief answers related to the piece’s focus.
In keeping with this idea, The Guardian, perhaps the traditional media outlet that has experimented with online formats the most, recently produced what may become a new digital storytelling genre: the smarticle. Designed for smartphones, the smarticle’s main purpose is to provide the latest on breaking news in an ongoing developing format. When the reader clicks on an article for the first time, it shows the most essential information on the breaking story. As the reader explores the different blocks of information, an algorithm determines what will appear next based on what the user has already clicked on. It resembles the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book but told by algorithms.
In 2018, we may say goodbye to the internet cats, lists, and short videos of today’s internet, and welcome (with open arms) long-form, contextualized multimedia stories that adapt to the needs and knowledge of readers. In the “post-truth” era, engagement is worth more than a click, and a race has begun to earn readers’ attention. It seems that news organizations are taking the lead, crafting outstanding experiences and experimenting with digital storytelling genres. Will content marketing be able to sprint ahead and overtake the mainstream media?