Storytelling and Why Web Stories Matter to Publishers!

Jason Holland

The idea of storytelling sounds great, but as publishers do we really know how to execute it for our specific brand and publishing audience? Web Stories gives us a way to use the classic elements of successful brand storytelling repurposed across diverse communication channels and media formats. A lot of publishers might be asking their teams how do we create a stable of exciting new content or even repurpose that same story across multiple platforms to cater to diverse audiences demographics. And, most importantly, is your publisher brand flexible enough to go the extra mile on these newer formats.

The answer is a resounding Yes!

And, we are here to walk you through why storytelling matters now more than ever before. And, how you can, as a publisher, work through the initial challenges of kicking off a successful web stories and short video strategy.

Let’s begin with storytelling. Nike has always been the preeminent leader in the storytelling space for brands. Every Nike campaign is a great example of the different ways a brand uses storytelling successfully across every possible medium available to them. So what can publishers, content creators and other brands learn from Nike’s storytelling approach?

The Evolution of Storytelling  

Many communications experts studying storytelling know the difference between archetypes of narrative storytelling that we learn from childhood and to which most adults respond strongest. 

Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” illustrates the “Hero’s Journey” of storytelling for a brand. This could be extended to be a person in the case of a content creator, or more importantly — a publisher. It showcases the most exciting stories which journalists are working on every day.

Nike has, throughout their history, been about this journey and placing their audience at the center of that journey, as their brand brings people together to overcome the obstacles they are dealing with globally. Throughout their campaigns, Nike — the brand — is all about that for sports. As a publisher, you have to ask yourself, what are the stories we are most proud of, and how we then convert that into Web Stories!

Why Web Stories right now?

So what does this mean for publishers whose audience go to their website to learn, to be informed, to gain insight from your writers. 

This is where Web Stories come in.

Web Stories are perfectly geared to your younger mobile-friendly audience’s need for simple media consumption based on native short video narrative storytelling. As a series of vertical pages, pioneered by Snapchat Discover, that’s tappable and snackable, web stories more so than other formats in the past is narrative in structure. It allows publishers to play with an infinite number of rapidly evolving moving images & videos that your content team might be well suited to create using media formats that are as easily consumed as a Nike Ad.

Web Stories are slowly becoming a game changer across many fields of work. Whether it’s a TikTok Creator or journalists at the New York Times, this format lends itself to ease of creativity. Viewers’ shorter attention span and decreasing interest in local news or cable TV is now pushing traditional Media to question all their content offerings. Cutting edge media publishers like ESPN, Fox Sports or The Financial Times continue to experiment in the Story format today to break up complex stories and deliver them one-click, one-tap at a time on their Social Media platforms. We have covered some of the cutting edge Web Story Publishers in prior posts.

New York Times’ Innovation in Web Stories

The New York Times is yet another great example of a new kind of Storytelling using Social Media’s newest Web Stories format. It combines a wide range of multimedia, that is well suited for web stories (whether it contains videos, photos or good ol’ text captioning), all addressing one specific subject or topic. Each and every Web Stories page, clicks through a new element and sheds light on a specific subject. It is very much like journalism built specifically for vertical screens and quicker attention spans. The sequencing helps the viewer slowly immerse themselves in the narrative while taking in  one piece of information at a time. That’s the genius of constraints posed by the format, another topic we covered recently on our blog. 

Another kind of narrative that the New York Times has adopted is the listicle or the guide Story model, that was pioneered by Buzzfeed. It’s a collage of elements that unfold one by one through mono-information pages creating a sequel of bite-sized information.

Here are some of the key features of this modern Web Story format: 

  • Web Stories Allow for Creativity: 
    • The variety of narratives media can use to deliver their content through the Story format is endless. Whether through journalistic content or listicles, this format is offering media outlets a new way of shaping information through modern narratives. 
  • Web Stories is about addressing the “why” as it is about “how” you tell that story
    • Whatever your content is, Web Stories can help you shape it into a format that will resonate with your audience. As Storytelling is what enables you to create and share emotion through a narrative, Web Stories are the ideal format to deliver your content to your users. They will help you retain your mobile audience by allowing them to absorb your message one component at a time. The Washington Post is a great example of using Web Stories for good narrative effect.

  • Web Stories makes for Snackable Content: 
    • Web Stories are the most fitting format to break any information down into snackable content. Invite your audience to dive into your narrative as they tap through your Web Stories’ pages to slowly build up as they see both the micro-details within the broader macro-view. Create an immersive experience and keep them engaged with content tailored to their vertical screens. Let them feel involved so that your narrative becomes, beyond content, something your viewers can understand and remember.
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