Mo­bile Sto­ry­telling In Swipes and Taps

Forbes - - Inside Scoop - By LEWIS D’VORKIN

I have a new jour­nal­is­tic mis­sion—sto­ry­telling in a mo­bile world. Some­times it takes me back to my frst stint at FORBES. In 1999, right be­fore leav­ing for AOL, I guided the re­design of our mag­a­zine. My goal: vis­ual en­try points on as many pages as pos­si­ble—di­gestible stuf to scan and ab­sorb. Sur­prise, sur­prise. In a mo­bile uni­verse we’re once again play­ing with en­try points—cards, blocks, call them what you want. Difer­ent era, same goal: De­liver all kinds of in­for­ma­tion as con­cisely as pos­si­ble. This time, in­stead of stand-alone items, we’re treat­ing en­try points as in­te­gral to the fow and struc­ture of a new kind of nar­ra­tive for­mat for mo­bile-only con­sumers.

Mo­bile-specifc for­mats re­quire mo­bile-specifc con­tent to be most efec­tive. It’s a far cry from squeez­ing 800- to 1,000-word sto­ries, a news­pa­per-to-mag­a­zine-to-desk­top par­a­digm, into smaller-de­vice screens. Tra­di­tional news nar­ra­tives won’t van­ish, but some­thing is needed for a gen­er­a­tion that prefers tap­ping over scrolling.

New think­ing is in the air across our ed­i­to­rial and sales teams to serve our smart­phone au­di­ence, now 50% of visi­tors com­pared with 5% only fve years ago. We’re look­ing at sto­ries as a se­ries of in­ter­change­able chunks, or chap­ters, with­out the nat­u­ral ex­pi­ra­tion dates of com­plete print sto­ries or dig­i­tal posts. Us­ing hash­tags, th­ese chunks could form a new or­ga­ni­za­tional hi­er­ar­chy—chan­nels lead­ing to sub­jects lead­ing to cards, rather than the tra­di­tional home­page-chan­nel-ar­ti­cle struc­ture. Of course, there’s the mon­e­ti­za­tion com­po­nent in all this. And that means in­te­grat­ing mar­ket­ing mes­sages with­out re­ly­ing on desk­top dis­play ads shrunk to ft a phone. At the core lies the con­cept of a mo­bile-frst con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem with more fex­i­bil­ity than tra­di­tional sto­ry­telling de­mands.

The news in­dus­try faces an enor­mous chal­lenge: how to efec­tively in­form, then man­age the at­ten­tion of, a smart­phone gen­er­a­tion when space and lin­ear con­straints no longer ap­ply. In mid-novem­ber, as the tragic events in Paris un­folded, I found my­self glued to the phone. Some news or­ga­ni­za­tions did de­liver a bit of what I, a mo­bile news junkie, was look­ing for—break­ing news, com­pre­hen­sive­ness and the vibe of so­cial me­dia. Still, I was un­able to dart around, make con­nec­tions and drill down in ways I wanted to. In­evitably, news­rooms will learn from one an­other—and fulfll the needs of the mo­bile con­sumer.

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