Mobile Storytelling In Swipes and Taps
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.