Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

“The year about to end has only been a springboard to what is to come in the area of what I refer to as linear visual storytelling. In this type of storytelling, the narrative and the visuals flow in a linear way from top to bottom, exactly the way we communicate when we text or use WhatsApp on our phones.”

I recently titled one of my presentations “2017: the year storytelling (finally) adapted to the platform.” Indeed, this past year has been one in which many major newspapers took giant steps forward to advance storytelling specifically written and designed to be consumed on mobile platforms.

However, the year about to end has only been a springboard to what is to come in the area of what I refer to as linear visual storytelling. In this type of storytelling, the narrative and the visuals flow in a linear way from top to bottom, exactly the way we communicate when we text or use WhatsApp on our phones. I show you here an image from my presentation depicting the way we do narratives in our daily lives:

But a majority of newsrooms continue to prepare stories in the traditional manner of headline, summary, and text, the way information is presented on the printed page, with any visual assets displayed separately, often as photo galleries, isolated from the flow of the text.

That is simply not how we read on our mobile devices.

So I predict that we will see a stronger movement to favor customizing stories, especially those that are rich in visual assets (photos, videos, infographics) to be presented in a linear way, then adapted for other platforms. Warning: What works for mobile storytelling is not necessarily right for print, for example. Videos will play a vital role as visual assets in linear storytelling, with a reminder to editors and designers that videos on mobile should be short and informative.

Digital transformation will continue to be a major theme in 2018, an advancement for some, a beginning for others. Smaller regional newspapers globally will aim for some type of strategy leading to digital transformation. It’s begun to happen, although not expediently enough.

This will bring about greater need for training, especially in the area of storytelling for mobile. Newsrooms need to become classrooms where training is constant, and laboratories where experimentation is part of a strategy.

We will also see greater experimentation with advertising that is suitable for mobile platforms. Publishers are aware that Google and Facebook are projected to account for about 61 percent combined of the U.S. digital ad market. The audience is there, too. The way we present news and advertising on those platforms must be customized as well.

For 2018, I see major progress in how we tell stories on that preferred platform which is our phones. Because the traffic is going to be there, so will be opportunities to monetize with creative advertising that includes sponsored content.

Finally, let’s remember that in the digital world, experimentation never stops, new product creation is always welcome, and the interest of our readers in news has never been greater. This is a good formula on which to base our plans for 2018.

Mario García is CEO of Garcia Media and senior adviser on news design and adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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