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The rise of vertical storytelling

“In 2019, horizontal scrollytelling will feel stale and old. Vertical Storys will be all the rage.”

The multimedia story that became a verb and whose name doesn’t need to be mentioned here is now six years old. The snow fell in December 2012. Since then, digital storytelling has changed radically — but that’s not because of the editors who invested in scrollytelling and offered opulent multimedia stories. They now also work on mobile phones, but still far too often with horizontally aligned images and videos — the format of YouTube, televisions, and desktop computers. Far too often, these stories feel strange on a mobile device.

The next step in storytelling has already been taken by mobile apps and platforms, most notably Snapchat and Instagram. Its most important feature: vertical videos. Facebook’s square videos were an intermediate step, often quite easy to produce: Just cut something off from the horizontal source material on the left and right, that’s all. With vertical videos, it’s usually not that easy. But it’s not just about video — it’s about storytelling on mobile devices — about text, pictures, sound, and yes, video.

Vertical storytelling is really different from our often very long and very conventional multimedia stories. In 2019, horizontal scrollytelling will feel stale and old. Vertical Storys will be all the rage.

Companies like PlayBuzz and Opinary would like to offer their own tools to publishers, bringing technical expertise and a means of monetarization through advertisements. Publishers might very well want to start experimenting with vertical storys that way — but to be serious about vertical storytelling means to get the means of production in your own hands.

Enter Google: The company has developed a story component for its semi-open standard AMP. Google could help publishers bring the vertical story format onto their own platforms, detached from proprietary apps. The advantages: fast loading times and possibly more traffic from Google search.

Google’s motivations are clear — the company is building its advertising business on the open web. The company has already adjusted its advertising and measurement tools for vertical marketing. All that remains is the question of whether publishers will get involved with AMP stories — in the hope of taking a few SEO clicks with them — or whether they go their own way to bring vertical storytelling to their platforms.

Ole Reißmann is managing editor of bento, the millennial publication of Der Spiegel.

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